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Retaking AP Exams – What’s Allowed and Key Considerations

The AP or “Advanced Placement” exam is a standardized test provided by the College Board, an organization that administers preparatory and entrance examinations for collegiate institutions worldwide. If you’re enrolled in an advanced placement course or have recently received your scores for an exam, you might be wondering how to retake an AP exam (source). 

PRE BOARD EXAM IN PROFESSIONAL EDUC...
PRE BOARD EXAM IN PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION SET A | PART 1

Regarding Advanced Placement exams, there are several restrictions and factors to consider when signing up to retake a test. You may sign up to retake an exam, but you’ll have to wait until the following test date to retake it.

The following sections will outline and describe the necessary steps and procedures of retaking a College Board Advanced Placement Exam. Additional inquiries about retaking an exam, understanding how exams are scored, and how score reporting works will also be discussed. For more information about AP exams and the process of retaking them, continue reading.

AP Exams - Rules for Retaking.

Can I Retake an AP Exam?

You can retake an AP exam. The College Board allows students who have previously taken an AP exam to retake the exam if they wish. Students may need to retake an AP exam for a multitude of reasons. No matter the circumstances, you’re allowed to retake it.

Some students may opt to retake an Advanced Placement exam for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’ve just received their score and aren’t happy with the outcome. Some students may aim to get a particular score on a College Board exam because they’re looking to use the score on their college application to increase their chances of being accepted into a collegiate or university program.

Other students may be looking to use their AP score as college credit to take less required courses in college and free up credit hours for different classes to get ahead or to have a class schedule that is more to their liking. 

Reporting your AP score to a college may make you eligible to receive this credit, putting you ahead of a student who hasn’t taken any Advanced Placement exams. 

For example, suppose you took AP English Language and Composition and received a high enough score. In that case, your college or university may accept this as earned credit for reading or writing courses. If you receive this credit, you’ll no longer have to take that course in college. 

Another reason students may decide to retake an AP exam is if some factors out of their control impact their test scores. If a student was ill and didn’t perform well on the test, or if they had a personal event that distracted them from the test and this negatively affected their score, retaking the exam would allow them to have a second chance and another shot at earning the score they’re attempting to receive (source).

Overall, there are infinite reasons why a student would be interested in retaking an Advanced Placement exam. The critical thing to remember about this College Board standardized test is that, yes, retaking an exam is permitted.

What Happens if I Fail an AP Exam?

If you’ve received your Advanced Placement exam score and have determined that you have “failed,” don’t panic. 

Due to the policy that permits students to redo the exam, failing an AP exam is never the end of the world. The initial score you receive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the final score you can earn. 

Failing an AP exam should never be cause for immediate or extreme concern. While it may be disappointing that you didn’t earn the score you’d wished to receive, the opportunity to try again, retake the exam, and make a higher score is always available. 

If you’re worried about failing an exam, remember that retaking the test means you can earn the higher score you desire and remain eligible for all the additional benefits taking an Advanced Placement exam provides. 

Retaking an AP test means that you’re also allowed to earn the college credit that comes along with it. 

For example, if you take the AP Macroeconomics test and are given a failing score, and then you retake that same exam at a later time and earn a higher score, you’d still be allowed to report this score to your college or university and earn the credit hours for taking that exam, allowing you to opt-out of some economics class in college. 

It’s also important to remember that regardless of your decision to retake the exam if you’ve received a failing score, you may contact the College Board and ask that your score be canceled. Not only this but you’re not required to report any of your AP scores on your college applications. This means if you earn a score you’re not satisfied with, your institution of higher education never has to know about it. 

If you decide to cancel your score through the College Board, this can be done before or after being notified of your score. If you choose to cancel it before sending your score, you won’t receive a score at all. If you cancel your score after you’ve received it, it’ll be permanently deleted from the records kept by the College Board (source)

See Do Bad AP Scores Affect Admission? Facts And Misconceptions

Understanding AP Scores

AP exams are scored differently from exams in the classroom, the SAT, and the ACT. (The SAT and ACT are other standardized college entrance exams administered by the College Board and ACT, Inc.). Instead of being on a 100 point letter grade scale, a 1600 point scale, or a 36 point scale, AP exams are scored on a 5 point scale.

When taking an Advanced Placement exam, you might receive a score anywhere between 1-5. The AP exam is broken into two different sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. 

According to the College Board, after exams are taken, all material is returned to the AP Program. From there, scoring undergoes these processes:

  • The Multiple-Choice Section: This section of the AP exam is scored by a computer. The test taker will fill out the different letter “bubbles” (A, B, C, D, or E). A computer scans each answer sheet and calculates a score based on what letters have been filled in. 
  • The Free-Response Section: This section of the AP exam is scored by “specially appointed college professors and experienced AP teachers.” Instead of being scanned by a computer, an actual human being will read through this test section and determine a grade based on their objective assessment of the open-ended questions and essays written by the test taker.  

