AP Scores and What They Mean For Ivy League Admissions

[fa icon="calendar"] 5/6/18 8:14 PM / by Amanda Orbuch

AP season is just around the corner, and for many students, that means the start of intense anxiety. How do I know what a “good” score is for each of the tests? How will this impact my chances of college admissions? Can I get college credit for these tests?

class-diary-exam-8769These are valid questions, but they are certainly no cause for fear or worry. In this post, I will attempt to give you a sense of the perceived difficulties of different AP tests, and grapple with how these scores are considered by college admissions offices.

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As for the perceived difficulty of each test, I offer the following table, drawn from the College Board report on Student Score Distributions 2017, to summarize:

Test

Score of 3+ (passing)

Score of 5

Chinese Language (Total Group)

92.6

68.8

Spanish Language (Total Language)

88.5

19.5

Seminar

86.8

6.7

Studio Art Drawing

85.5

21.9

Calculus BC Calculus AB Subscore

85.1

48.4

Studio Art 2-D Design

85.1

19.3

Spanish Language (Standard Group)

83.7

15.9

Calculus BC

80.6

42.6

Physics C Mechanics

79.4

36.4

Japanese Language (Total Language)

76.9

45.1

German Language (Total Group)

75.5

23.0

French Language (Total Group)

75.4

17.0

Computer Science Principles

74.5

13.8

Spanish Literature

73.2

9.6

French Language (Standard Group)

71.8

11.0

Studio Art 3-D Design

71.6

12.0

Italian Language (Total Group)

71.5

18.4

Physics C E&M

71.4

31.9

Chinese Language (Standard Group)

70.3

21.8

Research

70.3

16.8

Economics- Micro

69.5

23.5

German Language (Standard Group)

68.9

9.7

Government and Politics Comparative

68.1

23.2

Computer Science A

67.0

24.2

Italian Language (Standard Group)

66.4

7.6

Psychology

64.2

19.1

Biology

64.1

6.4

Physics 2

63.5

12.9

Latin

63.4

12.5

Art History

61.2

11.1

Music Theory

60.9

19.2

Music Theory Aural Subscore

60.7

18.7

Japanese Language (Standard Group)

60.6

17.9

Music Theory Non-Aural Subscore

59.9

19.1

Economics- Macro

57.6

17.4

Calculus AB

57.5

18.7

European History

56.0

9.3

English Language

55.0

9.1

World History

55.0

8.5

Statistics

54.3

13.6

English Literature

52.6

6.8

Chemistry

52.4

10.1

United States History

50.9

10.8

Environmental Science

49.4

9.5

Government and Politics United States

49.3

11.1

Human Geography

48.9

10.7

Physics 1

41.9

5.4

 

Then, in terms of how these scores impact your college admissions process, I will offer some information. In a 2009 New York Times article, the Dean of Admissions at Harvard responded to questions as to the relative importance of AP exams, noting that “the best predictors at Harvard are Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, closely followed by the College Board subject tests.” Predictors of college success make up a large portion of the college deliberation process, so in this sense, it seems that Harvard has considered AP exams as relevant to their admissions process. Reasonably, it could be presumed that many other schools of similar caliber might hold AP scores in similar regard.

That being said, though it seems that schools consider AP exams predictors of collegiate success, the scores are not definitive indicators of an applicant’s likelihood of acceptance. In reality, schools consider a wide range of factors when looking into an applicant. At elite schools, when most students have some degree of numeric evidence for their capability (e.g., GPA, SAT, ACT, AP scores), “intangibles” come to matter quite a bit. This may take the form of an essay, supplemental material, or compelling aspect of a resume.

Overall, though AP season can seem quite overwhelming, it is worthwhile to bear in mind the reality of college admissions. APs can be held as predictors of collegiate success, but by no means do the encompass the whole student. For more help with college admissions, visit Empowerly.

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Amanda Orbuch

Written by Amanda Orbuch

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