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Ask the Experts: AP Exams

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, May 08, 2014

Question Should you only take the AP tests if you know that you will do well on them or should you take them anyway?  I am taking a number of AP classes, but, am not sure if it's better to ALWAYS take an AP test even if you are unsure of how you will do. - jaimie

AnswerYou should try the AP tests, even if you are unsure. You might surprise yourself and get a 3 (considered a passing grade on the 1 to 5 AP score scale), which might get you course credit or placement at some colleges (a 4 or 5 usually will), and recognition as an AP Scholar, for example, if you get three three's. Work with your classroom teachers to get a sense of how well prepared you are, and how students at your level and with that particular teacher have done on the AP in the past. If you get a 3 or above, you should submit those scores to colleges. Unless your high school uses the AP test as your actual course final for your course grade (most don't seem to) you do not have to submit your AP scores to colleges. You can ask that your high school not put your scores on your transcript, and you can request that the College Board send only a report of the 3's, 4's, and 5's.

 

Question I am currently a sophomore in high school and I had some questions regarding the SAT and AP examinations. My first question pertains to what the main difference is between the SAT II Subject Test and the AP examination. - Victor

AnswerThe College Board created both sets of exams which serve different purposes. The SAT Subject Tests are specific subject tests in one of some 20 different subjects. They are one hour exams that are intended to demonstrate a basic mastery of the subject. In comparison to the AP exams, the SAT Subject Tests ask for a broad survey of knowledge of the subject.

By contrast, the AP exams are over three hours in length and include essay writing as well as multiple choice sections. The student is expected to have mastered a much deeper level of background and understanding of the particular subject. The AP exams are more rigorous than the SAT Subject Tests. College admissions officers do not require any of these as part of a student's dossier, but they do react very positively when they view a score of 3, 4, or 5 (5 being the highest possible score).

If your goal is to enroll in a very selective college or university, presenting to admissions a combination of two or three SAT Subject Tests and one or more AP results can distinguish your application.

 

Question What is the difference between AP and CLEP? If im going to take AP biology exam, should i also take the CLEP exam in biology? - keng

AnswerBoth of these subject-oriented tests are designed and administered by the College Board. You can learn more about them by visiting the CollegeBoard.com Web site. Here are the basic differences:

The CLEP stands for college level examination program. This is a way to validate to colleges that you have learned the subject matter in a particular course that is the equivalent to an introductory level college course. This can then give a student college credits towards the diploma. Individuals who have studied the subject on their own or in the past and are now trying for college credit will take the CLEP. 

The Advanced Placement exams are based on the specific curriculum designed by academic specialists in the subject for advanced high school students. Mastery of the subject is indicated by a student's score on the exam (1 to 5 scale, 5 being the highest). Each college determines for itself if it will give a student a college level credit for the course completed with, typically, a 4 or 5 on the test. If you are a high school student and have taken a formal AP course you should concentrate on the AP exam.

 

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