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How important are AP exams in the admissions process?  Should I take any AP tests at the end of the school year?

Colleges and universities generally don’t require students to take AP exams  as part of the admissions process.  AP exam results are mostly used to qualify students for placement or credit after a student has enrolled at his or her school of choice.  While a score of 4 or 5 might earn placement or credit at many colleges and universities, there are a few schools that don’t give either no matter what a student scores.  As a general rule, though, it’s not a bad idea if a student who feels she’s mastered the subject matter takes the exam as a way of possibly placing out of a few classes.

While schools might not require students to send in their AP test scores (official results are only needed after a student chooses to enroll and qualify for credit or placement), they might take self-reported scores into consideration for admissions.  A self-reported score on the lower end of the spectrum will more than likely not do a student any favors — neither in the admissions process nor the credit or placement department.  So if a school doesn’t require students to report AP exam results, a student will only want to put his best foot forward when self-reporting. Before submitting, think about the caliber of the institution to which you are applying and assess whether your AP scores are in line with its standards.

If a school is going to require standardized testing for admission purposes, they’re generally going to require either the ACT or SAT, and possibly a few SAT subject tests.  Although subject tests cover subject matter that is similar to the AP test, they do not earn students credit or placement — they’re strictly used within the confines of an admissions decision.  The most subject tests a school might require is two.  There are very few schools — Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, for example — that recommend, but do not require, students to take three subject tests. Be aware of the testing policies of all the schools on your college list, and be prudent in deciding which tests to take and scores to send.



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Written by Zaragoza Guerra
Zaragoza Guerra is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Zaragoza previously worked as a senior admissions officer at MIT, Caltech, and The Boston Conservatory.