What Is an AP Score and What Does It Mean?

Your AP score shows how well you did on the AP Exam. It's also a measure of your achievement in your college-level AP course. This score will be used by colleges and universities to determine if they will grant you credit for what you've already learned, or allow you to skip the equivalent course once you get to college (this is known as advanced placement). 

Your score is a weighted combination of your scores on the multiple-choice section and on the free-response section. The final score is reported on a 5-point scale as follows:
5 = extremely well qualified
4 = well qualified
3 = qualified
2 = possibly qualified
1 = no recommendation 

"Qualified" means that you have proven yourself capable of doing the work of an introductory-level course in a particular subject at college. Many colleges and universities grant credit and placement for scores of 3, 4 or 5; however, each college decides which scores it will accept. To see college policies for AP scores, visit our AP Credit Policy Search.

In order to be considered for credit or placement, you must send your official AP score report to the college you're planning to attend.

Calculus AB Subscore for the Calculus BC Exam

A Calculus AB subscore (1–5) is reported on the Calculus BC exam based on performance on the portion of the exam devoted to Calculus AB topics (approximately 60 percent of the exam). The Calculus AB subscore is designed to give colleges and universities more information about your abilities. Although each college and university sets its own policy for awarding credit and/or placement for AP Exam scores, it is recommended that institutions apply the same policy to the Calculus AB subscore that they apply to the Calculus AB score. Use of the subscore in this manner is consistent with the philosophy of the courses, since common topics are tested at the same conceptual level in both Calculus AB and Calculus BC.

Music Theory Subscores

For Music Theory, there are two subscores (1–5). The aural component subscore includes multiple-choice questions related to recorded musical examples, two melodic dictation questions, two harmonic dictation questions and two sight-singing questions. The nonaural component subscore includes multiple-choice questions requiring score analysis and other multiple-choice questions not related to recorded musical examples. It also includes free-response questions calling for realization of a figured bass, realization of a chord progression from Roman numerals and composition of a bass line to fit a given melody. The subscores help music departments make appropriate decisions about credit and placement when they offer separate courses for written theory and aural skills. Although each college or university sets its own policy for awarding credit and/or placement for AP Exam scores, it is recommended that for students continuing study in music, subscores be considered along with the overall score. It is further recommended that the college or university use the overall score to set policy for students seeking general humanities credits.

AP Capstone: AP Seminar and AP Research

AP Seminar students are evaluated both on work they do during the school year and on an end-of-course exam. The work during the school year consists of two "through-course" tasks: a team project and an individual project. The team project includes an Individual Research Report and a Team Multimedia Presentation. The individual project is developed based on several source documents made available to students in January, and consists of a Written Argument, a Multimedia Presentation, and an Oral Defense. The end-of-course exam has two parts: in the first, students read a single source document and respond to three questions about its content; in the second, students read four source documents, identify a thematic connection among them, and develop their own argument based on that connection. The end-of-course exam does not have a multiple-choice section. A student’s final score is derived from the scores of both through-course tasks and the end-of-course exam and is reported on the same 5-point scale as all other AP courses. The team project contributes 20 percent of the score; the individual project contributes 35 percent of the score; and the end-of-course exam contributes 45 percent of the score.

In AP Research, students are assessed on an academic paper, a presentation, and an oral defense of their research. The academic paper is evaluated based on the content, structure, format, and conclusions of the paper as well as your ability to properly and accurately cite sources. The paper contributes 75 percent of the AP Research score, while the presentation and oral defense contribute 25 percent.

Scoring the AP Exams

When you receive your AP score report, you may wonder, "Why did I get a score of 3 instead of a 4, or a 4 instead of a 3?" "What happens between the time I take the exam in May and receive my score in July?" "How was my exam scored?" Here is the story: 

After the May AP Exams, schools return all AP Exam materials to the AP Program.

  • The multiple-choice section is scored by computer. Each answer sheet is scanned and the total number of correct responses equals the multiple-choice score.
  • The free-response section (essays and open-ended questions) is scored at the annual AP Reading held during the first two weeks in June. Specially appointed college professors and experienced AP teachers score this section of the exam.
  • The total scores from the free-response section and the multiple-choice section are combined to form a composite score. These composite scores are then translated into the 5-point scale using statistical processes designed to ensure that, for example, a 3 this year reflects the same level of achievement as a 3 last year.