Advance placement tests are one of the major exams in the United States to test the capability of a student for entrance into a University with respect to the advance content they have learnt in school and will continue to learn in the graduation program.
It serves as proof that the student could earn commendable grades even in difficult courses. The AP score scales from 1 to 5 with 5 representing over qualification, to 1 meaning no recommendation. A score of 3, 4 and 5 qualifies for placement or credit, but each college has its own set of cutoffs.
AP scores needn’t necessarily be reported, and they aren’t major advantages or disadvantages except for admission in elite colleges where every point gives you an edge over another applicant. For example, Harvard focuses on AP and IB scores as their first estimate. At the same time, a very low AP score should be avoided as AP scores are indicative of how well a student can perform in college.
The advantage of having a good AP score is that some institutes have a flexible scoring system. A flexible scoring system means that instead of submitting SAT/ACT scores, one can submit other placement scores such as AP scores, IB scores or other placement-based tests undertaken by the school.
Therefore, the admissions are then based on the AP scores as well as overall grades earned in school. Some famous colleges that accept a flexible scoring system include, University of Rochester, NYU, Drexel University and Middleburg University.
The second advantage of AP scoring is that one can withhold the submission of scores of those exams of which they are unsure. Thirdly, good AP scores can sometimes make you eligible to earn credits or placement, but each college has a different policy on AP scores, for most cases an AP score of at least 3 grants credit or placement. In cases of elite colleges like Harvard, only AP score of 5 is eligible for course credit. Lastly, good AP scores can help save money as they would be a contributing factor in earning a scholarship.
But the question remains, are AP scores a “do or die” for college admissions? No, an AP score is one of the lesser important aspects, but a good AP score will obviously give you an upper hand especially in admissions in highly competitive and elite universities.
At the same time, a very low AP score in all the exams is a red signal to the college authorities, but the decision about reporting your AP score is flexible. The acceptable score would lie in between 3 – 5 but one can always choose not to report scores less than 3.
Also, some colleges don’t bother about AP scores as their classes/curriculum is much harder compared to the AP tests. All in all, an advanced placement score may come across as too overpowering, but several factors contribute to a student’s college success.