Is the AP exam worth taking?

How important are AP Exams? I feel like I haven’t learned enough in APUSH this year to get a passing grade on the exam, even though I have an A in the class. Are they worth it if I could take more exams throughout HS?

I feel like the exams aren’t going to be worth it for two reasons.

  1. I haven’t gotten the same quality education this year than pre-covid
  2. The exam isn’t being shortened like last year when only a quarter of the year was shut down, but many have had the full year online.

Any thoughts?

Unless you are a senior or money is an issue, I can think of no valid reason not to take. Prep on your own if necessary, but blaming the teachers is never a good look.


Not really the teachers, more of not being in person. Everyone I know that did online classes this year hasn’t had a good experience with AP.

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If you get a high enough score, depending on the college you attend, you may get advanced placement or subject credit in college that will allow you more options in choosing courses in college.

The main possible disadvantages of taking the AP exam:

  • Cost of the exam.
  • If you are pre-med, then science APs may create situations where you may have to or feel that you should retake the college course, resulting in having to mark “repeat” when reporting your college record on the medical school application.

we didnt have our daughter take the APUSH exam last year. the school quit teaching once covid started. we didnt want her only experience with US history to be 3/4 of one class. she knows nothing about modern times. I can understand what you are saying.

However if you need or want the credit and have already paid for it, go for it. You can always take the class again in college to fill in your gaps. That’s what she’ll do most likely.

At our high school, you have to pay for the exam the second week of school, it’s a requirement to take the class. My kids’ teachers have admitted that all of the content is not being taught, they haven’t set foot in the high school since March, school is virtual from 9 - 12. Best case scenario they’ll do well enough to get college credit, but if not, what can you do.

College Board got greedy. They insisted that everyone had to register in OCTOBER to take an exam in May. Ridiculous. That’s when my kids started thinking about how much they really needed to take the AP exams.

Many of the AP classes in my kids’ school are dual credit with our flagship state U. You pay a small amount of money per credit, your kid gets a transcript from the U for the class. We decided to just go with that - no stress of an AP exam, have classes on a college transcript.

BUT, if they didn’t have that option, I’d probably have them take the AP exam. You never know when it might come in handy to have those AP credits. A million years ago, when I was scrambling for enough credits to be graduated from an Ivy, turns out that the high school AP English actually got counted.

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Of course, pre-med and pre-law students need to realize that their college GPA starts with those college courses taken while in high school.

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Additionally if attending a private or OOS public, those DE credits may be worthless.

As others have said, there’s really no downside to taking it, unless money is an issue. Last year with covid, the AP Exams went online and the APUSH material for the AP Exam was reduced. The Exam also significantly shortened. My son who took it, said it was a total joke. It normally is not a total joke. I also wasn’t overly impressed with his teacher compared to the teacher my other children had so either the test was a total joke, or the teacher did prepare them better than I thought. It’s hard to say.

That said, this year like you are saying, AP as of now is not planning to shorten exams and is planning on having them be in person. I am concerned for my son this year who has not even been in school since last March. I don’t know how he can be prepared when he sees his teachers remotely for way less time than if he were in person and don’t feel how he can adequately be prepared and probably less so than any student who has been receiving in person. The teachers are great, it’s just not enough time to get all the material in. This sounds similar to your experience. Many students have had full year in person or hybrid. They will have significant advantages to those who have been fully remote.

But that said, there is still no downside to taking it. If you do poorly, you just don’t get the credit in college If you do well, you also may still not get it. Or, you might. My other kids, one school doesn’t even take APUSH credit no matter what score you get. The other one got the credit. So ultimately if you don’t even know where you’re going to college, you can’t say if it’s worth it or not to take. It’s similar with AP STats. A lot of schools don’t take it at all. My daughter knew her college didn’t take it but still took the Exam because if she ever decided to transfer she had that score in the bank. She hasn’t transferred, but our downside was only the $94.

It’s ultimately a personal decision. There are also some great AP resources to use to prepare for the APUSH Exam that may be better than what you’re getting at school. I would go check them out. I can’t remember if it was the AP Barron’s book that is the good APUSH one or not, but if you research online, you’ll find which one is most recommended.

Wow that stinks. Normally we don’t have to pay until October maybe November. This year we don’t have to pay until March or April I think and our kids can change their mind right up to the test and we can get a full refund.


If you go to a school well known to colleges (e.g. a rigorous prep school) your grade in the class will be sufficient for them to assess you. And if you are up to the eyeballs in activities and have little spare time, and if you are applying to private colleges – OK, a lot of ifs! – then there is little reason to take the exam.

Don’t crucify me, people! All those ifs means my advice doesn’t apply to everyone.

My son fell into that venn diagram of being in all those categories, and he didn’t take any AP exams. (I did check with his college advisor who said not having any AP scores would not matter one bit for college admissions).

I’m a believer in getting off the hamster wheel of the received wisdom for college admissions when possible. It may make sense for you to skip the exam, and it may not, only you can decide OP.

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Was he not interested in advanced placement in college?

Which is correct. But what about the potential course credit?

To answer both of you – his AP’s wouldn’t have led to a higher placement and wouldn’t have led to college credit. To be fair, I have not exhaustively researched it, but I believe that most (highly) selective private schools do not offer AP credit for the exams, and those were the schools he was interested in.

While true, getting back to my first point fir the benefit of the OP, unless you are a senior or a recruited athlete, IMO basing whether to take an AP test on the credit policies of a T20 privates is not the best strategy. But, it’s a personal choice.

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All Ivy League schools, Stanford, and MIT offer at least one of advanced placement, subject credit, or credit units for some AP scores. Of course, some specific AP scores may be given none. But it would not be correct to assume that all AP scores are worthless at these schools.

Schools that give nothing for any AP score would typically fall into the following groups:

  • Schools where the lowest level courses are more rigorous than the standard college frosh level courses that AP courses emulate the content of (e.g. Caltech, Harvey Mudd).
  • Schools with a curriculum where AP courses do not neatly substitute for a defined course or part of the curriculum (e.g. St. John’s College, Juilliard School).

Only if your kid winds up attending that flagship state U.

My son, a senior taking all AP classes, is not planning on taking the AP exams. Some are dual credit at our state flagship, so he’ll get a transcript from them. He doesn’t need the credits, the school that he’s going to may not give any credit for them, he’s looking forward to all that he will take in college, and if he were to go to med school, I don’t think that they would accept even a 5 in Calc BC as having fulfilled the math requirement that a few med schools have. Besides, statistics is much more useful than Calc in medicine, and the few that want math, will accept statistics. He’s just not going to stress out about it, at this point.

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For the pre-med or pre-law case that I was referring to, all college courses and grades from all colleges attended (including while in high school) are included in the recalculated college GPA for medical and law school admission. It does not matter if the college attended after high school graduation includes the grades from college courses taken while in high school in its college GPA or accepts the transfer credit at all.