AP Exam Scoring: Grading Scale with Examples | Turito (2023)

AP Exam Scoring

If you hope to take an AP class in the future or are studying for an AP exam right now, the question: “How are AP exams scored?” will be on your mind.

In this blog, we hope to simplify the scoring process, from the raw scores you earn on the MCQ section and other sections to how the final score on a scale of 1-5 is assigned. This information can help you do your best on your AP exams, especially if you are working towards that perfect 5!

The AP Grading Scale

According to the AP grading scale, each AP exam is assigned a score from 1-5. Wondering what a passing AP score is? The answer is three.

These Numbers Translate in the Following Way According to the College Board:

1: No recommendation

2: Possibly Qualified

3: Qualified

(Video) Calculating weighted grades

4: Well Qualified

5: Extremely Well Qualified

The 1-5 scaled score is derived from a composite score calculated from the total number of raw points achieved from the correct MCQ answers and free responses. So if you find it confusing, don’t worry! We will explain it all in detail!

How are AP Exams Scored?

Most AP exams comprise two sections— the multiple-choice question part and the free response part. On some exams, equal marks are assigned to both sections, while on others, one is assigned slightly higher marks. You can get specific information about each exam on the official AP website. A machine automatically grades the MCQ section. No deductions are made for blank or incorrect answers. The total score corresponds to the number of questions you mark correctly.

The grading for the free-response section is conducted during the annual AP Reading that takes place in the first two weeks of June. The event is a huge convention where lots of college professors and teachers gather to grade thousands of responses written by students for each exam.

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If you know a teacher from your school who goes to the AP Reading each year, you can talk to them about what happens there, how quickly the free responses are scored, and the best and the worst cases they have seen. This information could be very helpful for you when you do your AP free-response section.

For the reasons mentioned above, the results for the AP exams are not ready until July, even though the exam is held in May. The app grading scale percentage for the written portion of the exam isn’t calculated until mid-June. At last, the College Board calculates the composite score for each exam, followed by calculating the final scaled score.

The test is equated with ensuring the final scaled score stays even yearly. For instance, they make sure that a three on the AP Chemistry exam means the same thing from year to year, even if the exam paper was more difficult for the students in one year.

A holistic score is assigned to every free response, which means it is assessed based on its correctness or effectiveness. Usually, no marks are deducted for small errors like spelling or grammatical mistakes, so these won’t affect your AP grade scale percentage. The free responses for most tests are graded from 1-9 according to the AP grading scale, with 1 being the lowest score and 9 being the nearly perfect score. The raw free-response score combines all the scores received for individual responses.

How are Scaled AP Scores Between 1 and 5 Assigned?

After the grading for your multiple-choice and free response sections (by a machine and a teacher, respectively), a composite score is produced by combining the essay and multiple-choice scores. This way of combining the scores of the two sections makes sure they are weighted correctly. For instance, the multiple-choice section is worth 45% for AP English, while the free response section is 55%. The composite scores generally lie between 0-100 or 0-150.

The composite score calculated for each student is then converted to a scaled version and assigned a scaled score of 1-5. This means a range of composite scores for each scaled score. For instance, to get a 5, the student might have earned a composite score of anywhere between 110-150.

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As scaling varies yearly, no exact cutoff points for the AP test scores have been assigned. The College Board does not release detailed scoring data. Additionally, students only see their final scaled score from 1-5. They do not get to know their composite score. These days many prep books, teachers, and websites have come up with ways to predict the scaled scores for the AP exams, which can help you to come up with a target score while grading your practice tests.

Scoring Examples on AP English Language and Composition

As we have already seen, the AP exam scoring method is not straightforward. To better understand the process, we will consider an example where we discuss scoring the most popular AP exam— AP English language and comprehension.

The test paper contains 55 MCQs that constitute 45% of the total score. Additionally, three essays are worth 55% of the total score. A grade between 1-9 is assigned for each essay.

