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Advanced Placement

10 Questions About AP

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1. How does the Advanced Placement Program work?

Advanced Placement or AP is a program offered by The College Board. The term AP can refer to the courses you take in high school or it can refer to the actual tests you take. Students normally take AP courses in school by following a set curriculum in grades 10-12. Students then take AP tests near the end of the traditional school year, in May.

Score reports are sent out to the addresses or colleges that you provide. Those colleges decide whether or not students receive college credit. The college will let you know.

2. What if my school doesn't offer AP courses? Am I out of luck?

Not if you're a great student! You can actually take an AP test on your own. You just have to study hard and find out as much as you can about the test format. You can earn college credit on your own if you really have the ambition and drive!

3. What if I take the course but I don't want to take the test?

You don't have to take the test at all, unless there are specific requirements set by your own individual school.

4. What if I blow it? Will low scores hurt my college acceptance chances?

That's not a problem for students who take the exam in the senior year, because scores aren't sent out until July, long after most colleges send out final decisions. If students take an exam before the senior year, college officials will likely appreciate the student's hard work and effort--so that is not likely to hurt, either.

Also, you do have the option of canceling scores. You'll have to notify the College Board with a signed cancellation letter by June 15. You and your high school will still get a report in the mail, but it will indicate that scores were deleted.

5. What is the scoring scale and what does it mean?

Scores range from 1 to 5. You will find that individual colleges have their own rules as to scores that qualify for course credit. Check the policies at your college of choice. These are recommendations from the College Board:

  • 5: Highest qualifications to receive credit for a college class
  • 4: Very highly qualified.
  • 3. Qualified
  • 2: May qualify
  • 1: Probably not qualified

6. Can I repeat a test?

Yes. You can repeat a test, but the score reports will show every attempt.

7. When and where do I take the test?

AP exams are offered each May. If you take AP courses in your high school, your teacher will give you all the information about test dates, times, and locations. If you are a home schooled or a self-study student, you can contact AP Services by March 1st to receive the names of local coordinators who will help. Local coordinators may not undertand your situation at first, since your request may be unusual in your area. Be sure to explain that you are an independent, self-studied student.

8. It seems like a big gamble to take an advanced course when I might not do well on the test. Are there benefits other than college credit?

Yes, there are other benefits. By going through the advanced study of an AP course you'll be experiencing college-like course work. Reports from the College Board show that college graduation rates are higher among students who took AP courses—even if the students didn't take the exams!

9. Is it expensive?

I'm afraid so. The test can cost from $80-120, depending on the fees added on by your high school. Some schools do offer financial assistance but you'll have to ask questions and find out what's available. Don't be shy! Most adults are as bothered by the high costs of education as you and your parents.

10. Why does it cost so much?

The AP Program is selective when it comes to the teachers who teach AP courses. Teachers have to go through special training, and the fees pay for that training. Fees also pay for test facilitators who work those extra hours!

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