Tears, Lead Smudges, and Eraser Shavings: It’s AP Season Baby

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Tears, Lead Smudges, and Eraser Shavings: It’s AP Season Baby

The comprehensive guide for underclassmen about Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the exams that follow them

As a nonprofit organization with the purpose of expanding access to higher education, the College Board offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses to high school-age students who want to challenge themselves with college-level material. Each course has a corresponding exam that a student would complete for college credit that varies from one university to another; or it could qualify that student to take more advanced courses in their university of choice. All of that ultimately relies on a student’s exam score and whether the university accepts that score. Yet an increasing number of students see this as a viable opportunity.

According to the College Board for the period of 2015 to 2016, there were 4,704,980 exams administered to the 2,611,172 enrolled students. Each year there is a significant increase of students who actively want to academically challenge themselves beyond what is expected of them. And if you are one of those students who is thinking about taking an AP course, then here is a guide on the courses that our school offers and the exams that follow them.

What are our offered AP courses [as of 2017-2018]?


  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Computer Science A
  • Statistics


  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics C

Social Sciences

  • Combination of Comparative Government with United States Government
  • Combination of Macro and Micro Economics
  • Human Geography
  • Psychology
  • United States History
  • World History and Geography


  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition

Foreign Languages

  • French
  • Latin
  • Spanish


  • Music Theory
  • Studio Art

Now, what is an AP exam?

Traditionally, it’s an exam taken by students nationwide in May. It tests a student’s comprehension of the college-level material that they learned throughout the year. And while each AP exam has different criteria depending on the course it corresponds with, there are at least three common things to expect with each one according to the College Board:

  1. Most of the exams last from about two to three hours at least. Each exam has a break halfway through it. This gives them time to refuel since students aren’t allowed food or drink inside the testing room.
  2. The first section of the exam requires the test-taker to answer multiple choice questions in a designated amount of time—usually about an hour.
  3. The second section of the exam requires that same test-taker to respond to free-response questions in a designated amount of time—usually about two hours.

Are they all graded by handed?

After a student takes an AP exam, it is collected and sent to the College Board. They state that the multiple-choice portion of the exam is graded by a computer, and the total number of correct answers from it is the multiple-choice score. Then, the free-response portion of the exam is scored by college professors and AP teachers selected during an annual AP reading. That multiple-choice score and free-response score are combined to create a composite score. This is then translated into a five-point scale; essentially, it’s the final score that you receive for the exam.

But what is the exam scored out of?

To understand the weight of an exam score, you need to understand that the College Board defines this score as a measure of a student’s achievement in an AP course. And from there, a student can officially mail that AP score through the College Board to a university to qualify for college credit. Or instead, they could use that score to opt out of an equivalent college course. With all that being said, the College Board begins the ranking with five as the highest score and one being the lowest. This is their official ranking system in their own words:

  • 5: extremely well qualified
  • 4: well qualified
  • 3: qualified
  • 2: possibly qualified
  • 1: no recommendation

What score does a university accept for college credit?

While almost all universities accept the score range of three to five, it varies depending on the university. So, check to make sure that the university you plan to attend will accept your AP score. They will often have this in the undergraduate portion of their website.

Where can I learn more about AP classes?

Here is the official website of the Advanced Placement® (AP) College Board.

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