Will AP Scores Really Affect Your Chances of College Admission?

Will AP Scores Really Affect Your Chances of College Admission?

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive during our free college profile evaluations is, “Will my AP scores count in college?”  If you’ve researched this topic, you’ll find that the opinions on it are varied and there is no one clear answer.  Let’s break it down for you:

Should I take AP courses instead of regular or honors courses?
The pecking order of course options you can take is regular courses, honors courses, AP courses, and then college courses.  Colleges will be examining your transcript to see 1) what courses your high school offers, 2) what courses you actually took, 3) how rigorous your academic course schedule is compared to the other courses your school offers, and 4) how you performed in the classes you took.  Your high school class course load should be thought of as a snapshot of your academic potential in college.  It shows the type of academic rigor that you are capable of handling and that you’re not afraid to challenge yourself.  Taking AP classes shows that you are taking advantage of the most difficult academics your school has to offer.

If I take an AP course and do well, do I have to take the actual AP exam?
The short answer to this is yes.  If you take an AP class, you should automatically prepare to take the corresponding AP exam.  Taking this test and receiving a score can show that your class grades were not inflated (i.e. you might have gotten an A in the class but a 2 on the exam vs. you got a B in the class but a 4 on the exam) and that you can handle large exams, like the ones you will see in the future during college midterms and finals.  Not taking the AP exam can be a red flag for colleges, and could prompt them to ask, “Well, why didn’t they take the exam?”

Okay,  I took the AP exam, but I got a 2.  Will this keep me from getting into college?
Not to worry! The actual AP score won’t affect your admissions.

Then why do APs even matter?
There are many benefits to taking the AP exam and performing well:

For the majority of public universities and certain private universities, you can get academic credit for your AP exams.  Usually, you need to score at least a 4 to get this credit, and sometimes there is a limit to how many total credits you can receive.  Earning these credits mean that you can enter college with sophomore or junior standing, which means that ultimately, you might be able to decrease cost of your education significantly because you could potentially spend less time in college.

Even if the college you are aiming for doesn’t accept AP exams as credit, they may be able to use your AP scores for course placement or to fulfill general education class requirements.  For example, if you received a 5 on the AP Statistics exam and your college has a quantitative reasoning requirement, you could be able to use your AP score to fulfill that requirement.  Or, if you got a 4 on the AP English Literature exam, you may be able to begin taking upper-division English classes without needing to take the introductory classes.  In this way, AP tests may not only help you to cut the cost of your education by helping you complete your required coursework more quickly, but it can also free up time for you to take classes that you actually really enjoy or may not otherwise have had time to take.

Finally, some colleges offer scholarships for high scores on a designated number of exams.  This varies from state to state, but this could be another source of funding for your education.  In addition, for students who receive an AP Scholar Award, you could include this accolade on your college applications under (academic) awards and honors.

What should I do if I’m not doing well in my AP class?
If you’re struggling with your class, your AP teacher can be one of your greatest resources. Talk to your teacher to determine how you can do better, and see if your school offers any additional tutoring for the class.  You will find that this will also apply to your future college classes as well – you can speak with your professors or teaching assistants to find out of there are extra tutoring sessions you can attend.

If you are able to study in social settings, consider creating or joining a study group with a few of your classmates.  Studying with your peers helps reinforce the information, as well as troubleshoot areas where you could get stuck.  This is a strategy that you can take to college as well, as many college students also find study groups essential for performing well in their classes.

Veritas Prep is an elite test preparation company specializing in SAT and ACT prep, as well as college admissions consulting. At Veritas Prep, we offer an extensive array of in-person, live online, self-study, and private tutoring options for students from instructors who have all scored in the top 1% of test takers. For over a decade, we have worked with students helping them to excel on standardized exams, allowing them greater opportunities to be accepted into their top-tier dream schools, pursue higher education opportunities, and expand their academic knowledge.


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