4 years ago
Admissions Advice

Does it matter if I take AP classes but not the AP Exam?

Hi, I am a rising senior. By the time I graduate I will have taken 7 AP classes, but only 2 AP exams. This isn't due to financial reasons, more just that I did not want to take the AP exams honestly. Both exams I took I received 4's (AP Chem and AP World), and the 5 APs I've taken thus far I have gotten mostly A's, so it is not like I did bad in the classes, just did not feel that AP exams would be helpful to me. Other than not receiving college credit, will my actual college applications be affected by the fact that I didn't take the exams? Will colleges only "count it" as 2 aps, not 7? I'll be applying to some competitive schools, so ANY feedback on an AO's view on lack of AP exams would be helpful!!


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3 answers

4 years ago[edited]

There will be different answers to this question between students here and different college application readers.

I would say most people take AP Classes with the full intent to take the AP test because it either confirms or denies that the grade received in the classes aligns with the test score and whether the teacher did a good job of teaching to the test. After all, the whole point of every A.P. teacher is to teach to the test so the students have the highest probability of getting good scores 3,4 and 5s. There are some people who simply want to take as many AP classes as possible because it looks good for course rigor. I have known people that have taken 20 AP classes and taken all the tests and scored only 4s and 5s on all 20. And then there are students that are very strategic in taking 6-9 AP classes only to get the course rigor ergo the GPA bump. They have no intention of taking the test irrespective of getting full college credit or a higher placement status in the course when they matriculate to college.

Some would argue, the whole point of AP is to teach a college-level course to ambitious high schoolers with the intent to have them get rewarded by doing well on the test, plus an opportunity to earn college credit. The fact one gets a 1.0 boost on the GPA is a side effect not the purpose of the class. This is similar to the genesis of the IB program, as well as its reward system for doing well in the class and the test. Would either developer of these programs roll them out for the students to get the GPA boost without having to take the final exam? Now that's a good question I have I am unclear about.

In your case, the application reader will be wondering what the reason was for bowing out of 5 out of 7 AP Exams. You say it's not financial but they might think that a.) you were not prepared, b.) your teacher didn't prepare the lessons well to the test, c.) you wanted the GPA boost without studying for the CollegeBoard AP exam d.) something else like illness, or e.) something else. They will see the 2 (4s) and correlate that back to the grades in the class, I'm assuming you got As in the class. So maybe some of them will take an educated guess that if you did take the other 5 AP exams you would have received a 4 on average for them.

The risk you face is kind of unknown because depending on the schools you apply to, some of them will have lots of applicants who also took 7 APs as well. Let's say you apply to Williams, Dartmouth, or UVA. When they read your file and compare you to someone similar who took 7 APs, they will say this applicant took 2 tests but applicant B took 7 tests and submitted scores of 3,4,5,4,4,5,4. How would they pick? I'm not sure.

It's true that this cycle SAT and ACT scores are test-optional and you will not be penalized for not submitting. I'm not sure its fair to assume that school s have AP test-optional policies as well. Everyone definitely will know you took 7 AP classes but they will not know what to make of only submitting 2.

My suggestion is to write somewhere on your application the reason for not submitting the 5 additional AP scores. It's better to explain away than to have them guessing.

Best of luck in your college admissions process.

4 years ago

So while Cameron’s answer is good I don’t fully agree with it.

AP exams have literally no impact on admissions just the rigor. It will not hurt that you didn’t take the tests as it will still be 7 APs. IN THEORY (solely due to human bias it might not 100% be true) your admission profile is the same as someone with 7 APs and 7 Tests.

Also you can always look at a schools rule on APs by googling insert school AP credit. That or you can just email the admisssions department and ask.

Best of luck! Hope this helps and please comment if you need clarification as I’d be happy to help clarify!

3 years ago

Update as of May 2021: College board has discontinued the SAT Subject tests internationally and domestically. Instead, The College Board encourages students to demonstrate their subject proficiency through the AP Exams.

With that being said, AP Exams are now one of the only ways to show your proficiency in specific subjects.

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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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