About The Tests

AP Overview

Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams are taken through a student’s high school if the school offers them. There are currently over 30 AP exam options, although most high schools do not offer courses in every subject.

AP courses enable students to pursue college-level coursework while still in high school, with the opportunity to earn college credit or earn advanced placement in college courses. Taking AP courses and the subsequent AP exams provide several benefits, including:

  • College Admissions Impact: Taking AP courses shows college admissions officers that a student is challenging themself with the most rigorous high school classes available and can succeed as an undergraduate
  • Earning College Credits: Most colleges and universities offer college credit and/or advanced placement for qualifying AP Exam scores. These college credits can allow students to save on college tuition, secure a second major, or study abroad
  • Skipping Introductory Classes: Taking an AP course and earning a qualifying score on the AP Exam can allow your student to avoid required introductory courses. This can open up time on your student’s schedule to undertake a second major or minor, take additional electives of interest, or pursue additional activities
  • Skill Building: Taking rigorous AP courses helps your student build the requisite skills to continue excelling at the college level

Academic Approach offers customized tutoring solutions for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams. Our experienced and knowledgeable tutors are personally committed to your student’s success.

Test Format & Structure

AP exams are usually two to three hours long paper and pencil tests administered through a student’s high school as a part of an AP course. Most exams consist of two sections—multiple-choice and free-response. There is no penalty for guessing on the multiple-choice. Free-response questions could be in the form of an essay, a handwritten solution to a problem, or even a spoken response.

Calculators are allowed for 10 of the exam options—Biology, all Calculus, Chemistry, Environmental Science, all Physics, and Statistics exams. They are not allowed for any other exams, including Macro- and Microeconomics.

Eight AP exams have a format that is different from the typical paper and pencil tests, including language, design, and capstone courses. Visit the AP Exam Components web page for a full list of the exams.

Test Administration

There are currently 39 AP Exam options. If a course of interest is not offered at your school, we recommend contacting your high school counselor or AP Services to review course and exam options that can be taught through an approved online provider.


AP exams are scored on a scale of one to five. The score is calculated as a weighted combination of the multiple-choice and free-response scores. Some courses have additional assessments that are factored in, including AP Seminar, AP Research, AP Computer Science Principles, and three AP Art and Design courses.

Because there is no penalty for incorrect answers, students should guess even if it means filling in random answer choices.

While most colleges and universities factor in taking AP courses as a demonstration of academic strength, whether a high AP exam score strengthens admission decisions depends on the school. More than 75% of admissions officers surveyed by the College Board have stated that a low score would not negatively impact an application.

Colleges and universities typically do not grant college credit for AP scores below a four, though a score lower than a four may still impact course placement. Check with your specific schools of interest to understand how they consider AP scores.

Dates & Deadlines

AP exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. Exams are only offered during a two week period each year in May.

If your student’s school has an Advanced Placement Coordinator, talk to them directly about registration. If the school does not have an AP coordinator on staff, we recommend you contact AP Services no later than March 2nd to get the names and telephone numbers of local participating AP Coordinators willing to test outside students. Be sure to call the identified AP Coordinators no later than March 16th.


While AP course costs, if any, are determined by high schools, the exam fees are set by the College Board. Each exam is $96, except for AP Seminar and AP Research exams, which are $144 each. For information about additional fees, including international, late order, and unused or canceled exam fees, visit the College Board’s AP Exam webpage.


Students are eligible to request accommodations if they have a qualifying documented disability, an IEP or 504 Plan, or already receive accommodations from their school. Accommodations include extended time, large print test booklets and large block answer sheets, computer-based testing, and accommodations for additional physical disabilities. Requests go through the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office and can be submitted by the student or the student’s counselor. For more information on requesting accommodations, visit the College’s Board’s Accommodations webpage.

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