Want to graduate college sooner with less debt? Take AP tests. 

AP classes and tests are a great way to prepare for college and increase your chances of graduating with minimal debt. This blog includes general information about the tests as well as important updates for 2021. 

What are AP tests? 

Advanced Placement (AP) programs allow students to bypass basic college courses and are recognized by colleges as evidence of successfully completing college-level courses. These courses are offered at many high schools in the United States. Students can choose to take AP exams for these courses, usually offered in the first two weeks of May. Students who earn a score of 4 or 5 receive college credit (some schools grant credit for a 3).

Students achieving qualifying scores are also often able to advance past introductory courses once in college. AP also prepares students for the challenge of college classes and allows a student’s college application to stand out because of this difficult high school coursework.

Most colleges offer credit for higher AP test scores. AP credits can give you the upper hand in college, allowing you to graduate early or even just register for classes earlier.

What AP courses are offered? 

The College Board offers thirty-four AP courses, including eight in world languages. However, the courses that are offered at your school might vary. Talk to your counselor or AP coordinator to learn more about the opportunities to take AP tests at your school.

AP Course List

As mentioned, different colleges treat AP courses and exams differently. This tool from The College Board shows which colleges offer credit or advanced placement for specific scores. Also make sure to communicate with the colleges you are interested in to see how they handle AP scores.

How do you take AP courses?

Students may take an AP test even if they have not taken the corresponding AP  course. Schools and parents may encourage advanced students to consider this option, using an AP Prep book to prepare for that test.

Most students take AP classes at their home high school, but AP courses are also offered online through approved providers and homeschool providers.

How much do AP tests cost?

Each AP test for 2020-2021 costs $95, although fee reductions are available. Based on your state, there might also be other funds available in addition to the College Board fee reduction that could help cover costs even further. Talk to your school to see what resources might be available or if there are any additional costs to take the tests.

Payment for these costs is submitted through the school, not online. All cancellation fees have been waived for 2020-2021. 

Taking AP Tests in 2021

In order to accommodate students with different school situations this year, The College Board has made adjustments to AP testing, adding multiple dates and test options. 

Again, all cancellation fees are waived for the 2020-2021 year to allow for more flexibility for students. 

Tests will be offered on three dates during three different periods or “administrations.” Schools make the decisions about when the tests are offered; students don’t choose exam dates themselves. 

Administration 1: First two weeks of May
All tests during this first administration will be traditional paper tests administered at school. 

Administration 2: Last two weeks of May
Half of the subjects are traditional paper tests, administered at school, and half are full-length digital exams, administered at school or at home. 

Administration 3: First two weeks of June
Most of these tests are full-length digital exams administered at school or at home. 

Again, the dates offered for your tests are determined by the schools, so make sure you have discussed these options and dates with the counselor or administrator who handles AP testing. The College Board website is your best resource to stay up-to-date on these changes in 2021 or to learn more about the specifics of digital exams. 


AP courses are a great way to prepare for college, increasing your chances of graduating college with minimal debt! If you can, take advantage of these courses and tests to earn college credit. Have other questions about choosing courses in high school or college applications? Learn more about our College Admissions Counseling.

Find the Perfect College at the Right Cost

College admissions can be complex, but you don’t have to do it alone. John Baylor and OnToCollege are here to help.