Before we move forward, please remember that this example will only give you an estimation of how the scores are calculated. This is because the score conversions vary from one year to the next according to the difficulty of the exam. Therefore, it is impossible to predict your exact AP exam score, but you can still form an idea about how the process works and try to guess an approximate score till you get your actual score.

Step 1: Check your Correct Answers and Add Those Up to Get your Raw Score

Let’s say that out of the 55 multiple-choice questions, you get 40 right, leave seven blanks, and get eight wrong. Your raw MCQ score would be equal to the number of correct answers. In this case, 40 points.

For the three essays, let’s assume you got the following scores from the examiners— 7,8 and 4. Your total raw essay score, therefore, comes out to be 19.

Step 2: Calculate a Single Composite Score from your Raw Scores.

This part, where you must convert the raw scores into a single composite score, is tricky. The composite score will be anywhere between 0-150.

82.5 is the maximum converted essay score, 55% of 150. On the other hand, 67.5 is the maximum converted MCQ score, which is 45% of 150. Therefore, the formula given below can be used to calculate your composite score:

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Composite Score = (Raw Score of Essay x 3.05) + ( Raw Score of MCQs x 1.23)

In this case, your composite essay score will be 57.95, and your MCQ composite score will be 49.2. Therefore, the total composite score comes out to be 107 (after rounding off).

Step 3: The Last Step is Pretty Straightforward. Estimate your Final AP Scaled Score by Using the Chart Given Below:

Composite ScoreScaled Score

Please note that these scores are just a rough estimate and are subject to change from one year to the next based on the difficulty of the exam.


We hope that this blog helps you understand how AP exams are scored. Even though you can’t get an exact score on your practice exams, you can form a rough estimate of it which will help you understand where you stand in your preparation process and how much more work you need to put in to achieve an AP passing score!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can the formula given above be used to score every AP exam?

A. No, the same formula can’t be used for every AP exam. This is because different tests have slightly different weights and the number of questions for different sections. For example, suppose the AP Calculus test contains fewer MCQs and more free responses.

2. Which is the hardest AP exam?

A. AP Physics 1 is the most failed AP exam, therefore, the hardest one. The passing rate for this exam is the lowest, 51.5%, meaning almost half of the students who sit on this exam fail. The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice and five free-response questions and lasts three hours. If you take this course, you will need more effort to get an AP passing score.

3. What are passing AP scores, and what is the highest score according to the 1-5 scale?

A. To pass, you need to score three or higher. Some colleges even award credit only to students with four or higher. However, five is the highest and the most desirable score. It puts the students in the top 10-20% of scorers.

4. What are the AP core courses?

A. AP Mathematics, AP English, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics are some core AP courses.

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Is a 70 A 5 on an AP exam? ›

Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.

What is a 4 on an AP exam equivalent to percentage? ›

AP Scale Grading
If you got a percentage of...If you got a raw score of... (For FINAL EXAM)And your AP score is...
87% or above94-1085
9 more rows

What is the grading scale for AP exam? ›

AP Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Many U.S. colleges grant credit and/or advanced placement (that means they let you skip the equivalent course once you get to college) for scores of 3 and above.

What is a 2 on an AP Exam equivalent to? ›

Possibly qualified

What if I get a 2 on my AP Exam? ›

Students who earn AP scores of 2 are well prepared to succeed in introductory college coursework. Compared to academically similar college peers who did not take the AP course, AP students who earn scores of 2 perform as well or better when they take those introductory college courses.

Is a 75 a 5 on the AP Exam? ›

Thing. Here are the basics of the AP English exam: it has 55 multiple-choice questions, worth 45% of your score, and three essays, worth 55% of your score. Each essay is graded between 1 and 9.
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)Scaled Score (1-5)
3 more rows
Mar 21, 2020

What if I get a 1 on an AP Exam? ›

In fact, on the AP® rubric, a 1 is described as “no recommendation”. Because of that, no college in the United States of overseas will accept an AP® score of 1 and give you college credit.

