How important are AP scores?

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: August 2003 Archive: How important are AP scores?
By Healthy_Body (Healthy_Body) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 01:09 am: Edit

People keep telling me different things.
How important are AP scores at a prestigious school (e.g. Harvard)? I'm under the impression that they are important and used more for placement, but much less important than SAT II's which are used for admissions. Will a high score in Math IIC, Physics, Chemistry, or Biology make up for a lower AP grade?

Also, what if I get good grades in the class (A, A+ for example) and a 2,3,4 on the test? Should I send in the score? Or if i get a C or B in the class and a 5 on the exam? Will they think differently about the class grade?

Since Harvard takes only 5's for credit, should I not bother to send in any scores less than 5?

Oh yeah, Are scores automatically sent?

Thanks for clearing up the confusion

By Uncchlocalmayor (Uncchlocalmayor) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 04:26 am: Edit

how lazy are you?

By Healthy_Body (Healthy_Body) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 07:01 pm: Edit

That didn't answer my question. Anyone else?

By Orangeclock (Orangeclock) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 08:34 pm: Edit

I also want the answer to this question.

Though I don't plan on applying to harvard, I wonder how much other top universities consider AP grades.

I think that if I were an adcom, I would value AP grades more than regular grades. With AP scores you can seperate the smart kids from the brown-nosers.

When I took calculus AB my sophmore year, i got C and a D in the class. I got a 5 on the AP exam. I know people who got A's in the class who got 2's and 3's on the exam.

It just goes to show that grades are more reflective of short term memorization, not actual learning. People who cram the night before tests and do their homework can get good grades. To do well on an AP exam actaully proves that you've learned the material.

By Healthy_Body (Healthy_Body) on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 11:44 pm: Edit

Good point. I keep reading different info everywhere so I'm really not sure how much AP scores are valued. Anyone?

By Delirious (Delirious) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:06 am: Edit

Where do all you people get the idea that Harvard only takes 5s on APs? NO SCHOOL takes only 5s.

By Anothernycdad (Anothernycdad) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 02:50 am: Edit

New policy at Harvard. Only 5 s count for Advanced Standing. Nor can you get graduation credit for APs unless you are able to have advanced standing (four scores of five on full year subjects)except that language requirement can be satisfied with a five. You might get placement toward a higher level course, but no course credit.

By Apguy (Apguy) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 02:50 am: Edit


NO SCHOOL takes only 5s.

Harvard DOES take only 5s.

And high achievement in a variety of very advanced subjects will (obviously) look good for admissions. Credit is another story. Most tops schools will try to screw you out of credit if they can.

By Txdad (Txdad) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 09:46 am: Edit


The following article seems talking differently about AP credits in Harvard:

By Delirious (Delirious) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 10:01 am: Edit


I have a link. Do you have a link?

By Professormom (Professormom) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 10:33 am: Edit

Txdad and delirious, your links show the old Harvard policy, which applied to the freshman class that entered in fall 2001. In spring 2002, Harvard announced that a new policy (accepting only 5's) will apply starting with the class entering in fall 2003.

Here's an article in the Boston Globe describing Harvard's rationale for the change:

It received a good deal of attention and commentary when it was announced, and the current policy (of 5's only) is clearly stated in the print viewbook for prospective applicants, but I can't find an on-line page with the policy for this year's entering class.

By Professormom (Professormom) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 10:50 am: Edit

According to this article (ironically, it's in the Princeton newspaper, but I couldn't find the analogous article in the Crimson):

about 50% of the class entering Harvard in 2001 qualified for advanced standing under the old policy (posted by Txdad) and only 30% of them would have qualified under the new policy going into effect this year. However, only a very small percentage of those Harvard students who have been eligible for advanced standing in the past have actually chosen to take advantage of it. Because many departments require a sophomore tutorial, students who want to graduate in four years need to be very sure about their choice of "concentration" (Harvard's term for major) in their first year. So the impact of the policy change isn't as large as it might seem.

By Delirious (Delirious) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 11:23 am: Edit

O ok thanks for the info. I'm scared for my AP tests now...

