The University Network

Tips For A Perfect AP Exam Score — Interview With Dawn Mueller, Educational Consultant With Tutor Doctor

TUN sits down with Dawn Mueller, an educational consultant with Tutor Doctor, to discuss practical tips that could help you earn a perfect AP exam score.

TUN: Dawn, thanks so much for joining us. 

MUELLER: Jackson, thanks so much for having me.

Can you explain how AP exams are scored? In order to get a 5 on the AP exam, do you need to get every single question right?

I’ll start with the last part first. In order to get a 5, do you have to get every single question right? No. You can actually miss some of the questions as long as you’re able to demonstrate a real good competency in the material covered in your AP course. 

Going back to the first part of your question, AP exams are scored by a combination of multiple-choice questions and essays. The essays are really critical to your score. So, if you have top-notch essays and if you’ve missed a few multiple-choice questions, you can still get a 5 on the exam. 

Most institutions consider a 3 or above to be a passing AP exam score. So, does it matter whether you get a 3, 4, or 5 on your AP exam? Do colleges consider the scores to be different from each other?

Okay, so, a couple of things around that. The colleges themselves usually do not see your scores. It really depends on your high school, whether those scores are included on your transcript. 

I think the majority of high schools don’t include your AP exam scores on your transcript. They do, of course, include the grade for the AP course. 

That said, there are some universities that will allow you to self-report your AP exam score. So, what that means is, if you’ve earned a 1 or a 2 on an AP exam, you don’t want to report that. But, if you’ve earned a 3, 4 or 5, you absolutely should report that. 

But, for college credit, most universities and colleges will take a 3. A 4 or 5 is great, but in terms of college credit, it doesn’t make a difference. 

The time that those higher scores do come into play is at some of the more elite universities. They may look for those higher scores on the AP exams. But, ultimately, they really look at the coursework and your grade in the course more than anything else. 

What is the best way for students to prepare for their AP exams so that they achieve the highest score possible? Are there any free or cheap online resources for AP exams that they can use? 

Tutoring is always preferable. If you’re doing well and keeping up on the coursework in the actual class itself, that’s always a good way to prepare. But, there are some great free resources out there for AP exams. 

One I particularly like is AP Practice Express. It’s an online site, and it’s an aggregator of free resources, by subject, for AP exams. 

Of course, there’s also the Khan Academy and Albert. Also, a lot of tutoring companies and tutoring sites have free tests available for students too. 

How much time should students be preparing for their AP exams? 

Really, you’ve started the beginning of the term by being in the class and doing well in the class. Ideally, the prep time for an AP exam is about one-and-a-half months before the actual exam. If you’re spending much more time than that, I think you might not be focused on the right things.

For the first week of preparation, focus on gathering all of your notes and relevant materials. Then, organize the materials in a way that makes them easier to study. You want to be careful about balancing your priorities and not spending too much time on that. 

One of the things that I think works in students’ favor is focusing on what SAT subject tests they’re going to take. A lot of universities want to see that proficiency in the SAT subject matter test. So, while your AP exam gets you the college credit, demonstrating that subject matter expertise on the SAT will have a more quantifiable effect on the outcome of acceptance with universities. 

Do you have any tips or strategies that students can consider or use while they’re taking AP exams?

Again, make sure you get rest. Make sure you keep up on the coursework. And, like I said, if you prep for that SAT subject matter test, you kind of are prepping for the AP exam at the same time. 

The SAT subject tests are directly reported through the College Board, from the College Board to the colleges you apply to. So, really, you might as well do double duty. So, review. Just keep reviewing the material. 

Also, keep things in perspective. While the AP exam is important for college credit, the thing that matters more to the universities is your standardized test scores, transcripts, personal statement and activities. Those are really important for institutions to receive. So, keep it in perspective, and prepare with a lot of the resources that are out there. 

Thanks, Dawn, for joining us today.

Thank you, Jackson.

This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.