What Is a Good AP Score?

Is 3 a good AP score? What about a 2? Read this guide to learn more about good AP scores and whether a high score can help you get into college.
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  • An AP score of 3 or higher is considered passing.
  • What constitutes a good AP score depends on the test you take and which colleges you apply to.
  • Good AP scores can earn you college credit and reduce the amount of time it takes to get your degree.

More and more high school students are taking AP classes each year. From 2008 to 2018, the number of students taking at least one AP exam increased from 752,255 to 1,242,990 students.

High schoolers take AP exams and classes to get a head start on college-level material and to try to earn college credit, usually for general education classes. If they pass an AP test, they may receive college credit for that subject (in addition to high school credit).

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But what is a passing AP score? The College Board considers a score of 3 or higher a passing grade. That said, some colleges require a 4 or 5 to award credit. Whether a 3 is a good AP score depends on the colleges you're applying to.

How Are AP Exams Scored?

First off, how are AP exams scored exactly?

As the table below shows, each AP exam is scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest possible score. In general, a 3 corresponds to a C grade, a 4 corresponds to a B, and a 5 corresponds to an A.

Although the College Board considers a 3 passing, it's ultimately up to each college to determine what score is needed to receive college credit.

AP Exam Score Scale
AP Exam Score Recommendation College Grade Equivalent
5 Extremely well qualified A, A+
4 Very well qualified B, B+, A-
3 Qualified C, C+, B-
2 Possibly qualified N/A
1 No recommendation N/A

Source: College Board

Is 3 a Good AP Score?

Whether a 3 is a good AP score depends on what score the colleges you're applying to require for credit. If you're applying to a school that requires a 4 or 5, a 3 simply won't cut it.

So is 4 a good AP score? An AP score of 4 is like getting a B on the AP test. Most schools accept a 4 for credit. Before you take any AP exam, check with the colleges you're considering to find out what their policies are for granting AP credit.

Each school sets its own AP policies. For example, The California State University requires at least a 3 on any AP exam to award credit. Duke University's Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, however, requires at least a 4 or 5 depending on the exam.

What Is a Good AP Score Compared to Other Test-Takers?

In most cases, a 3 or higher is considered a solid AP score. But you can get an even better idea of how good your AP score is by comparing it to the average score for that test that year.

For example, the average score for AP Biology was 2.83 in 2021. Anything higher would be considered above average for that test.

Because AP exams vary in difficulty, the average score also varies depending on the test. While a 3 is an above-average score for AP Chemistry, it's below average for AP Calculus BC.

Some AP tests are hard, while others may be easier. For example, AP Physics C: Mechanics, AP Calculus BC, and AP Spanish Literature have the highest pass rates of all exams. The chart below shows the AP score distribution for May 2021 and the average AP scores for each test.

AP Score Distribution, May 2021
AP Test 5 4 3 Mean Score
2-D Art and Design 10.2% 34.7% 42.3% 3.42
3-D Art and Design 6.5% 28.6% 36.3% 3.09
Art History 12.0% 19.6% 23.8% 2.84
Biology 7.4% 19.4% 32.4% 2.83
Calculus AB 17.6% 14.1% 19.3% 2.77
Calculus BC 38.3% 16.5% 20.4% 3.62
Chemistry 11.2% 16.4% 23.7% 2.66
Chinese Language* 18.8% 15.0% 32.6% 2.99
Comparative Government and Politics 16.6% 24.5% 30.7% 3.16
Computer Science A 23.9% 21.9% 19.3% 3.12
Computer Science Principles 12.4% 21.7% 32.5% 2.99
Drawing 14.2% 37.7% 34.3% 3.51
English Language 9.1% 22.9% 25.8% 2.86
English Literature 4.9% 12.0% 26.9% 2.47
Environmental Science 7.0% 24.9% 18.5% 2.67
European History 10.6% 19.4% 24.7% 2.82
French Language* 8.4% 21.8% 38.8% 3.01
German Language* 6.9% 17.8% 32.6% 2.75
Human Geography 14.4% 19.7% 18.3% 2.69
Italian Language* 11.6% 23.6% 33.5% 3.06
Japanese Language* 16.4% 9.6% 27.5% 2.64
Latin 10.0% 16.9% 29.9% 2.76
Macroeconomics 18.0% 19.6% 13.7% 2.74
Microeconomics 18.5% 24.0% 16.6% 2.96
Music Theory 19.9% 18.1% 23.2% 3.04
Physics 1 6.9% 16.3% 18.9% 2.41
Physics 2 15.4% 17.9% 32.0% 3.06
Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 32.6% 23.1% 13.8% 3.45
Physics C: Mechanics 23.5% 28.6% 21.3% 3.38
Psychology 14.1% 21.2% 18.0% 2.71
Research 13.7% 25.4% 42.4% 3.30
Seminar 11.1% 19.5% 54.5% 3.22
Spanish Language* 12.9% 27.9% 36.3% 3.27
Spanish Literature 7.8% 20.8% 36.3% 2.92
Statistics 16.2% 19.9% 21.8% 2.85
U.S. Government and Politics 12.0% 11.6% 26.9% 2.62
U.S. History 10.1% 15.9% 21.2% 2.52
World History 9.7% 18.5% 24.0% 2.71

Source: College Board

*Indicates students who received most of their foreign-language training in school and who do not regularly use the target language at home and/or with their families.

What Is a Good AP Score for You?

A good AP score for you is one that's high enough to earn you credit at your target colleges.

Many schools require a minimum of 3, but some require a 4 or even 5. High AP scores can sometimes boost your chances of getting admitted to college, so strive to get the highest score you can. You can do this by studying the material and preparing hard for your AP exams.

When getting ready for AP tests, be sure to create a study plan and start preparing early. The more time you spend prepping, the better you're likely to do on test day. Take advantage of AP practice tests to help you get used to the timing and format of the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP Scores

Can you appeal an AP score?

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If you don't think the scoring is accurate on your paper and pencil AP test, you can request to have it rescored through the College Board's Multiple-Choice Rescore Service. It costs $30 to have your exam rescored, and all rescore requests must be submitted by fall. Note that rescoring is the only option for possibly changing your AP scores that year.

Once your rescore has been completed, the new score is final — you can't appeal it or get the test rescored again. However, you may retake the test the following year to try to get a higher score.

Is 4 a good AP score?

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For most students, a 4 is a good AP score. However, if you're applying to a prestigious, highly selective school like Duke, you may need a 5 to earn credit for certain subjects.

The best way to determine what scores you need is to ask your target schools about their AP policies. If your dream school has high requirements for AP scores, you might want to consider having a backup school with easier AP requirements.

Is 2 a good AP score?

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Generally speaking, a 2 is not a good AP score, as it is not considered a passing score by the College Board. If you get a 2 on your AP exam, it might be better not to submit that score to the colleges you're applying to. You want to include only the most impressive parts about you on your application.

Do good AP scores help in college admissions?

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While colleges don't typically consider AP scores during the admissions process, having good AP scores certainly doesn't hurt.

According to the 2019 State of College Admission report, about 1 in 4 colleges surveyed considered applicants' AP scores "considerably" or "moderately" important when making admission decisions. Far higher percentages of schools placed more importance on things like strength of curriculum, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores.

Feature Image: Deepak Sethi / E+ / Getty Images

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