Saving Money In College With the AP Exams

If you’re hesitant about taking an AP test and are wondering why you should do it, here’s why: to save money for college. Yes, taking an AP test during high school can save you hundreds of dollars because if you score well in the test, you’d only need to pay $90 (test fee) as opposed to the hundreds or thousands of dollars you would have otherwise spent on college.

The best part: students with multiple AP tests during high school can even cut down a year from their undergraduate studies. But does this actually work? Can you really save money by giving an AP test? Let’s clear the air!

You’ll Need a High Score

A popular myth about the AP test is that you can enjoy credit by simply attending the classes and appearing for the test. But in reality, this isn’t how things work. To qualify for college credit, you will need to score at least 3 out of 5 on your AP test. That is because College Board considers, ‘3’, (often correlated as C), to be the qualifying score for earning college credit.

But while 3 will qualify you for credit, most prestigious schools and colleges require a minimum score of 4 or 5 for enrollment in their respective programs. And let’s face it: neither of it is an easy task.

In a bid to address this issue, the College Board is repeatedly updating their tests to make them more ‘skill-based’ instead of 'content-based'. But even then, scoring a 3 or higher requires extensive insight into the subject. While this applies to all subjects, it is especially relevant for history or any other language-based exam that doesn't just require you to retain a huge chunk of information but also expects you to use that information in multiple contexts.

That is why, you need plenty of effort, dedication, and self-study sessions to qualify for the tests. But while the process might be daunting, you can certainly reap benefits and steer clear of student debt if you manage to successfully make it work.

For better results, enrich your study sessions with the right content review and guide books, take plenty of mock AP subject tests and look up online videos for an in-depth understanding of the topic. You should also thoroughly assess the exam and scoring pattern for a better idea about both. When you put enough effort and use the right resources, scoring a 4 or 5 in the AP exam won’t be as difficult.

Are All AP Credits the Same?

Very often, students assume that every school or college will consider their AP credits or that every school will calculate the credits in the same format. This isn’t true as the credit policies for the AP exam varies according to the school or college. Usually, public universities tend to be more lenient than their private counterparts. Also, your AP credits are more likely to be considered by a school or university that isn’t as competitive in terms of scoring patterns.

For instance, prestigious institutions like Dartmouth and Brown won’t offer any credit to your AP tests. Alternatively, universities like Columbia, Harvard and a few more will only offer credit for some specific exams. Other colleges have dedicated departments whose AP requirements vary from time to time.  So, if you get a full score for your AP computer science exam, a regular college will consider four credits for the same, and the engineering department of the same college will consider two credits for it.

It is also important to note that just because you’ve taken an AP test, it won’t guarantee exemption from the same course at a college level. As previously mentioned, certain institutions will only consider a high score of four and five and will only consider the score for your credits and not for any subject/course exemption. So, if you’ve scored a five in your AP history exam, you can get three credits for the college course and still be expected to complete an introductory course on history.

In some cases, you might need to take more than one AP test for getting credit or an exemption from a specific course. For instance, to opt-out of an introductory course on economics, you will need to clear both the AP Macroeconomics and Microeconomics tests.

Furthermore, your preferred institution will have the provision of placing an extra restriction on the way your AP credits are calculated. That means, even if you take AP classes in your respective field, your credit won’t always be considered as per the credits needed for completing the major. 

Some institutions with dedicated core courses like Columbia do not consider AP credits for your GE. In this case, your credit will only be considered against the number of credits required for graduation.

This is one of the many reasons you should carefully check if the college you’re planning to attend accepts AP credits in the first place. If they do, check their eligibility norms and credit calculation method. This will help you understand where you academically stand and how much credit you’ll need.

If the institution you’re looking to attend considers AP credit, try taking multiple AP classes. You can get adequate help from online resources, videos, content review guides, and mock AP questionnaires. If you follow the right methods for preparation, you’ll be a step closer to getting the credit you need to attend the college you looked forward to. The best part: you can enjoy all of this without having to spend thousands on college courses.

How Many AP Classes Should I Take For Maximum Credits? 

Now that you understand how AP credits can help save on college tuition fees, you might be wondering how many AP classes to take. Note that there isn't anyone size for all solution here. The number of classes you need to take will entirely depend on the institution you’re planning to attend. For instance, if you want to attend an Ivy League college, you will need at least 8 AP tests for maximum credits. Alternatively, for the top twenty schools, you should attend at least 6 AP classes. Around 4 AP tests will suffice for the top hundred schools, and if you want to attend any other general school, you will need to take at least 1 AP test.

 Note that the number of classes you take will entirely depend on your academic and financial requirements. We usually recommend students to take up subjects that interest them. However, several students find it more helpful to take as many classes as they can. This doesn't just help them financially but also helps them prepare for the introductory college lessons. Since AP courses can also be used for opting out of certain introductory college courses, taking more courses during high school will certainly pay in the long run.

What AP Courses Should I Take?

The type of AP courses you should take depends on the institution you’re planning to attend. Here are some pointers you might want to consider:

Ivy League Colleges: As previously mentioned, you will need at least eight AP courses to qualify for an Ivy League College. Here, you should take at least one core course in the following subjects:

  • English
  • Any foreign language
  • History
  • Economics
  • Math
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics 1 and Physics 2

Top 20 Schools: If you’re looking to enroll in the top twenty schools like MIT or Harvard, you will need to complete all of the previously listed courses. That said, here, you’ll still have the provision of opting out of the foreign language and economics tests.

Other Schools: For other schools, you should take at least four core courses including (but not limited to), English, Maths, History, and Biology.

What Are the Easiest AP Tests? 

While every AP test tends to be complex, you’ll find some tests that have easier guidelines and simpler concepts to process. Usually, subjects like Environmental science, Economics, Human geography, Psychology, Biology, and AP US History are deemed easier than other courses.

However, before zeroing in on the course, make sure you are genuinely interested in it. You can also take suggestions from teachers and friends to double-check your aptitude for the course in question.

What Are the Hardest AP Tests?

Just like easy AP tests, there are a few AP exams that are considered more difficult than the usual exams. These courses involve huge curriculums, complex questions, and materials that are difficult to conceptualize. According to students and educators, English literature, Chemistry, Physics C, and Calculus BC are the toughest AP tests.

That said, if you are fond of either of the subjects, do not be dissuaded from taking them. All you need is some extra preparation owing to the complexity of the subjects.

Bottom Line

Yes, you can certainly save plenty of money on your college tuition fee by taking the right AP tests. So, do not waste any time and follow our guidelines to take your preferred AP tests. While it might seem daunting in the beginning, with time, you will soon get accustomed to the study schedule. At the end of the day, you'll ace the tests, save thousands on college education, and also have the flexibility of opting out from introductory courses in college.  

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