AP Exams are a big part of every spring semester. Because of block scheduling, most AP teachers are scrambling to finish a year’s worth of information in just a few short months. On top of that, AP exams are designed to be challenging in order to prove actual mastery of the information. This makes the exams an intense testing period that can scare a lot of hopeful students.
With that being said, AP exams represent an opportunity for students to earn college credit and show colleges that they are ready to learn at the collegiate level. Additionally, strong AP scores look good on college applications. Even further, the AP exams are free this year for classes you are enrolled in — so why are so many students scared?
Students are scared they won’t do well. Everyone has this fear on a test–have I prepared enough? Do I understand the material enough? But AP tests are different. Instead of being scared of not doing well, most students do not believe in a future where they score well on an AP exam because of their grade in the class. However, the AP tests do not correlate to having an A or B in a class; instead, they are graded on a scale of proficiency in the subject, according to the chart below.
Extremely Well Qualified
Under this scale, a student demonstrates their knowledge by scoring a 3 or higher. For most AP exams, only about 30% of students score a 2 or 1. This means approximately 70% of students who take the AP exam score well enough to show colleges that they understand the material at a collegiate level.
UNC-Chapel Hill accepts mostly scores of 4 for credit, but also accept a 3 in many courses like Biology, Chemistry, and Statistics. In fact, UNC-Chapel Hill accepts a 2 in AB Calculus for credit hours. Similarly, NC State accepts mostly 4’s, but accepts 3’s in US History, Computer Science, Environmental Science, and Government and Politics. These credit hours represent classes that the student no longer has to take, either lightening their overall course load or creating an opportunity for the student to take more classes they are interested in.
A poor grade in an AP class does not necessarily cause a poor score on an AP exam. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, as it creates a strong college application and presents new opportunities for learning in college.