What an Admissions Expert Has to Say About AP Tests

Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

It’s AP season, so we talked to one of our wonderful counselors, Jennifer L, about her own advice on AP tests. Are you curious what this admissions expert has to say about AP tests? Read her thoughts below!

We talked about:

  • why you should take AP classes,
  • how they help with college applications,
  • how to prepare for the test,
  • and what you should do if you don’t do well.
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Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA in Psychology) and Rutger’s University (Teaching Certification K-5 and Special Education) with over 14 years of admissions experience. Her career began in reviewing undergraduate applications at her alma mater and extended to teaching SAT, ACT, and other admissions exams at The Princeton Review and Bright Kids. She has a track record of helping students gain admission into their top schools.

Q: Why should you take AP classes?

Jennifer: “Students can gain college credit and significant savings through taking AP classes, while engaging in a challenging curriculum that is sure to engage and inspire. An AP course load can signal to colleges that a student is interested in and able to handle rigorous coursework. Many top universities will expect to see a number of AP courses and high scores from their incoming class of students, if these are on offer at the students’ schools.”


Students, try to take AP classes in the subjects you have interest in studying in college. These classes are college-level courses and should give you an idea of what it will be like to study that subject at a university.

Q: Do you have to take AP classes to get into college?

Jennifer: “No. However, taking AP courses does indicate that a student is willing to challenge him or herself with college level coursework.

Some schools limit the number of AP courses a student takes, and some schools don’t even offer them. “In this case, these students can choose to take IB courses on offer at their school, or they can seek out alternate forms of learning. Some of my students opt to take online classes run through universities, like Harvard or UC Berkeley. Others take online or in-person classes outside of the school that allow them to pursue their interests in subjects, such as options trading or social media.”


Taking college-level courses not offered at your school shows a lot of initiative and interest in the subject. It proves you look above and beyond what is offered at your school in order to pursue your passions.

Q: What are 3 tips you have for students that are preparing for the exams?


1) “Please watch the videos posted by the College Board on YouTube and read the information the testing organization has placed on their site, in regards to the Covid 19 related updates they have made to their exams.”

2) “Use AP test prep material to supplement what you have learned in classes. Using test prep books and online sources can help to fill in any gaps in the instruction you received in school and refresh your memory as to concepts you have not reviewed in some time.”

3) “Engage in at least one practice test per subject per week in the month leading up to the exam, and make sure to do so in the same setting in which you will eventually take the exam. That means engaging in practice tests at the same time of the day during which you will sit for the official exam. Ensure you are in a quiet room, working at an uncluttered desk. Turn off all electronic devices and communication, other than what you will be allowed during the exam. Practicing in this structured manner will ensure that you are acclimated to the setting in which you will be taking these all important exams.”


In addition to studying outside of class, listen to your teacher. Use the materials they provide, do the homeworks, and follow any tips they might have to improve your studying. A lot of students don’t do well, because they don’t put the effort into class. Don’t end up like one of those students.

…and of course, for those who are worried…

Q: What happens if you don’t test well on the AP exams?

Jennifer: “I always encourage students to take their AP exams because if they are not satisfied with their scores, they can choose not to send them as part of their admissions application. If a student achieves a poor score, he or she can look into retaking the exam during the next testing cycle. If time does not allow this, they can take a SAT Subject exam in a related subject to add more clout to their application. Either way, students should not submit poor AP scores as admissions committees are looking for consistency across a student’s academic success, and a low score can disrupt this understanding of a student’s admissions profile.”


In short, we recommend taking AP classes, especially if you love a specific subject. Don’t worry if your school isn’t offering that course right now! Create a study plan, and… it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do well on the test.

For more tips, and to see what else we can say about AP tests, seek out a college admissions professional!

Curious what many counselors say about AP tests? If you want expert advice from counselors like Jennifer, book a free consult with Empowerly. We have a variety of counselors that can meet your needs and answer the tough questions about college admissions.

Questions? Let us know!