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Are AP Exams Worth It?

By Jay R | Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Are AP Exams Worth It?

Jay R

With the new school year soon approaching, many high school students will be considering their course placements and deciding whether or not to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. If they’re already planning on taking AP classes, should they register to take AP Exams in the spring or maybe even register to take additional exams after self-studying?

First and foremost, it is important to note the benefits of taking AP exams and why students should even consider taking them in the first place. AP courses and exams may demonstrate a student’s academic excellence by completing college-level coursework throughout the year. This could help them stand out to colleges by showcasing their willingness to challenge themselves and a strong motivation to learn. Many college admission experts suggest taking several AP courses, especially if a student is considering to apply to highly selective colleges. Because AP courses are quite challenging for students, many high schools offer to raise the GPAs of the students who take them.

Furthermore, taking AP exams toward the end of the school year and performing well may allow students to potentially gain college credits while they're still in high school. Typically, in the summer following AP exam administrations, students receive a score from 1-5 for each exam they took based on how well they did on each one. Many universities will accept a score of 3+ to earn college credit, but higher-level institutions may require at least a 4 or even a 5 in order to earn credit. College credits can be beneficial for students who would like to save time and money as they may not need to take as many classes to fulfill graduation requirements.

Despite these advantages, students need to consider several factors before committing to AP courses. Given the rigorous nature of the AP curriculum, AP exams may not be suitable for everyone depending on their specific skill sets and academic abilities. AP courses are typically more fast-paced and require additional effort both in and out of the classroom than normal high school classes. Students need to be able to balance their personal lives, school work, extracurriculars, hobbies, friends, and all of their other endeavors. Taking too many AP classes can burden students by potentially causing stress, lower grades, and overall instability in their lives.

Another struggle for students considering taking AP exams may be the cost of the exams themselves. The cost for most of the AP exams during the 2021-2022 school year was $96 per exam in the U.S., U.S. territories, Canada, and DoDEA schools and $126 per exam for students living elsewhere. Additionally, some exams, such as AP Seminar and AP Research cost $144. Paying for the exams may not be worth it for students who do not think they will perform well or if the colleges they are considering applying to do not award credit for some AP exams. Additionally, in order to send your score report which includes scores from all past AP exams to multiple colleges, universities, or scholarship programs or to send scores after the free score send deadline (students can send their score report to one recipient for free each year they take AP exams before the deadline which is usually before scores are released), there is an extra fee to do this which was $15 per report for standard delivery and $25 per report for rush delivery in 2022.

Students must decide for themselves whether or not to take AP courses and exams, how many, and which ones they would like to take. They need to weigh the pros and cons and determine if the AP curriculum is right for them. Ultimately, students should consider their academic interests and assess if the benefits of the AP program outweigh the costs before registering for courses and exams.

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