As spring comes along, many high school upperclassmen may begin thinking about taking the AP exam. AP exams are available for anyone taking an advanced placement course and who wish to receive college credit if they obtain a 3, 4 or 5 on the test.
How are AP exams scored?
AP exam scores are reported on a 5-point scale. 1 means ‘no recommendation’ to receive college credit or advanced placement, 2 means ‘possibly qualified’, 3 means ‘qualified’, 4 means ‘well qualified’, and 5 means ‘extremely well qualified’. Testing occurs on the first two weeks of May and scores are released in early July.
The exam consists of multiple-choice and free-response questions. The multiple-choice section is scored by computer. Each answer sheet is scanned and the total multiple-choice score equals the number of correct responses. The free-response section is scored at the annual AP Reading held during the first two weeks in June. Specially appointed college professors and experienced AP teachers evaluate free-response answers. The total scores from the free-response section and the multiple-choice section are combined to form a composite score.
During score-setting sessions (there is one for each AP Exam) composite scores are translated into AP scores (1-5 scale) by setting boundaries for each score based on a statistical technique called ‘equating’.
Preparing for the AP exams
When preparing for the AP exam, it’s important to know the information you have learned throughout the year, but it’s equally important to know the test-taking tips and strategies that will make the harder questions easier. The best and easiest way to study is not to read and memorize your whole textbook, but instead, buy an AP book written by Princeton Review or Barron’s which will guide you through the important information in all the chapters, test-taking strategies, common topics that appear on the exam, and even two full-length AP Tests. Students preparing for the test should buy this book (which is no more than $20) about a month before the test. Studying from this book for one to two hours each day will guarantee you a higher score.
Also, the AP College Board websites can provide test-takers with a wide variety of resources that can improve your scores. Practice makes perfect, and with the sample multiple-choice questions and free-response questions from past AP exams, you’ll become more familiar with the test. The free-response question includes scoring guidelines, sample student responses, and commentary on those responses, as well as exam statistics and the Chief Reader's Report for past administrations.
All in all, it is important for students to take the AP exam because it is truly beneficial to go into college with credits already in your hand! The test is $87, usually with a $13 additional cost for the website and/or school you are purchasing your test through. In retrospect, you’ll actually be saving hundreds of dollars because that is one less college class to take in the future! So study hard, eat a good breakfast, and good luck!