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:23 pm: Edit

My daughters high school didn't offer AP courses, and she was not about to take another test. Just as well I guess, her liberal arts college, only grants general credit for AP test scores , no distribution requirements can be fullfilled. Scores have to be 4 or 5 and are limited to 8. Whether it is accepted or not depends on department. You can place into a higher level class if approved by department, but can't get out of that requirement altogether.
As courses are so rigourous, students generally don't recommend that you try and place into higher classes, except for perhaps languages.

By Orangeclock (Orangeclock) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:31 pm: Edit

AP exams are actually harder than the college courses. The lowest grade for a 5 on an AP exam is set at the score that a college student with the average A would earn. Therefore AP exams are harder than the equivalent college classes. According to my physics teacher, some professors at college looked at AP exams and said that their students could never pass one.

By Professormom (Professormom) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:46 pm: Edit

Orangeclock wrote: "AP exams are actually harder than the college courses. The lowest grade for a 5 on an AP exam is set at the score that a college student with the average A would earn."

It's true that AP exams are a tougher standard than the AVERAGE college course, but there is a wide variation in difficulty levels of the introductory freshman courses offered at various colleges across the country. This statement is true at the average college, but not true everywhere.

Highly selective colleges have a very strong pool of freshman and the intro/freshman classes there can often be far more rigorous than than the corresponding AP course.

Caltech is an extreme example...nobody would ever say that the BC calculus exam is harder than the calculus course required of freshman at Caltech! The typical Caltech student has a math SAT in the high 700 range and the pace of their freshman calc class reflects that! Caltech doesn't use the AP score for placement; they have their own internal placement exam.

Other selective schools have a somewhat more diverse range of math abilities reflected among their students and offer correspondingly less rigorous freshman math classes, but there are a number of highly selective colleges where the freshman calc class significantly exceeds the AP in rigor.

By Apguy (Apguy) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:20 pm: Edit



I have a link. Do you have a link?

You know...







But WHERE...?


Harvard University faculty members have voted to stop awarding college credit to entering freshmen who have taken Advanced Placement exams in high school—unless those students have earned the highest possible score on the tests. The change will take effect with Harvard's class of 2007.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 03:33 pm: Edit

So, back to the original question - How important are AP scores?

Michele Hernandez, in A is for Admission, says very important, if the applicant does well. In the latter case, she would have given the app a significant bump.

Think of the admissions challenge from an admissions officer point of view: you have kids applying from schools of widely varying caliber, so grades and class standing are rather tough to compare. SAT I scores have well known limitations, even though folks on these boards think nothing is more important. Recs are very subjective.

Now, along comes someone with AP scores. Immediately, the adcom can do the following;

- learn the curriculum difficulty of that school (do kids get A's in the AP courses and 2's on the exams?). Good for calibrating a school's standards for any of its applicants.

- compare applicants from all over the country. APs are the only nationally normed and standardized courses around.

Because the access to AP courses (but not the exams) is limited, no adcom will publicly say one needs them. They will all say that APs are a plus factor, but won't work against you. Well, if I have a plus factor and you do not.......

By Healthy_Body (Healthy_Body) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 04:37 pm: Edit

Massdad, you make good points, but apparently Hernandez only discusses AP scores for a couple pages in that entire book (so I hear), which makes me wonder...

Also, schools like Harvard often times require SAT II tests, so would a SAT II Biology or Chemistry exam, for example, be as good as an AP score?

AND... often times colleges know how good a high school is so class rank/GPA and recommendations could be considered on a more level field. Basically, I'm just trying to figure out what weight AP exams carry in comparison to all the other factors involved in admissions.

Just wondering.

By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:02 pm: Edit

One school counselor mentioned that a big reason many schools are limiting acceptance of AP scores is due to the large number of students taking them. If so many students place out of a year's worth of intro. classes, that's a year's worth of tuition dollars that are not spent at the college!

By Apguy (Apguy) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:06 pm: Edit

Okay, as for the importance of AP scores-

I wrote this a while back, but since this question pops up every other day I'll just copy+paste it:

Good AP grades are important because:

1. They show your class grades weren't inflated. If you got a 95 in AP Chem and got a two on the test, they will question your teacher's grading policy and think that your grades aren't legitimate and can't be compared to students who got a 95 in some other school but also got a 5 on the AP exam. Also, a 5 on an AP Chem exam when your grade was a 70 might lead them to think your teacher graded harshly and that grade isn't as bad as it looks because you clearly know your stuff.

