By Mihran Hovhannesyan
This final stretch of the school year is the hardest push for some. It’s now the dreaded AP test month. And for others, it’s the glorious end of the school year and the anticipated end of school work, as temporary as that may be for those going to college. But for those taking an AP course but not the respective exam, it’s finally the easiest part of the year: AP test month. For them, there’s usually a respite from tests as everyone else prepares for the biggest ones of the year.
But those four weeks of rest could have been a score on an AP test and potentially one less semester of college later on. Unfortunately, delayed gratification is not in high demand with our generation. Some students don’t take AP tests for the wrong reasons, including the most ridiculous: to avoid harming their college applications with a bad score. For those who are already accepted into a college and plan on attending, the excuse is totally invalid; not taking the AP exam will not harm them.
That is no reason not to take an AP exam outside of financial impossibility. Both of these rationalizations are mindless and, honestly, just lazy.
For underclassmen who think they can’t do well on a particular AP exam and fear it will ruin their ideal Ivy League application, realize that schools do understand and expect a few imperfections. College admissions officers don’t let a single bad score disqualify a student. Even if one is studying subpar for whatever reason, many AP tests have large curves and simply having paid attention in class may get one score a three.
Having a bad score is less of a loss than earning a good one and many schools don’t even require you to submit every score.
The only other mentality that provides for not taking an important exam like the AP is that of the “senioritis”-plagued graduating class. And in their cases, the reasons are far less sensible. Seniors may think that, as their college applications are already out of their hands, there’s no reason to add another AP score to them.
Also, if the subject is related to their major, they will not be getting credit for the class later on.
While it is true that any given university won’t see students’ final set of AP scores long after they’ve already been enrolled, they may learn whether those students have chosen to take them. Nowhere on any application is this information requested, but admissions representatives are fond of asking about it, and while a bad AP score probably won’t be enough to lose anybody their place in college, a lie may be.
Not taking a test won’t get one’s acceptance rescinded alone, but on top of lower grades (assuming that “one” is a careless senior), it could be extremely dangerous. Whereas, having taken the test, even if it were failed, has no downside after graduation and enrollment.
These situations are rare though, and for most seniors, it’s just a case of laziness. Either out of ignorance, or because they choose to forget, seniors lose account of the units and time they may save in college by passing AP exams.
From community colleges to Ivies, it’s possible to get a head start on credits toward college graduation through AP scores. For example, the UC system gives either four or eight credits for each score of a three or higher on an AP test. Such scores on exams in core subjects like English, Math, or Science are most often worth eight credits. A student needs a minimum of 180 credits total to earn a bachelor’s degree, and AP tests contribute to that even before attending any college courses.
Then there is the myth that AP credit cannot count toward the subject of one’s major. The truth in this is that it is impossible to skip the core classes of a major (such as Biology 101 for a Biology major), even with a five on the respective AP exam. However, the credits may still count as elective credits, adding to your total requirement for a degree and potentially freeing up your time. As education budgets decline nationwide, classes are more difficult to obtain and having to take fewer to graduate can be a lifesaver.
Truly the only difficult factor in considering to order an AP exam is its cost. With fee waivers available for those who can’t purchase the tests at full price, it’s never impossible to buy any AP exams at all. Having one less class and textbook to pay for later on is a far better economic deal.
AP exams are tedious, long, difficult, and unconditionally worth it. College is competitive and AP courses and scores are becoming increasingly necessary, as does saving money in college. AP scores provide potential for all of these things. AP exams are an invaluable resource that should always be used to their fullest.