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5 Things to Know About AP Scores

Advanced Placement exam scores historically have been released in early July, with students in the eastern U.S. receiving their results first.

However, the score release procedure for 2021 will be different due to changes provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the approximate date when students receive their AP test scores will depend on when they took the associated exams.

If you sat for AP exams during administration 1 or 2, you will receive those scores on or after July 21. Students who took exams during administration 3 or 4 will most likely receive their scores by Aug. 16. You can check your scores online once they’re released if you created a College Board account.

If you’re an AP student, you probably already know that AP exam scores range on a whole-number scale from 1 to 5, but consider these five other facts about AP scoring that may be less familiar:

— AP scores are automatically sent to certain individuals and entities.

— Some exams include subscores.

— There are requirements for changing AP scoring requests.

— Understanding the distribution of test results can help you better interpret your scores.

— You can retake an AP test.

AP Scores Are Automatically Sent to Certain Individuals and Entities

Once your AP scores are available, they will be automatically transmitted to your AP course instructors, the college you indicated in My AP when you registered for the test and possibly other officials in your school and school district.

Furthermore, if you sat for one or more AP exams in Kentucky, your results will also be sent to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, or KHEAA. However, you can write to the College Board, the organization that administers the program, by June 15 of the year you took the exam if you prefer to keep your scores private from KHEAA.

Some Exams Include Subscores

AP exams are graded on a simple numeric scale that ranges from 1, the lowest possible result, to 5, the highest possible result. The score is a projected assessment of a student’s readiness for college-level courses in the given subject.

A score of 5 indicates that you are “extremely well qualified” for the rigors of college academics in that field, while a score of 1 indicates that “no recommendation” can be confidently made on your behalf.

For scores of 3 and above, the College Board provides a college course letter grade equivalent. A score of 5 equates to an A or A+ in the analogous college class; a score of 4 is deemed equal to an A-, B+ or B; and a 3 is considered on par with a B-, C+ or C, according to the online score table. The College Board uses a rough letter grade range because institutions of higher education differ in terms of their course rigor and grading policies.

There are two AP subjects whose score reports look a bit different: Calculus BC and Music Theory. These score reports contain both a grade on the 1-5 scale and at least one subscore.

The Calculus BC exam covers a combination of AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC topics. For this reason, the subscore provides students with their score on Calculus AB questions, which is about 60% of the exam. Music Theory has an aural component subscore and a nonaural component subscore.

There Are Requirements for Changing AP Scoring Requests

Many students find themselves wanting to change their AP scoring requests after the exam. Some students decide they want to send their scores to more schools while others choose the opposite — to cancel or withhold their scores.

Students can request that their scores be sent to additional schools electronically. The regular rate for this is $15; it costs $25 for rush delivery.

To avoid sending your score to the college or university you indicated on My AP, the deadline is June 15 of the year you took the exam, and all changes require written notification using the College Board’s score cancellation form.

The withholding fee is $10 per score per college. Be advised that withholding a score does not delete it from your record. If you change your mind later, you can release the score at no cost to you by making a request in writing.

When you elect to cancel your AP score, your exam will not be scored. If it has already been scored by the time you make the request, the College Board deletes the score from your record and it can never be reinstated. Although score cancellation is free, exam fees are nonrefundable.

Understanding the Distribution of Test Results Can Help You Better Interpret Your Scores

Considering an AP score only on the numeric scale — and, when applicable, reviewing the subscore — may not give you a fully accurate picture of your performance on the exam. To understand how you fared with regards to other test-takers, you should also examine the score distributions provided by the College Board, which show the percentage of students whose final scores fall within each of the five numeric categories.

A low percentage under a score of 4 or 5 indicates that relatively few test-takers were able to achieve that score. Thus, earning a 5 on hard exams can make your college applications even more competitive.

For instance, approximately 40% of students in 2020 who took the Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism exam managed to score a 5 on it. By comparison, just under 9% of Physics 1 test-takers that year scored a 5 on the Physics 1 exam.

Earning what seems like a middle-of-the-road score may be considered normal on certain tests. For instance, a plurality of students who took the Biology and the Italian Language and Culture exams in 2020 scored a 3 and the majority scored 3 or below, making a score of 3 closer to average rather than low for both exams.

You Can Retake an AP Test

Did you know that you can retake AP exams in the spring of the following year in which you tested? If you did not earn the score you were hoping for the first time, you can spend another year reviewing before taking the exam again.

Retaking an AP test can be a wise course of action if you are determined to earn college credit and have the resources to ready yourself and try again later.

However, despite the potential benefits of retaking an AP exam, you should know that it’s not the right choice for everyone. Before making the decision to retest, ask yourself the following questions:

— Will I be able to set aside the amount of consistent study time required to improve my score?

— Do I have the long-term willpower that it will take to put in the necessary study time?

— Will I be able to pay the $95 fee per exam?

If you cannot answer “yes” to all three questions or you fear that you may forget course content without a school class to guide you, it might be in your best interest to forgo retaking an AP test.

Get to know more about AP scores using this information so that you can make better sense of your score report this summer.

By Tiffany Sorensen

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