Preparing for College

The Importance of AP Exam Scores

Question: How much influence do AP scores have on college admission?

With so many incredible students submitting applications that are chockablock with great grades, challenging classes, top SAT and ACT scores, and extraordinary extracurricular pursuits, admission officials at elite colleges are increasingly looking to AP exam scores to serve as tie-breakers. When one candidate has taken three AP tests by application time and earned two 5's and a 4, while a similar candidate received two 4's and a 3, obviously, the first aspirant will appear stronger.

Of course, admission officials don't look at these results in a vacuum. A student from a disadvantaged community or background will not be viewed the same way as a more privileged applicant will. Admission folks are pretty good about knowing the high schools in the regions they cover, and they often realize that it can be poor teaching--and not a poor student--that leads to so-so (or below) AP exam scores.

However, if you hail from a school that's considered competitive and you're aiming at the most selective colleges, your chances of admission could be affected by AP exam scores or even by the fact that you list AP classes on your transcript but don't submit the test results. In such cases, adcoms will wonder if you were too chicken (or lazy) to tackle the test or may assume that your scores were even worse than they really were.