Are AP exams worth it?

There are many different AP exams, which affords students many opportunities to acquire college credit. The first exams were taken on May 7 and testing will continue until May 18.

There are many different AP exams, which affords students many opportunities to acquire college credit. The first exams were taken on May 7 and testing will continue until May 18.

Josh Miller, Staff Writer

Legend has it that there was once a determined student who took all 38 Advanced Placement (AP) exams over the course of his/her high school career and aced all of them. While it may be difficult to substantiate this statement, there is a general consensus that attempting to take every single AP exam would represent an unusually ambitious and arduous endeavor.


AP courses are generally rigorous classes featuring college-level curriculum. There are a wide variety of these classes. From art history to physics, AP courses and exams cover areas of study in the sciences, humanities, mathematics, arts, and other fields. AP exams are tailored to the material taught in the corresponding AP course. Many universities offer college credit to students who receive high scores on AP tests.


While AP exams are expensive ($95 per exam), they ultimately pay off in the long-term because they can save families thousands of dollars, with college classes costing significantly more than $95. However, in most cases, it is only justified to take them if there is an opportunity for earning college credit. Bram Nealon, a senior taking the English Literature and Composition, French, Comparative Government, Statistics, and Human Geography exams, agreed with this reasoning. “I am primarily taking [AP exams] to earn college credits. I’m sure the $95 it costs for a test is much, much cheaper than the cost of any college course in the same field, and if I’ve already done the work and know the material, I might as well get credit for it,” Nealon said.


Oliver Rose, senior, offered a similar perspective as to why he is taking AP exams. “I wanted to get college credit. I don’t have enough respect for the college board to use them as any sort of metric for my own learning,” Rose said. Rose is taking the AP European History, AP Psychology, AP Physics 1, and AP English Literature and Composition exams. Some people may take AP exams to gauge their level of mastery over a subject-matter, but by far the most popular reason for taking them is to obtain college credit.


While AP tests are useful for saving money on college courses, they induce stress and can be extremely physically and mentally demanding. Since there are 38 exams administered over a two week period, many students are extremely busy during that time frame. Unfortunately, students’ AP exam schedules are not always very accommodating, as they sometimes require the student to take several exams during a short time frame. Woojin Lee, junior, noted that his exams predominantly take place during the same week.


Nealon and Rose revealed that they also have busy, tight AP schedules. “Unfortunately, most of my APs take place in the same time frame. I only have one the first week, but four concentrated in four days the second week, with two on Thursday. I am definitely dreading next week,” Nealon said.


“I have 3 in a row at the start, luckily no double days, and 1 at the very end. If I had better study skills that would probably be the best arrangement possible,” Rose said.


Since there is usually insufficient space to accommodate all of the students taking each AP exam, most of the tests are administered at Penn State University. However, some of the exams have a lower number of test-takers and are consequently conducted at the high school.


AP exams take place over a two-week period in May. This year, AP exam dates ranged from Monday, May 7 to Friday, May 18. Some exams are administered in the morning (usually starting at 8 A.M.) while others take place during the afternoon (usually starting at noon). The structure of each AP exam varies according to the subject-matter, but the exams are typically long and comprehensive. Some science-based exams may require students to answer multiple-choice and calculation-based free response questions while humanities-based exams may feature multiple-choice and essay sections, for example.