Now that we’ve provided an overview of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, here’s a closer look at the exam itself. It’s important to learn everything you should know beforehand, from signing up to scoring.
About the Exams
The AP courses and exams are designed by committees of college faculty and expert AP teachers. The data compiled by committee members (from universities) confirms that AP courses reflect current scholarship and advances within each discipline and that the 34 AP exams reflect college-level expectations.
Each of the exams has its own requirements, but there are also several commonalities between them. Exams take place in May of each year and generally last between 2 to 3 hours with limited breaks. If you are taking more than one AP exam in a day, be sure to get lots of rest the night before and eat a nutritional breakfast and snacks throughout the day to keep you well fueled.
The first part of the exam usually consists of multiple choice questions in a standardized format. You choose one of four or five options for each question and fill in the corresponding bubble on your answer sheet. The total exam score on the multiple choice portion is based on the number of questions answered correctly, meaning you will not lose points for incorrect or unanswered questions.
The second portion of the exam is generally free-response questions. Depending on your exam subject, responses could be required in essay form, as a solution to a problem, or even spoken response. You will record your free-response questions in a separate exam booklet. Its important to note that not all AP exams are in the form of paper and pencil. Some can be taken on the computer, and some require students to submit a portfolio of work. Your AP teacher should go over all of this with you in class beforehand. There is also detailed information available for select AP courses including overviews, sample multiple-choice questions, free-response questions, and more on via sites such as (list more than one or none).
The Scoring Process
Your AP score indicates how well you did on the AP exam, but also measures what your level of achievement would be in a college-level course of the same subject. The score you receive can be submitted to colleges and universities to determine if you may receive credit for what you have already learned or even skip the equivalent course in college.
Scores are a weighted combination of the multiple choice and free-response portions and are weighted on a 5-point scale.
5: Extremely well qualified
2: Possibly qualified
1: No recommendation
Qualified means that you have proven yourself capable of completing the work of an introductory college course in the given subject. In order to be considered by a college or university for credit or placement, you must first send your official AP score report to that school.
Policies vary by institution, but most schools require a score of 3 or higher on any given exam for credit to be granted or for course prerequisites to be waived. Although this is not part of the official AP program, colleges may also take AP grades into account when deciding which students to accept. Students should make note when preparing to plan for college of those that require a certain number of AP courses as this has recently become standard (for instance, a top-level institution may not even consider a student who does not have at least 3 AP courses, all with scores above 3).
If you are interested in enrolling in an AP class or taking the AP exam, you can contact your AP coordinator to register and obtain further instructions. For help preparing for the AP exam, contact Aureus Prep today.