After each of these sections of the AP exam are scored, a composite score is then determined based on the combined scores of the multiple-choice and free-response section. This score will be reported as a number between 1 and 5. 

A statistical analysis of the scores is conducted to make sure that a score of “2” or “3” on an AP exam administered this year is the same score as a “2” or “3” on an AP exam administered in previous years (source).

Is 2 a Bad AP Score?

A score of “2” on an AP exam isn’t necessarily a “bad AP score,” but depending on how you intend to use your score and who you choose to report it to, it may have different impacts on your college acceptance or college credit earned. 

As stated above, the AP exam is graded and scored on a 5 point scale. Using this scale, 5 is the highest, and 1 is the lowest. A score of “2” would be considered towards the lower end of the scale. While this isn’t necessarily good or bad, it may not achieve your desired outcome. 

The additional benefits of taking an AP course and passing the exam, such as aiding college acceptance or earning college credit, can only be utilized if a specific score is achieved. 

Should I Report a 2 on an AP Exam?

As stated above, a “2” isn’t necessarily a bad score on an Advanced Placement Exam. 

Whether you report a score of 2 to your prospective colleges is entirely up to you. However, reporting this score may not achieve the results you’re hoping to get. 

When you register for an AP course on the College Board website, you’re asked to designate specific institutions and parties that you’d like to receive your score. According to the College Board website, you, the college or university you selected in My AP, and your school district will automatically be notified of your exam results (source).

In addition to the automatic recipients of your score listed above, you may choose to report your AP scores for exams on college applications or request that your scores be sent to the college or university you choose to attend to obtain the credit hours you desire. Reporting a “2” may alter your chances of being accepted into a collegiate program or earning credit. 

Generally, the impact of reporting your score is dependent upon the institution itself. Typically, reporting a score of “2” would only harm your chances of acceptance if you apply to a top competitive school. Also, keep in mind, you’re not obligated to report your scores to any college or university. 

Is 3 a Good AP Score?

On the 5 point scale, a 3 on an AP exam is right in the middle of the scale and is considered a passing result. This is also the average earned outcome on an Advanced Placement exam. According to the College Board, the mean score for the 2020 AP exams was 3.03.

In terms of “passing” or “failing” an AP exam, a score of “3” would be considered passing. The College Board reports that more than 60% of tests earn a score of 3 or higher. Due to these reported numbers, a 3 is considered the average score, meaning most educators and colleges would consider this to be a “good” score. 

Do Colleges Accept an AP Exam Score of 3?

As far as “accepting” applicants, colleges will accept students who’ve earned any range of AP scores. However, to earn credit hours for an AP course in college, most schools require you receive a score of 3 or higher. 

As mentioned previously, you’re not required to report your score to any college or university. Due to this, schools will accept students who have failed AP exams. If you’re looking to use your AP score to obtain college credit, most schools require a 3 or higher, although some schools will only accept scores of 4 and 5 to earn credit. 

Should You Submit a 3 AP Score?

You may or may not want to submit a score of 3 to your prospective colleges and universities. Depending on your school’s policy regarding AP scores and earned credit, a 3 may earn you actual college credit. In that case, it’s undoubtedly worth it to submit your score.

The College Board says that colleges are generally interested in applicants who show initiative in taking challenging courses. By taking an AP class, you increase your chances of being accepted into a college regardless of your score. Submitting a 3 AP score may make you eligible for college credit, depending on the college (source).

When Can You Retake an AP Exam?

AP exams are administered one time every year, usually around May. If you consider retaking an AP exam, you’ll have to wait until the exam is administered again in one year. 

Unlike other standardized college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT, which are administered multiple times throughout the year, AP exams are only given once per year. Retaking an AP exam means you’ll have to wait until the next test date in the following year. 

Is It Bad To Retake an AP Exam?

It’s not harmful to redo an AP test. If you have your heart set on earning the AP credit or reporting a good score in an AP class, retaking an exam can be the perfect way to achieve the score you want. However, there are things to consider before you commit to retaking an exam. 

For one, taking an AP exam is expensive. The testing fee for each AP exam is $94. On top of that, you’ll have to wait a whole year to retake the exam. If you’re a senior in high school looking to put an AP score on your college application, it doesn’t make sense to wait a whole year to retake an exam because by then, the date for submitting applications will have passed.

Overall, it’ll only be worth it to retake an exam if you are determined to earn the credit or if you can submit the retake score in time for college admissions. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re considering retaking an AP exam, make sure it’s worth your time, money, and effort to do so. Consider your score, the score you’d need to achieve your goals, and whether or not you really need the score to get into your school of choice. In the end, the decision ultimately comes down to you. 

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