A High Schooler’s Guide to AP Exams

By Avinash T | Sunday, January 22, 2023

If you’re a student looking to make the most of your available course offerings, consider taking AP classes! The Advanced Placement (AP) Program, offered by many high schools, allows students to take college-level courses and potentially earn college credit by taking AP exams in May. A “passing” score on these tests can qualify you for college credit!

So how can you get involved?

Discover your Options

First, find out which AP classes are offered at your school and which ones you would like to take. Keep in mind that your school may have requirements for course selection, such as only allowing you to take one AP freshman year or requiring prerequisites for certain AP classes. If you have any questions about your school’s policies, you should definitely talk to your academic counselor. If your school has a limited offering of APs, you can self-study for them instead. Anyone can register for an AP exam, regardless of whether the class is offered at their school. For example, if you're interested in history and have exhausted your school’s coursework in this area, you may be able to prepare for the AP US Government and Politics exam by self-studying.

Define your Interests

The AP program offers a wide range of classes, including but not limited to AP English Language and Composition, AP Chemistry, AP Art History, and AP Statistics. Deciding which classes to take can be overwhelming, so it’s helpful to focus on your interests and future goals. For example, if you are looking to major in Public Policy, you might consider taking AP U.S. History and AP U.S. Government and Politics. You can use this link to see which AP courses align with different majors and careers.

Check Credit Requirements

All AP exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest score. The scores are based on a curve, so the performance needed to earn a certain score may vary depending on other test takers. Colleges have different requirements for which AP exams they accept and what scores are required for college credit. For example, Tulane University requires at least a 4 for AP Biology, while George Mason University accepts a 3 or higher. You can find AP requirements for specific colleges at this link. When applying to college, you can choose to self-report the scores of any exams you have taken.

Create a Study Schedule

Last but not least, as you prepare for your AP exam, create a study schedule that works for you! This should include reviewing any topics that you need to brush up on and practicing questions. Many AP exams have FRQs (Free Response Section) or some form of open-ended portion, so it can be helpful to look at questions from previous years and the corresponding rubric. These are often released by the College Board.

Check out the AP Review page at for sessions focused on AP exam material! Interested in teaching others? Apply for a Certification today!

Thank you Sharon V for editing this article!

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