The Princeton Review

< Back to All Articles

All about Your AP Scores

AP tests are scored on a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Get a 4 or higher, and you may be able to earn college credit without paying college tuition! Whether you just got your AP scores back or are considering taking an AP class, here’s everything you need to know about AP scores.

What Are AP Scores Used For?

In general, AP scores can be used for college credit, placing out of certain college course requirements, and to show admissions officers that you have pushed yourself academically in high school. Different colleges use AP scores in different ways, so it is important that you go to a particular college’s website to determine how it uses AP scores.

1.  Earn College Credit

Some colleges will give you college credit if you score well on an AP exam. These AP credits count toward your graduation requirements, meaning that you can take fewer courses while in college. Given the cost of college, this could be a huge step toward making your dream college more affordable.

2.  Satisfy College Requirements

Some colleges will allow you to “place out” of certain requirements if you do well on an AP exam, even if they do not give you actual college credits. For example, you might be able to skip the huge survey course and dive right into more specialized classes for your major. In some cases, you might not need to take a class in a certain discipline (like a mandatory writing class) at all.

3.  Look Good to Admissions Officers

Even if your AP scores don’t end up earning you college credit or allowing you to place out of certain courses, most colleges will respect your decision to push yourself by taking an AP course. A high score on an AP exam show mastery of more difficult content than is taught in many high school courses. Many schools will take that into account during the college admissions process.

What Your AP Test Scores Mean

    5         Extremely well qualified
    4         Well qualified
    3         Qualified
    2         Possibly qualified
    1         No recommendation

How to Earn AP Credit

A 4 or a 5 is the AP score that will most likely earn you college credit. A 3 might get you college credit depending on the college (different schools have different policies). Therefore, your goal is to earn at least a 3, preferably a 4 or 5. If you receive below a 3, it is highly unlikely that you will get college credit for your high school AP course.
Of course, no matter how you do on the AP test, you still get a grade for that AP class from your high school. Good grades in AP courses always look good on your transcript!

2016 AP Score Distributions

Here's how the most recent crop of AP students performed on some popular tests.

AP English Language
Average Score 2.82
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %      10.7%   17.6%   27.1%   32.1%   12.6%  

AP U.S. History
Average Score 2.70
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %      11.9%   17.9%   22.5%   23.3%   24.4%  

AP English Literature
Average Score 2.75
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %       7.4%   17.8%   29.4%   33.4%   12.0%  

AP Calcluus AB
Average Score 3.80
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %      24.8%   17.3%   17.4%    9.7%   30.7%  

AP U.S. Gov and Politics
Average Score 2.64
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %      12.3%   13.5%   24.9.%     24%   25.2%  

AP World History
Average Score 2.61
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %       6.6%   15.6%   29.4%   28.7%   19.7%  

AP Biology
Average Score 2.85
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %       6.6%   21.0%   33.6%   28.8%   10.1%  

AP Physics 1
Average Score 2.33
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %       4.6%   14.0%   21.2%   30.2%   30.0%  

AP European History
Average Score 2.71
Score                 5          4          3           2           1
Score %       7.4%   16.0%   29.2%   35.1%   12.3%  

GET AP Review
SOURCE: The College Board

Score BIG? You could win AP Awards.

If you earn a 3 or higher on at least three AP tests, you meet the baseline criteria for The College Board’s AP Scholar Awards. Unlike National Merit Scholarships (for high scores on the PSAT), winning an AP Award doesn’t earn you any scholarship dollars. But your designation as an AP Award winner does appear on your AP Score Report for colleges. There are multiple awards offered (like AP Scholar with Honor, AP Scholar with Distinction, etc.) with different requirements and awards at the state, national, and international levels.

Will you score a 5?

Test your knowledge with our quick quizzes for AP U.S. History, AP English Literature, or AP English Language.
Don't have a lot of time to prep? Check out our 6-hour AP Cram Courses. You'll review the most frequently tested content on the exam and learn tips for taking the test smarter.
ABOUT ROB FRANEK

Rob Franek, Editor-in-Chief, is The Princeton Review's chief expert on education. Over his 23-year career, he has visited hundreds of colleges and appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX to share advice about admissions, testing, and financial aid. Read more and follow Rob on Twitter: @RobFranek .


Admission Jumpstart

Check out the most comprehensive program to take you from your Sophomore year to the day you apply to college.

Learn More


SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which is not affiliated with The Princeton Review. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc., which is not affiliated with The Princeton Review.