To Test or Not To Test: Pros and Cons of AP Exams


Clara Buck (12th), Editor-in-Chief

Although the end of the school year brings with it excitement and anticipation for summer vacation, with the month of May comes also the stress of finals, end-of-the-year projects, and for the more rigorous high school students, AP testing.

AP exams are typically given during the first two weeks of May and are designed by the College Board to measure a student’s mastery of the Advanced Placement course they plan to test on. Each year, there are students who are unsure of whether to take the exam or not for various reasons, some are unsure if they are knowledgeable enough in a particular subject, and some are wary for financial reasons. It is important, however, that students know both the advantages and disadvantages of AP exams when choosing to test or not to test.

A major advantage in choosing to take an AP exam is the chance to receive college credit. If a student passes his or her test with a score of at least 3 out of 5, often times the student will be able to use that exam in exchange for college credit, thus decreasing tuition payments and possibly even shortening time spent at college. This is a key benefit that drives many AP students to take the exam, but it is important to note, however, that not all colleges give credits for simply earning a three – some of the more academically-challenging institutes such as Stanford mostly require scores of 4s and 5s to gain credit.

Taking the AP exam has other college-based advantages as well, one of which is the chance to show admissions officers that you are truly engaged in your learning and are not only using the AP class for a GPA boost, as some students are often found doing. As Veritas Prep, an educational website that provides helpful tutoring to students explains,

“Taking the test and getting a score can verify that your grades are not inflated (i.e.: you got an A in the class, but a 2 on the exam vs. you got a B in the class, but a 4 on the exam) and that you can handle big exams (think college midterms and finals).  Not taking the exam can be a flag for colleges and may prompt them to ask the question ‘well, why didn’t they take the exam?’”

While the advantages of taking an AP exam or two surely do provide great educational opportunities, there are still a few cons that can be discouraging to students wary of testing.

One clear and often times, most common, reason why students detract from taking the AP exam is that they feel unprepared and fear failure. In many cases, some students genuinely do not do too well in the AP course from lack of understanding or proper educational guidance. Consequently, they do not feel that taking a three to four hour exam in a subject they do not fully comprehend would do them any favors.

The cost of AP exams is another reason students choose to skip their exam. There are many families who simply cannot afford an exam worth $93 for their student, especially if they have more than one AP course. There is a fee-waiver that can heavily reduce the fee to a mere $5, but it is commonly seen that a family who can not afford to put aside the exam fee (or fees) because of other finances do not meet the waiver requirements.

While both the pros and cons of AP exams are each reasonable in their own way, it is up to the student to decide based on their own knowledge and potential goals if they are prepared to take the AP test.