2 years ago
Admissions Advice

AP test scores

Do I have to submit AP test scores when applying to college. I got good grades in my class, but I didnt do too well on the AP exam due to anxiety.

Either way, do colleges really care about AP scores? I don’t need college credit.

What I’m really asking is would it hurt me to not send AP scores?

I’m applying to top 50 schools, excluding top 20’s and top 30 liberal arts.

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5 answers

2 years ago[edited]

Hi @Indigo34

Thanks for your question. This is a complicated one and requires some understanding of why they matter.

During the pandemic, both high schools and their students suffered the ability to hold normal classes. Colleges tried to create a sense of fairness by making tests optional. And CollegeBoard tried to accommodate more learning loss sufferers by making the AP tests shorter and simplified. In my opinion, while the intentions were good and honorable, execution and results are spotty at best and it's still quite a mess. Now that the worst of the pandemic is over, CollegeBoard has reinstated normal AP exams and eliminated the 45-minute version. So they are assuming that HS students who sign up for AP Classes can also take the AP Tests each year in May.

Now you have some colleges "test blind", most "test-optional" and some going back to requiring standardized tests like MIT and Georgetown. While the reporting of AP test scores is optional by most colleges, not reporting APs or only reporting a small % of tests taken creates doubt in the minds of college application readers.

My take on this is the same as colleges being test-optional for the SAT/ACT. If a college considers a submitted high SAT/ACT test score in the application evaluation, then it also considers a submitted high AP test score in the application evaluation. Therefore, submitting high standardized test scores gives most college applicants a bump in admissions versus exercising the option not to submit a test score. Forensically over the past 3 test optional cycles, it is clear to me that if you have a high SAT/ACT to submit, that will give you an application boost. While it's true that some applicants who do not submit their SAT/ACT still get admitted regardless to the very best colleges but the reason for that is that the rest of their academic and EC narrative is so strong and impressive that 1600/36 wouldn't make a dent what is already presented. I think if you have less than perfect grades, course rigor, intellectual vitality, gaps in ECs, etc, then submitting a high SAT/ACT helps shore up some of those doubts for the application reader. The SAT II Subject tests used to serve this purpose but the college board since 2020/21 has eliminated these completely as well as the Essay section of the SAT.

This is where the AP Tests Scores come in. I believe there is a symbiotic relationship between taking the AP class and the AP test. And the results help inform the application reader about what is going on in that high school. If you sign up and take 10 APs and then sign up and take 10 APs test scores, the outcomes will vary depending on the high school you attend.

Scenario A

You get all As in your AP course and get mostly 4s and 5s in your AP test scores, then we know 2 important things. 1. You are an excellent student. 2. Your teacher did an excellent job preparing you for the AP exams.

Scenario B

You get all As in the APS but get spotty results on the AP tests (like a range or 1,2,3s,4s) 1.) You may or may not be a great student but the possibility still exists. One possibility is there is grade inflation at your school 2.) Your teachers didn't do a great job preparing you and your classmates for the AP exams.

Scenario C

You get a mix of Bs and As in the APS but get spotty results on the AP tests (like a range or 1,2,3s) 1.) You may or may not be a very good student but the possibility still exists. 2.) Your teachers did a poor job preparing you and your classmates for the AP exams.

So my point is that there is valuable information that the admissions team learns from both AP grades and AP test scores. If you do not submit at AP test scores, then the application readers will assume you got 1s and 2s on them. (If you are applying to Ivys and Elites, they may assume you got a 3 or less on them).

So this creates a connect the dots problem for the admissions officer. Should they assume you had grade inflation and your grades are not deserving, or should they assume the failure to score well on the exam lies mostly on your instructors? Or a little of both?

What if you are compared to a file from an applicant who took ZERO AP classes yet self-studied for 10 of them, and submitted 4s and 5s on their common app? They are probably going to go with that applicant because, in spite of not having any formal instruction, they figured out a way to get top AP scores when no AP classes were available to them because they are either an international student or from a poor neighborhood.

Therefore, I would not assume like the other respondents that AP test scores do not matter. They do matter because they give context to what kind of school you go to and what kind of student you are.

2 years ago

Whether you decide to send in your scores or not won't affect your chances at getting accepted into your top schools. Colleges will look at your transcript and see the classes you took. It's really not about what you score that colleges are looking for, it's more about what courses you are taking. Are you challenging yourself? Are you taking vigorous courses? With AP classes, colleges like to see that because it shows that you are pushing yourself to learn more about a topic than in an average class. It also showcases that you can handle a challenge as well as the work load.

Overall, it really depends on what grade schools accept, if you choose to send in your grades. Also, you don't need to disclose all your AP grades or disclose any of them to all your schools. Go on your schools' websites and see what grades they accept (you can also figure that out through CollegeBoard). From there, you give yourself an idea of what you want to do with your scores. Some schools accept 3s, while others will only accept 5s, but those are mainly the Ives. All the AP grade would do is give you credits for some courses. Depending on how well you do on these exams and how many APs one takes, they could even help one graduate early.

Remember, colleges look at your academic performance overall; they don't narrow it down to a specific thing. If you are getting good grades, participating in extra curriculars, score high on your ACT/SAT (if you want to submit those scores as well), and much more then you are on the right track of doing what you need to do for the application process.

2 years ago

Honestly, they won't matter at all. If you got good enough grades, they just take those into account. It would not hurt you not to send AP scores since you did not do well on them.

2 years ago

If you don't need college credit and you feel that your AP scores can negatively impact your application, you shouldn't submit them. Otherwise, there's always a section on the application where you can indicate circumstances that led to certain grades, but I wouldn't recommend putting anxiety as a reason unless it was caused by personal issues and not exam fear.

Colleges care more about AP classes than AP exam scores as AP classes show that you have the ability to deal with challenging college-level coursework. Scores are mainly for credit purposes, so not sending them wouldn't hurt.

Hope this helps!

2 years ago

Hi @Indigo34, great question!

You don't have to submit AP test scores, they are optional!

It depends on the college. Some care, others don't.

It wouldn't do too much damage if you didn't send AP scores. It's more of an extra topping. However, if you're applying to top 50 schools, you might want to send in other test scores like SAT or ACT if you did well on those.

Hope this helps!

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