A Complete Guide to AP Exams

So you’ve signed up for an Advanced Placement (AP) class. At the end of your school year, you’ll be tasked with taking an AP exam. Doing well on this test can help you get credit for your college education and give you a head start on your degree. Use this complete guide to AP exams to start getting prepared today.

 What Are AP Exams?

AP Exams are standardized tests that measure how well you’ve done in a particular subject. They are scored on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. 3 is usually considered a passing grade.

If you are considering AP classes and taking their corresponding exams, you’ll likely come across these common questions.

10 FAQs About AP Exams

1. Can You Earn College Credit with AP Exams?

 Yes, you can earn college credit with AP exams if you score high enough.

Colleges will usually only consider a 3 or higher for credit, however. A 4 or higher is usually good for 1:1 credit, while a 3 is good for elective credit.

For example, if you took the AP World History Exam and scored a 4 or a 5, the college would likely give you credit for World History and you would not have to take the course in college. If you scored a 3, the college would likely give you elective credit and you would have to take World History (or its equivalent) during the next 4 years. If you scored a 1 or 2, you likely would not receive any credit.

2. Do You Have to Take the AP Exam After the Course?

No, taking an AP course does not mean you have to take an AP exam. You can take the class during high school and opt out of the test, especially if you don’t believe you’d do well on it. Taking AP classes can be a great way to show academic rigor, even if you didn’t take the end of year exam!

3. Do You Have to Take the AP Course In Order to Take the AP Exam?

No! You don’t actually have to take the AP course in order to take the AP exam. You can absolutely opt to take the test even if you’ve studied on your own or are homeschooled. There are plenty of prep materials available outside of the classroom, too, in bookstores or online. However, it is generally recommended that you take the AP course if it is available to you as this will cover a majority of what you need to do well on the test.

4. What AP Subjects and Exams are Available to Students?

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The following AP subjects have available AP Exams:

  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese Language and Culture
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • Computer Science A
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • Environmental Science
  • European History
  • French Language and Culture
  • German Language and Culture
  • Human Geography
  • Italian Language and Culture
  • Japanese Language and Culture
  • Latin
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Music Theory
  • Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Physics C Mechanics
  • Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • Precalculus
  • Psychology
  • Seminar
  • Spanish Language and Culture
  • Spanish Literature and Culture
  • Statistics
  • US Government and Politics
  • US History
  • World History

5. Which AP Classes Have Portfolios Instead of Exams?

Not all AP classes require an end of the year exam. The following courses require a portfolio:

  • Research
  • 2-D Art and Design
  • 3-D Art and Design
  • Drawing

6. What Can You Expect on an AP Test?

All AP tests have two sections: multiple choice and free response. The length of each section depends on the subject. Humanities subjects tend to have longer free response sections than multiple choice, for example.

Multiple choice questions will usually have 4-5 possible answers. Free response sections can be written, spoken, or both, and can include things like essays and solutions to problems.

7. When Are AP Exam Test Dates?

AP exams are held during a two week period in May. For 2024, dates for AP tests are between May 6th and 10th and May 13th and 17th. Exams are at 8am, 12pm, or 2pm local time. The exact date and time of the test depends on the subject.

If a student has two tests at the same time or unique circumstances, they can request late-testing dates. For example, in 2024, Human Geography and Microeconomics are both at 8am on May 7th. If a student was taking both classes and wanted to sit for both exams, they would have to talk to their teacher to schedule their second exam.

8. How Long Are AP Tests?

AP tests can range from 1 hour and a half hours to 3 hours and 15 minutes. Most exams are around 3 hours and length, but the exact time depends on the subject. Each test has a break in between the multiple choice section and the free response section.

9. When Are AP Scores Released?

AP scores are released in early to mid July and can be found on the My AP Account on the College Board. If your scores aren’t visible by September 1st, it is recommended that you contact the AP services for students.

10. Can You Retake an AP Exam?

Yes, you can retake the AP exam. However, since the tests are only offered once a year in May, you would have to wait an entire year to sit for the exam again. It is not always recommended to retake the test.

Tips for Studying for the AP Exam

AP exams are tough! To be thoroughly prepared, you should

  • Pay attention in class. Your AP class is designed to help you perform well on the AP exam, so make sure to show up, pay attention, and take good notes.
  • Go beyond the classroom. However, for many students, the class alone won’t be enough to properly prepare for the AP exam. Students should study outside of class, regularly review notes, and consider working with an AP tutor.
  • Invest in study materials. There are plenty of study materials for AP exams available online and in bookstores. Make sure to pick up some flashcards and check out some study guides on YouTube!
  • Take AP practice exams. One of the best ways to prepare for the AP (or similar tests like the ACT or SAT) is to take practice exams! This will help you get better acquainted with the formatting and timing of the test, not just the material it covers.

AP tests are no joke. They can be daunting, especially when you’ve spent a whole year preparing for them. However, by understanding what the exam covers and preparing ahead of time, you stand to score higher on the test and could get college credit for your hard work!

Colleges look for academic rigor in their students. Even if you don’t sit for the AP exam, just taking the class can look amazing on your college application. If you want to see how you stack up against other AP students at your dream school, check out our College Match tool today.

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