What is the easiest AP to get a 5? ›

Top 10 Easiest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
AP Class/Exam*Pass Rate (3+)Perfect Score (5)
2. Calculus BC81.6%44.6%
3. Spanish Literature75.1%17.6%
4. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism74.4%40.4%
5. Physics 273.3%14.0%
6 more rows

What is a B+ on the AP scale? ›

Honors English = B+ (3.8 x 1.0) = 3.8. Algebra II. = B+ (3.3 x 1.0) = 3.3. AP US History = B+ (4.3 x 1.0) = 4.3.

What GPA is a C+ in AP? ›

What Is a Weighted GPA?
Letter GradePercentageAP/IB GPA
8 more rows
Feb 17, 2021

What does 4 or 5 on AP exam mean? ›

an AP score of 5 is equivalent to the average score among college students earning grades of A in the college course [of the same subject]… AP Exam scores of 4 are equivalent to college grades of A-, B+, and B. AP exam scores of 3 are equivalent to college grades of B-, C+, and C." (CollegeBoard)

Do colleges accept 4s on AP Exams? ›

Colleges are generally looking for a 4 (“well-qualified”) or 5 (“extremely qualified”) on the AP exam, but some may grant credit for a 3 (“qualified”). These scores mean you have proven yourself capable of doing the work in an introductory-level college course.

Should I cancel an AP score of 3? ›

Did I earn a 3 or higher? If you earned a 3, 4, or 5, do not withhold your score. It does not matter what your target score was—that is still a pretty strong score.

Should I report a 3 on an AP exam? ›

You don't need to send or self-report anything lower than a 3. Those 3s probably won't hurt you, and your 4s and 5s could help you because some schools do use AP scores to help as they evaluate your application. AP scores can supplement and boost grades and your other test scores that might not be as strong.

Should I retake an AP exam if I got a 2? ›

If you got a 2 on your AP® English Language exam, it is definitely worth trying to retake it. Make it worth the added time and expense by taking these steps to improve your score. Track your scores on the multiple choice section. As you prepare, carefully note your score on the multiple choice section.

What is a 3 in AP equivalent to? ›

The equivalent of a 3 on an AP exam is B-, C+ or C depending on the subject. The College Board designates 3 to be a pass and therefore qualified for admission. In terms of percentage, this is usually in the 50th percentile.

Should I report a 4 on an AP exam? ›

So is 4 a good AP score? An AP score of 4 is like getting a B on the AP test. Most schools accept a 4 for credit. Before you take any AP exam, check with the colleges you're considering to find out what their policies are for granting AP credit.

Should I send my AP scores if I got a 1? ›

If your exam score is eligible for credit, self-report it on the college application and send the official report through the CollegeBoard. Never report or send an exam score of a 1 or 2. They are not considered “passing” scores.

Is it OK to fail an AP exam? ›

What happens if you fail an AP exam? If you fail an AP exam, you will not receive college credit for that course. The good news is that a failed exam does not affect your GPA. In addition, you can retake the AP exam the next year.

Can you retake a failed AP exam? ›

AP Exams are only given once a year, but you may repeat an exam in a subsequent year. If you do, both scores will be reported unless you request that one be withheld or canceled.

What is a 3 out of 5 on AP exam? ›

If you score a 3, 4, or 5 on an AP® exam, that is generally considered a good score. The College Board denotes a 3 as 'qualified, 4 as 'well qualified,' and a 5 as 'extremely well qualified. ' Many colleges and universities will offer you college credits for scoring in these ranges.

What is 67 percent on an AP? ›

Grade on the AP Test
Raw ScoreTotal %-
80-9353% to 62%53% - 54% = 73 55% - 56% = 75
68-7945% to 52%45% = 60 46% = 63
0-67Below 45%0% - 15% = 20
2 more rows

What GPA is an A in an AP class? ›

Many schools treat AP classes differently when calculating a student's grade point average (GPA). Rather than the traditional 4.0 scale, AP classes are weighted on a 5.0 scale — in an AP class, an A is equivalent to 5.0 instead of 4.0, and a B is equal to 4.0 instead of 3.0.

