Understanding AP Scoring

AP or Advanced Placement exam scores can help students strengthen their college applications— in cases where students perform well on the test. Likewise, performing particularly well on the test can even result in college credits earned. So, how exactly are AP exams scored?

AP Scoring Scale: An Overview

Each AP exam is scored on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being the top score. This is called a scaled score. A score of 3 or above is considered passing, but many schools will only accept scores of 4 or 5 in order for a student to be given college credit.

What Each Score Means

5: Extremely Well Qualified

4: Highly Qualified

3: Qualified

2: Possibly Qualified

1: No Recommendation

The scaled score that a student receives on an AP exam is the result of converting a student’s composite score. The composition score is derived from raw points earned in multiple-choice questions, along with points earned from free responses.

Understanding the AP Scoring Process

Most AP tests have a free response and multiple-choice section. Different subjects may weigh the score of each section equally, or may weigh one section more heavily than the other. The multiple-choice section of an AP exam will be graded by computer, and students are scored only on questions answered correctly. No deductions are made for questions unanswered or answered incorrectly.

The free response section is graded during the early weeks of June each year by teachers and professors. Known as the “AP Reading,” during this time, thousands of free responses written by students are graded by educators.

Free responses are given a "holistic" score, after being evaluated. Generally speaking, points are not deducted for the rare, small error such as a grammar mistake. The responses are instead being evaluated for correctness and effectiveness. Free responses are graded on a scale of 1-9 with 9 being nearly perfect, and 1 being ineffective or incorrect. Individual scores from each free response are then tallied to arrive at a student’s free response raw score.

From there, the free response raw score and the multiple-choice score are combined so that they are weighted properly, resulting in a composite score. Composite scores, which are often in the range of 100-150 are then scaled to a score of 1-5.

It’s very important to be aware that tests don’t always weigh the free response score and the multiple-choice score equally. On some tests for example, the multiple choice may be worth 45% of the score, with the free response accounting for 55% of the score. To learn how specific tests weigh the free response versus multiple-choice score, click here, and then select the specific exam.

The best way to ensure that you get the highest possible AP score is to prepare thoroughly for the tests. We offer a variety of small group classes and one-on-one tutoring services that not only boost your student’s SAT, ACT, and/or AP performance, but also provide personalized strategies so that students stay engaged and proactive throughout their academic career.

Contact us today for more information.