Which AP Exams Should I Take?

young woman using laptop and taking notes
Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

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 Every May and June students buckle down to take grab a seat and put their mental energy on full blast. Whether your test is going to be digital or in-person, a question remains: how many AP exams should I take? With over 30 offerings, students still have to decide if they will take the exams for each subject at hand.

After spending so much time in an AP class setting, you may think it’s your only option to take the exam. After all, you’ve already agonized over selecting courses for their yearly enrollment! Don’t be fooled. Many students take AP classes during the semester. Preparation, however, should be the deciding factor as to whether you decide to take on the exam in May.

Scoring data can shed some light on the decision-making process. And there’s good news! The percentage of students earning a passing score gives some relief. Let’s use 2015 as an example year, and really dig into the available data. Even if you aren’t a numbers person, knowing the playing field can help you make smart decisions for your testing season.

Most popular tests

Results for the 2015 batch showed that the average score for half of the exams was at least a 3. The five highest score concentrations that past year were as follows:

  • Chinese Language (65.2%)
  • Japanese Language (48.5%)
  • Calculus BC (44.6%)
  • Physics C E&M (28.2%)
  • Physics C Mech (27.5%).

Changes in score distribution typically remain relatively stable (see graph below for changes between 2014-2015). You’ll also see that the graph shows the percentage change across all possible scores. You may also note that yes, though we do see some change, the benchmarks for success are actually predictable.

AP_Test_Change_2014-2015

It’s important to note that scoring is done with regard to the performance of all test takers. A cut-off for certain scores does not exist prior to examination. Rather, it is calculated after the fact. In turn, individual preparation is the driving factor for overall difference per year.

Therefore, our biggest advice to you is to decide which AP exams to take based on whether you feel you have mastered the material, not just what you think will make you look competitive.

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