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Do I have to be in an AP course to take an AP exam?

There are a few different situations that might entail a student taking an AP exam for an AP course they were not enrolled in. For example, you might be a great English student, but your school doesn’t offer AP English Literature and Composition. Or, you didn’t have room in your schedule for AP Computer Science, but you took a course over the summer that mirrored the content found on the exam. Or, perhaps you were homeschooled and there was no way for you to take an AP course at all! There is a myriad of reasons why a student may be curious about taking an AP exam that they didn’t take the course for, but before we explain how they might sign up, let’s briefly go over what the AP exams are.

What is an AP Exam?

Advance Placement (AP) exams are yearly tests offered by the College Board. They are typically taken as the culmination of a year-long AP Course offered by both public and private schools throughout the country. The courses (and tests) mirror the content of an introductory college level class. Each test is graded out of 5, and they are only offered once a year. Currently there are 38 different AP tests offered in total; here is a list of all of them.

Why take an AP exam?

Students might take AP courses/exams for a few different reasons. The biggest is perhaps that most colleges offer college credit for a high enough score on the AP exam. That means you’d enter college with either a core requirement completed or the ability to skip the introductory course of your major! The score requirements vary school to school, with more rigorous colleges requiring 4’s or even 5’s to receive credit.

Another reason to take an AP exam is that a good score can make your college application more competitive. Good grades in AP classes demonstrate academic rigor, and your courses and grades are always the most important part of your application. Some schools even give extra weight to grades from AP courses when calculating your GPA. In some cases, doing an AP course and receiving a B can mean more for your GPA than an A in a regular track course! 

Do I have to be in an AP course to take the exam?

No! In order to accommodate both homeschooled students and the fact not every school offers every AP course, College Board allows students to take any AP exam without the prerequisite course (well almost any: AP Research and AP Seminar exams are the exception, but everything else, yes!). All you need to do is search the AP Course Ledger for a school in your area that offers the exam. Then, search online for that school’s main phone number and ask to speak to their AP Coordinator to see if they allow students from outside of the school to test at the school. 

Note that given the pandemic, schools may have different precautions in place, so make sure to start planning early for when and where you will take the AP exam. When you do find a place to test, remember that the AP coordinator is responsible for ordering your test, collecting your exam fee, and telling you when and where to come for the exam (not you).

And that’s it! In short, anyone can take an AP exam. Just make sure you are prepared for it!

Need additional guidance on AP exams? Learn more about our AP Tutors or contact us.


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