Advanced Placement Examinations (AP Exams)


The term Advanced Placement Examination refers to a series of tests used to determine a student's mastery of various subject areas.  AP Exams are scored on a scale that ranges from one to five.  Colleges and universities oftentimes grant course credits, or allow the student to take higher level courses, if they exceed their school's threshold values.


AP Exams are used by the admissions departments of colleges and universities to determine if a student receives college credits or is able to select higher level courses.  Examinations take place in May, with results available for online viewing in July.  Reports are delivered to the student's college or university in that same timeframe.

The vast majority of AP exams consist of multiple choice questions along with a written section that takes the form of an essay or is in a problem solving format.  Raw scores are converted to a five point scale as shown below:

Exam Score College Grade Equivalent Recommendation
1   None
2   Possibly Qualified
3 B-, C+, C Qualified
4 A-, B+, B Very Qualified
5 A+, A Extremely Qualified

The number and types of AP Exams offered is evaluated annually, and typically fall into the following categories:

  • Arts: includes subject areas such as art history, music theory, 2-D design, 3-D design, studio drawing.
  • English:  includes subject areas such as language, literature and composition.
  • History and Social Sciences:  includes subject areas such as government and politics, European history, human geography, macroeconomics, microeconomics, psychology, U.S. history and World history.
  • Mathematics and Computers: includes subject areas such as calculus, computer science, and statistics.
  • Sciences: includes subject areas such as biology, chemistry, environmental science, and physics.
  • Language and Culture: includes Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish.

Generally, schools will grant course credits if the student achieves a score of three or greater in a given area; however, the exact policy will vary by institution.

Related Terms

master's degree, doctoral degree, Latin honors, dissertationSAT ACT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, MCATMAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, PSAT / NMSQT, USMLE, COMLEX, NCLEX