So it can make adcoms look upon a poor grade you got less harshly and will also reaffirm the credibility of your schools grading policy.

2. Many colleges give you place on your application to put your AP scores. An empty box will not look good.

3. Showing you have a strong grasp of college level work in a variety of subjects will only help you.

4. If you become an AP Scholar (I think that is like 3 AP tests and getting an average score of a 3) is supposed to be looked on favorably by many admission officers including the ones at ivy league schools.

5. According to "A is for Admission" a book about admissions to ivy leagues and top colleges (written by a former Darmouth adcom) she says that high AP grades will boost your "academix index" and low ones may possible lower your academic index. And the academic index, incase you didn't know, determines whether or not people should be rejected, waitlisted, or accepted through a numeric formula. So a few points will only be a good thing.

6. Some schools will return the $80 you spent on the test if you do well on it (they get benefits if enough students do well). I'm guessing your school isn't one of these though.

7. You can get credit for it. (duh! LOL)

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 11:10 pm: Edit

HB, SAT II and AP exams measure different things, and are not really comparable. Adcoms ask for SAT IIs because they can reasonably expect them of all students in the applicant pool. AP exams are different, because (i) some schools don't offer many (ii) some schools restrict the classes to later years (jr or sr).

There's a good deal of controversy surrounding the subject of AP courses. Some (see the Newsweek mag high school rankings of a few months ago, for instance) believe there should be wide open access to APs. Others believe they should continue to be taught at a high college like level. Some schools cannot afford to offer them. And so forth.

My personal opinion is that adcoms have ducked a hot political issue deliberatly by being silent. Instead applicants must read between the lines.

The problem with SAT II exams is that the curve is pretty compressed at the top, so it's tought to get a good separation of the best students. Also, since there is no standardized curriculum for the corresponding courses, the information from SAT II scores has limitations. These factors are less limiting with AP exams, and AP exams measure a higher level of knowledge, more directly relevant to college level work.

Yes, Hernandez only devotes 4 pages to the topic, but it is a whole chapter. She says "Perhaps the easiest and most effective way to override a mediocre AI and to stand out academically is to score well on Advanced Placement....exams......they are in many ways more useful for the highly selective colleges than SAT II scores."

'nuf said.

By Healthy_Body (Healthy_Body) on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 12:17 pm: Edit

Thanks. That's a really good answer. I still don't really understand what weight AP exams carry in comparison to the other admissions factors, but I guess only the adcoms would know that. Also, I'm curious to know how colleges deal with AP exams and classes because, as you said, the classes may not be offered everywhere or the high schools have different policies.

By Clickspring (Clickspring) on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 12:21 pm: Edit

Schools like to see that you attempt the AP test after taking the class. As long as you pass the test, there's nothing wrong with sending your score.

By Hsimpson2k4 (Hsimpson2k4) on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 11:04 pm: Edit

Kinda irrelevant but this is my take on AP's. They reflect how well you know the material but your class grades reflect you as the student. Which do you think is more important??

By Aznboi13 (Aznboi13) on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 12:58 pm: Edit

How do you send your AP scores to colleges?

Most applications only have a couple slots and what if you took 8 exams? DO you make a copy of the grade report that came in the mail and send it in along with your application?

By Iska (Iska) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 02:04 pm: Edit

Copy of the grade report should suffice according to an Amherst adcom.

By Aznbrouhaha (Aznbrouhaha) on Monday, August 04, 2003 - 09:38 pm: Edit

So, 5 on the AP test would be more impressive than 800 on the SAT II?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 05, 2003 - 04:23 pm: Edit

Anz, it all depends on the school, but I think we are engaging in some hair splitting here. It's like saying an 800 is better than a 790, for instance. Yes, but.....they are not statistically different.

Truth is, it is easy for any of us to say what factors are important, what matters etc. BUT, schools vary widely in what they publicly say and ask for. They vary even more in what they actually do consider. You can't really ever know - and, after reading "The Early Admissions Game" I suspect the schools may not even understand very well why they choose who they do.

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