Want to graduate college sooner with less debt? Take AP tests. Advanced Placement (AP) courses can increase the likelihood of graduating from college with minimal debt. Just take that AP test in May, the culmination of each AP course, and score a 4 or 5. And for sophomores and juniors, a 4 or 5 on an AP test greatly improves your future college applications.

What are AP tests? 

Most colleges recognize Advanced Placement (AP) programs as college level courses that can allow students to bypass corresponding basic college courses. Colleges usually offer credit for a 4 or 5 AP test score, although some accept a 3 score. 

The College Board governs the AP curricula and exams, which are taken during the first two weeks of May, each the culmination of a year-long AP course. Students must sign up to take an AP exam and then earn that score of 4 or 5 to receive college credit (some schools grant credit for a 3). Those who achieve a 3, 4, or 5 are also often able to advance past an introductory course once in college. AP prepares students for the rigor of college classes and represents a standard of excellence in an applicant’s high school coursework.

What AP courses are offered? 

The College Board currently offers nearly 40 Advanced Placement Courses/Exams, including eight in world languages. See the complete course list and details here. 

This tool from The College Board shows which colleges offer credit or advanced placement for specific scores. Be sure to communicate with the colleges you are interested in to see how they handle AP scores.

Talk to your counselor or AP coordinator to learn more about options to take AP tests at your school.

AP Course List

How do you take AP courses and tests?

Students may take an AP test even if they have not taken the AP version of that course. Schools and parents might encourage advanced students to consider doing this, using an AP Prep book to prepare for that test (used prep books are available on Amazon). Colleges will be especially impressed. A generous teacher might also help with a few outside-the-school-day prep sessions (if so, please write a hand-written thank you note).

Students generally take AP classes at their home high school, but AP courses are also offered online through approved providers and homeschool providers. Talk to your counselor or AP coordinator to learn more about options to take AP tests at your school.

Tests are offered at specific dates and times for each subject, beginning at either 8 a.m. or 12 p.m. School AP coordinators can work with students who have exams scheduled for the same time, with alternate late-testing dates scheduled by the College Board.

How much do AP tests cost?

Each AP test for 2023-2024 costs $98, although fee reductions are available. High schools may add a charge to pay for test supervisors and/or testing room rentals. Learn more here about AP exam registration. If you choose not to take a test after registering, cancellation fees may apply. If you register late (after November 15 for first semester or full-year courses) or choose not to take the exam, a $40 fee applies.

Based on your state, other funds may also be available to help cover costs. Talk to your school to see what resources may exist. Submit payment for these costs through your school, not online. If you choose not to take a test after registering, cancellation fees may apply.

How do you send your AP scores to schools?

NOTE: all students who take an AP test during the year are REQUIRED to choose a school where scores will be sent. You might choose a “safety school” if you want to preview your scores before sending them to more selective schools. 

Each year you take an AP Exam, you can send one score report for free to the college, university, or scholarship organization you choose. This selection must be made before the state deadline, usually in mid-June. Selections made after this date or score reports to additional schools are $15 per report. Score reports include this year’s and prior year’s AP Exam scores. Learn more here.

What else should you know about AP tests and credits?

  • AP courses are a great way to prepare for college and increase your chances of graduating college with minimal debt! If you can, take advantage of these courses and tests to earn college credit.
  • May can be a busy time of year for academics and activities. When taking an AP course, always sign up for, prepare hard for, and take that AP test. If the test fee is an obstacle, ask your high school months in advance for help with the cost– before January.
  • If a student enters a college or university with total credit hours (earned through AP, IB, dual enrollment, early college, or CLEP exams) above freshman status, they might become ineligible for freshman scholarships. Check with the financial aid offices for your prospective colleges before sending your scores. Timing may matter.

Have other questions about choosing courses in high school or college applications? Learn more about our College Admissions Counseling.

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