Advanced Placement (AP) exams begin in May at high schools across the country. Exam weeks for 2023 are May 1-5 and May 8-12.
Like 2022, all AP exams have returned to full-length, multi-part tests taken at school. For 2023, students can expect a potential mix of paper and digital AP exam formats, depending on their classes and school preference.
What's More Important: A Good Grade or a High Exam Score?
While getting a 5 on the AP exam may seem the most important goal, if a student does poorly on the actual coursework during the year and has low grades on their transcript as a result, they may not be considered for colleges where the high exam score might payoff with credit or advanced placement. While focusing on the exam is important, remember that colleges may not even see the AP exam scores when reviewing an applicant’s transcripts, but they will see all the AP course grades and if the student met the academic challenge throughout the year.
What to Expect on Test Day
Most exams are 2-3 hours long and contain a multiple-choice and a free-response section. Learn the specifics for each exam on the exam pages. A 10-minute break between sections 1 and 2 allows students to get a drink or snack and use the restroom – just be sure to get the proctor’s approval.
What to Bring
Testers should bring No. 2 pencils, blue or black ink pens, a calculator if necessary (see approved models), a government or school-issued photo ID, a watch that is not internet-enabled and does not beep or make noise. Hand sanitizer is allowed.
Do Not Bring
Testers should not bring any electronic devices unless required for their exam, such as an approved calculator or a digital recorder or computer for some language exams. Other items to leave at home include books, notes, scratch paper, protractors, compasses, mechanical pencils, and any food or drink. Students caught with prohibited items may be dismissed and have their score canceled.
What to Do with Exam Scores
How to Get Exam Scores
Scores should become available in July in the student’s College Board account. Scores will also be sent to the student’s AP teacher, high school and school district.
How Exams Are Scored
AP exams scores are on a 5-point scale using a weighted combination of scores from the two sections. Multiple choice answers are scored by computer while free response questions are scored by hired reviewers, many of whom are college faculty. In 2022, more than 60% of exams taken resulted in a 3 or higher.
Remember, wrong answers do not count against you in the multiple choice.
Important: Only Send Scores After Senior Year
AP offers students a chance to send free score reports each year they take AP exams, but underclassmen should hold off on sending scores anywhere. Students should only officially send their AP scores to the college they plan to attend in the summer after senior year. AP offers one free report request every year a student takes a AP, which is due by June 20. Students may request score reports be sent to a recipient at any time through their AP account.
The score report includes every AP exam the student has taken. Students worried about a low score on an exam may request that individual exam scores be canceled permanently, and thus not included in the report, or that individual scores be withheld from the report when it is sent to colleges. Cancellation is free and permanent, but withholding requires an additional fee. Students should make the request well in advance of when they need to send their score to allow time for it to be implemented, which is usually 15 business days.
Just as important, check the college’s deadline to ensure the score report request is submitted in time for the school to consider the scores for credit or placement. Depending on which delivery method is chosen, reports can take 5-14 business days to arrive at the college.
Some schools do encourage students to self-report their AP exam scores during the college application process. If a student feels their score reflects well in an important course, then they should utilize this space to improve their application and include the scores.
How Do Colleges Use AP Exam Scores?
As mentioned above, some colleges are starting to use AP scores in their application review, but those are still the minority for now. More likely, a college will use the score either to award credit for an introductory general education course or to place the student in a more advanced introductory-level course. Most schools lean toward the latter, discounting the long-term value of AP classes to some extent.
Search for policies at specific schools with the AP’s credit policy search tool.
AP Scholar Awards
Students who earn a 3 or higher on three or more AP exams are eligible for the AP Scholar Award. Students can also earn AP Scholar with Honors and AP Scholar with Distinction for even better performance on multiple exams. These academic distinctions stand out on later resumes and applications.
Digital AP Exams Expand for 2023
AP Subjects Offering Digital Exams in 2023
The College Board continues its effort to make exams for more subjects available in a digital format, with seven exams available through a computer administration this year, up from two last year.
The decision to administer the exam on paper or digitally is made by local AP coordinators at the school and district level. Students cannot opt for one or the other individually. Digital exams take place at the same time as their paper counterparts, but in separate rooms, if a school is offering both options. The format of the two exam types is the same and both draw from the same exam questions.
Starting in March, students taking digital tests should have been contacted by their school IT staff to install the new AP Bluebook app on their testing device. Starting in April, the app allows students to access a preview of their exams with sample questions and opportunities to explore the exam interface ahead of test day. Students taking digital exams should take advantage of this practice opportunity ahead of exam day.
Of utmost importance, students need the AP Bluebook app installed and working on their testing device if they are using a personal computer. Students should be sure to bring their College Board account sign in information so they can login to the test and have their charging cord handy for their device if necessary. Remember to charge the device the night before as well.
On test day, students should be prepared to guide themselves through most of the exam experience once it has begun. Be sure to follow instructions in the Bluebook app closely to ensure the exam is taken correctly. Most accommodations a student may have will be handled within the Bluebook app, such as controlling for extra section time, or allowing for magnification. Screen reading will be handled through the device’s internal capabilities.
Watch a video preview of the Bluebook app
The Bluebook app can be installed on personal and school-owned Windows and Mac computers, school-managed Chromebooks, and personal and school-managed iPads.
Check your device’s readiness for the Bluebook app
During the Exam
At the start of the test, students open their devices, sign into their College Board account, and enter the room code provided by the proctor into the Bluebook app.
The Bluebook app provides students useful tools for taking the exam to make it comparable to the paper exam experience or better. Students are allowed to move between questions in a single section if they need to skip a question. The app also provides students the ability to mark questions to return to later and to annotate questions and passages, and the ability to cross out possible answer choices. In leveraging the technology, the app also includes a countdown clock, and students can zoom in and out to assist with reading passages.
While the goal is to be completely digital, students may also have scratch paper if needed.
The Bluebook app requires an internet connection at the start and end of the exam to begin on time and to submit scores at the end, but it can function without connectivity during the exam if necessary. After time ends, the app closes the exam and submits the student’s answers as soon as it can establish an internet connection, which must happen within five days for the results to be counted.
Students taking digital exams will receive their scores at the same time as paper-based test takers in July.
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