Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams can help put students on the fast track to a college degree, giving them the chance to earn college credit while still in high school-not to mention strengthening their college applications!
What are AP exams, and how can my child earn AP credits for college courses?
- AP exams are college-level tests administered by The College Board (makers of the SAT). Students may take tests in one or more subjects; a comprehensive list of all available AP courses and tests is available at collegeboard.com.
- More than 90 percent of four-year colleges in the United States offer credits, advanced placement, or both based on AP exam scores. Earning AP credits can help students graduate in four years and have more time to pursue activities like study abroad. Myedu.com offers students a tool to help determine the credit value of their AP scores at various colleges and universities. However, for the most up-to-date information on AP credits at a particular school, you should check with that school's admissions department.
- Students take AP exams in May and receive their scores in July.
- A student does not need to be enrolled in an AP class to take the exam, although research by The College Board shows that students who take the courses do better on the exams, and are therefore more likely to earn AP credits.
- Unlike the SAT or ACT, AP exams are not directly related to college admissions, since schools do not require that students take them. Advanced placement courses and high AP scores will look good on an application, but the exams' function is to determine college credit or course placement, according to mycollegeguide.com.
- SAT subject tests (formerly known as the SAT II) are subject-specific like the AP exams, but differ in that many schools require them and use them as a primary factor in admissions.
Should my child take an AP exam and/or an AP course?
- According to research by The College Board, students who take AP courses do better in college than those who don't. In fact, students who take AP exams in high school are 62% more likely to graduate from college in four years, and avoid having to pay for extra semesters. Because they are more challenging and require more work than regular high school classes, AP courses help students prepare for the rigors of college coursework.
- To take an AP course, a student should have exceptional reading and writing skills and high levels of motivation and discipline. If your teen is struggling in a particular subject, an AP course in that subject is probably not a good idea.
How does my child register for an AP course or AP exam?
- Students can register for AP courses in their regular class-selection process, if their schools offer an AP program. If your child's school does not offer an AP program, the principal or guidance counselor should know where the courses are offered. High schools are not required to offer AP courses, so many of them partner with schools that do. (Your student's school may have AP-level courses with designations such as "honors" or "college prep." If necessary, students can also take advantage of online distance-learning programs.
- To register for the test, your child should speak to his or her AP teacher or guidance counselor. Students who are homeschooled or whose schools do not have an AP program must contact The College Board's AP services directly.
- The fee for each exam is $87, though students with financial need may qualify for a reduction. Each exam must be ordered and paid for separately.
How are the AP exams scored?
- Each AP test has two sections-multiple choice and free response. The first is graded by a computer; the second, by consulting college professors and AP teachers. The total scores create a composite score.
- Composite scores are turned into final scores through a statistical process of comparison to scores on previous years' tests. A full explanation of scoring is available at collegeboard.com.
- Final scores are on a five-point scale. The highest score a student can receive is a 5 (extremely well-qualified); the lowest is a 1 (no recommendation).
What happens to the scores?
- Scores are mailed to students in early to mid-July; students who wish to receive their scores on July 1 may do so by phone for a fee of $8. For $15, students can request by phone that their scores are sent to their colleges of choice.
- Students who do well (3 or higher) on the exams are eligible for one or more AP Scholar awards, a designation that is attached to scores when they are sent to colleges.
- Students who do not do well on the exams may direct that the schools they have designated not receive specific scores. They may also direct that the score is cancelled from their records completely.
- Students may have their multiple-choice test sections rescored by hand if they wish to request it.
What should my child do to get ready for the exam?
- Collegeboard.com offers sample free-response questions for students who want to hone their writing and problem-solving skills before the test.
- StudyPoint offers exam prep for students who are looking to test out of an introductory course at college or test into a selective major. Please visit our Academic Tutoring page for further information.
How might AP tests impact my child's other major exams-like the SAT?
- If your child is planning to take the SAT this spring, he or she should plan to take either the March or June exam, rather than the May exam. That way, the time and effort of preparing for the AP exam in early May won't compete with SAT prep. However, if your child is planning to take any SAT Subject Tests, he or she should plan to take the Subject Test in May for subjects he or she is currently studying at the AP level. For example, if your child is now enrolled in AP Physics, she should plan to take the SAT Subject Test in physics in May. That way the prep work she does for the AP exam will be fresh in her mind for her SAT Subject Test.
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