Advanced Placement (AP) is a program run by the College Board (the makers of the SAT) that allows you to take special high school courses that can earn you college credit and/or qualify you for more advanced classes when you begin college.
A big change this year (2021) is that AP Exam scores will play a more prominent role in college admissions. With the SAT Subject Tests now eliminated, colleges are looking to AP Exams as a measure of students’ mastery of college-level academic work. In addition, excellent AP scores can offer potential advanced placement and/or credit.
Created by the College Board, the AP Exams are 2-3 hours long and are designed to test students’ mastery of content and skillsets. Most exams consist of both multiple-choice and free-response questions. Some AP Exams require students to complete performance tasks, either in place of or in addition to multiple-choice and free-response questions. These include AP Computer Science Principles, AP Research, AP Seminar, and AP Art & Design.
The AP Exams are designed to align with the AP Course framework, content, and conformity of questions that students learn throughout the year. The College Board consults with AP Course teachers across the country to design and grade each exam, and they revisit exam design on an annual basis.
The AP Exams ordinarily take place over a two-week testing window in May. This year, the College Board is offering schools the opportunity to mix and match between three different testing windows (listed in the link below) and two different test formats (paper-to-pencil and online) throughout May and June. AP scores are released in July. To view the full list of test dates for this year, please click here.
The AP Exams are 2-3 hours long and are designed to test students’ mastery of content and skillsets. Most exams consist of both multiple-choice and free-response questions. Some AP Exams require students to complete performance tasks, either in place of or in addition to multiple-choice and free-response questions. These include AP Computer Science Principles, AP Research, AP Seminar, and AP Art & Design.
Due to the pandemic, the College Board is offering multiple test formats for the 2021 AP Exams. In the past, all AP Exams have been administered in-person, as paper-to-pencil tests, with the exception of AP Chinese and AP Japanese language which are in-school, computer-based tests.
This year, AP Exams are offered in two formats: paper-to-pencil (in-person) and digitally (at-home or in-school). Schools are responsible for choosing when students take each AP Exam, and the date on which students take the exam will determine the exam’s format. If students are taking a digital exam, the school will decide if they are to take the exam in-school or at-home.
To view test dates and corresponding test formats, please click here.
The multiple-choice sections of the AP Exams are scored digitally. For the free-response questions and performance tasks, the College Board consults with experienced AP teachers and college professors to score each exam. A rubric is developed for each question. The score cutoffs of each rubric take into account a number of factors, including previous years’ scoring percentiles, the difficulty level of the multiple-choice questions and other free-response questions, the overall quality of answers in the entire pool of test-takers, and how college students fare on the exam. AP scores are released in July.
AP Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score possible. The College Board defines the scores as follows:
|AP Exam Score||Recommendation||College Course Grade Equivalent|
|5||Extremely well qualified||A+ or A|
|4||Very well qualified||A-, B+, or B|
|3||Qualified||B-, C+, or C|
Colleges and universities often use high scores for course credit, and/or as a method of placement in order to exempt students from lower-level prerequisites. Additionally, AP scores play a significant role in the college admissions process.
The score curves vary from test to test. For more detailed scoring information, click here.
The College Board’s deadline for AP Exam registration has been extended to March 12, 2021.
Students register for the AP Exams through their school. If students have any questions, they should contact their school’s AP coordinator.
If students are not taking the AP Exams through their school, they can still register! This might be the case if:
- A student would like to take an AP Exam that not offered at their school
- A student’s school does not offer AP Courses
- A student is home-schooled
- A student is taking an AP Exam without having taken the corresponding course
Here’s what these students need to do:
- Search the AP Course Ledger to find a school where students might be able to take specific AP Exams. After finding schools closeby that offer the test, call them directly, ask to speak with the AP coordinator and find out whether the school is planning to allow outside students to test there this year.
- The AP coordinator will take care of ordering exam materials, communicating test-day information, and collecting exam fees.
Please note that schools often have their own deadlines and policies for receiving requests from outside students. It’s best to contact them as soon as possible!
For more information, please click here to visit the College Board website.
Students who have been approved for College Board accommodations for the PSAT and SAT will receive the same accommodations for AP Exams.
Students who receive accommodations in-school will most likely be approved for similar accommodations on the AP Exams. Students should contact their school directly to confirm that they have been approved for accommodations on the AP Exams. For more information, click here.