The Advanced Placement Program (AP®) is an educational program created by the College Board® to provide college-level coursework to motivated high school students. AP exams are also offered for each subject to measure achievement in the course. Scores on these exams are used by colleges and universities for course placement, and high scores can earn a student college credit for their high school coursework.
Each AP exam is offered just once during the academic year. Different subjects are spread out over a two-week period in the first half of May, capping a year of Advanced Placement coursework.
Though the length can vary depending on the subject, the typical AP exam is two to three hours long. On most testing dates there is an exam in the morning and in the afternoon, so it's possible for a student to be scheduled to take two exams in one day.
Each AP exam costs $92. Low-income students can contact their school's AP Coordinator for a waiver to take the test at a reduced cost.
AP exams are offered in many locations across the country and around the world. Testing typically takes place in high schools where AP courses are offered. Home-schooled students and independent candidates should contact AP Services for information about nearby testing locations and for instructions for contacting local AP Coordinators.
Registration for an AP exam is done through each school's AP Coordinator. Online registration is not available. On the day of the test, students must have a valid government- or school-issued photo ID.
What Is On the AP Tests
Each AP exam is different, and content is determined by the subject matter. In general, the first part of each exam consists of multiple choice questions, while the second half consists of essays or other free-response sections.
How the AP Tests Are Scored
AP exams are scored on a 5-point scale, with the following designations for each score:
- 5 = extremely well qualified
- 4 = well qualified
- 3 = qualified
- 2 = possibly qualified
- 1 = no recommendation
There are no penalties for leaving a multiple-choice question blank or for incorrect answers. This means that students are encouraged to guess rather than leaving any answers blank. The essays are scored by specially-trained AP Readers (typically college professors). Scores on both sections are combined and then translated to the 5-point scale.
In general, a score of 3 or higher indicates that a student is capable of doing college-level work in the subject, and many colleges will offer credit for an introductory course based on these scores.
Retaking the AP Tests
You may retake an AP exam each year. All scores for all AP exams are reported together when you send a score report to colleges and universities, so retakes do not replace or erase old scores. Each college has its own policy about how to weigh AP exam retakes.