I got a 4 on AP Physics I, will this hurt me at top colleges?

This past junior year I took 3 AP courses and exams. I got A’s in Bio and Physics, and an A- on Calculus AB.

Just today, I got my Exam scores - Bio-5, Calc AB - 5, Physics I -4. I was a little disappointed with physics because I spent the most time studying for it.

This fall I’m applying to some top colleges, like Brown, Vanderbilt, Duke, UPENN, and I was wondering if the 4 will hurt my admissions chances. I am planning on majoring in business or international business relations, with pre-med requisites.

Senior year, I am taking AP Lit, AP Gov or Econ, AP Calc-BC, and AP Chem. So I don’t have another chance to redeem myself with Physics II or C.

What does your guidance counselor say?

I got a 4 on AP Physics I, will this hurt me at top colleges?

No. AP scores carry little to no weight in the admissions process, and a 4 is a very good score, particularly on an exam where more than half fail.


That is a great score. Be proud that you had a successful year. If that is your biggest concern this morning - Celebrate! Many students are accepted at the top schools with lower scores than you and many students are not offered admission at top schools with their “perfect scores.”Research which schools are places you will thrive without looking at all of the ranking. Where will you have research opportunities or internships? Do you want flexibility to explore majors once there or are you ok with being in a major or school that will limit your options to create other pathways or majors. Find out which schools are excited about what you are bringing to campus. Make connections by reaching out asking questions about programs or projects you read about. Find your genuine voice for those colleges where you are really interested in spending 4 years. Spend your time this summer relaxing a little before another busy year, finding ways to tell your story tied to your course selection and activities (in and out of school), and working on your essays. And honestly, reconsider another year of just AP classes, is there something you are actually interested in taking or is there a work study or internship that you can do as an early out or late in within your schedule that will help you stand out in a different way and let you explore your interests?


Thank you for sharing this, especially that last part which needs to be screamed from the roof tops!

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No. At the very top schools you won’t get credit. But zero impact on admission and at 99% of schools you will get credit. You all put way too much pressure on yourselves


As stated AP scores usually carry little weight in the admission process, but some schools do state that they are a consideration in the selection process. An AP score of 4 is a good score.

Below is information for UC Berkeley which is not on your list but just an FYI:

Since Berkeley is a competitive campus, satisfying the minimum requirements is often not enough to be competitive for selection. In addition to the basic admission requirements, the campus selects its freshman class through an assessment that includes a holistic review of your academic performance as measured primarily by:

  • Your weighted and unweighted UC grade point average (calculated using 10th and 11th grade UC-approved courses only)
  • Your planned 12th grade courses
  • Your pattern of grades over time
  • The number of college preparatory, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), honors and transferable college courses you have completed
  • Your level of achievement in those courses relative to other UC applicants at your school
  • Your scores on AP or IB exams

At some schools, you wouldn’t have gotten credit even with a 5. I knew someone who had a string of 5’s, and MIT told him, “Very nice, sonny, but if you want to place out of our basic levels, you have to take and pass the final from our course, and we won’t give you credit - just allow you to skip the basic level.” Most of the schools that do offer credit for AP scores, will give credit for a 4.

As for your college applications, it won’t make any difference. You can self-report your APs or not, as you see fit, and then send confirmation after you’re accepted, if you want.


MIT’s AP credit policy is here: Advanced Placement | MIT Office of the First Year

Advanced placement by MIT placement test is described here: Advanced Standing Exams | MIT Office of the First Year

Not the OP’s situation, since they do not have MIT on their list, but compared to peer schools, MIT is very generous with AP credit in non-STEM subjects. Science credit (and post-BC) math credit needs to be earned via their Advanced Standing Exam. Which is still very generous compared to peer schools And they would laugh at anyone asking for credit for AP Physics 1.

And really, this is basic info that any admitted student, or applicant, should know.

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MIT says you get “ unrestricted elective credit.”, which can’t be used for HAAS Requirements. Is this actually useful? I assumed it was equivalent to the many “undistributed credits” my D received at Purdue, which were worth exactly diddly squat (other then earlier registration/housing choices).

OP, from your follow-up, I’m assuming this was algebra-based Physics 1. A 4 is a fine score, and is certainly not going to hurt, but I wouldn’t count on much help either, even within the small impact AP scores may have.

No less so than at most private T20s. Its usefulness admittedly will be limited to the typical MIT student.

Unrestricted elective credit (at any college) is only really useful if:

  • It counts toward higher class standing that gives some advantages in housing, registration, etc… Higher class standing is not always an advantage here.
  • The student ends up taking fewer courses/credits than otherwise needed to graduate (e.g. wants to graduate early, or would otherwise fall behind on courses/credits due to failing a course).