What if you fail an AP class but pass the exam? ›

On the other hand, if you fail the class but pass the exam, the outcome depends a bit on your school's grade policy. Some schools might allow failed grades to be changed on a transcript with a passing AP score, but these policies vary from school to school.

What is the easiest AP class? ›

The Three Easiest AP Classes
  1. AP Psychology. With a reputation as one of the easiest AP classes, it comes as no surprise that AP Psychology is also one of the most popular—292,501 students took the exam in 2021. ...
  2. AP Comparative Government and Politics. ...
  3. AP Environmental Science.
Feb 9, 2023

Is it OK if I only take one AP class? ›

To be a competitive candidate for admission, you will need to take at least 8 AP® classes, more if you can. It is a good idea to take 1 AP® course in each of the following core disciplines: English, Foreign Language, History, Math, and Science to impress the admissions officers.

Can you get into Harvard with 5 AP? ›

Does Harvard Accept AP Credit. Harvard does accept AP Credit for classes in which a student earned a 5 on the AP Exam. These credits are accepted under a program called “Advanced Standing.” To qualify, students must earn a 5 on a minimum of 4 AP tests, transferring a total of 32 credits.

What is the hardest AP to self study? ›

[8] AP Chemistry is rated as the hardest of all AP classes if you're self-studying, at 8.3 / 10.

What is the most passed AP exam? ›

Top 10 Hardest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
AP Class/ExamPass Rate (3+)Perfect Score (5)
1. Physics 151.6%8.8%
2. Environmental Science53.4%11.9%
3. Chemistry56.1%10.6%
4. U.S. Government and Politics57.5%15.5%
6 more rows

What percent on an AP test is a 5? ›

See how all AP students performed on the most recent exams. The score distribution tables on this page show the percentages of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s for each AP subject. Download a PDF version of the 2022 score distributions.
AP Score Distributions.
ExamAP Human Geography
8 more columns

What percent is a 5 on AP Stats exam? ›

In this article, we are going to discuss the AP Statistics exam scores and crunch some numbers to learn about the AP Statistics score distributions.
AP Statistics Score Distributions.
AP Score% of Students 2021
1 more row

Is 70 passing in AP classes? ›

Yes, a 60 is a passing rate in AP classes. The average passing rate in AP is 60-70%.

What score is a 50 on an AP exam? ›

Here are the basics of the AP English exam: it has 55 multiple-choice questions, worth 45% of your score, and three essays, worth 55% of your score. Each essay is graded between 1 and 9.
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)Scaled Score (1-5)
3 more rows
Mar 21, 2020

How many people get 5s on AP tests? ›

Part of this answer lies in the respective ages of the students taking AP exams. CollegeBoard's data from 2016 reveals that the percentage of students earning scores of 4 and 5 is similar during the first two years of high school. Approximately 12.5% earned 5s, while 18.6% earned 4s.

What is the hardest AP class? ›

1. Physics 1. This class combines physics, scientific inquiry, and algebra. AP Physics 1 is considered one of the hardest AP classes, covering topics like Newtonian mechanics and electrical charge and force.

What is 80% in AP? ›

What Is a Weighted GPA?
Letter GradePercentageAP/IB GPA
8 more rows
Feb 17, 2021

What GPA is a B+ in an AP class? ›

All you have to do it look at the unweighted scale and add . 5 for any class taken at the intermediate level, and 1.0 for each class taken at the AP® or honors level.
Here's how to calculate your weighted GPA.
Letter GradeUnweighted GPA
8 more rows
Mar 1, 2022

What GPA is an A in AP class? ›

Many schools treat AP classes differently when calculating a student's grade point average (GPA). Rather than the traditional 4.0 scale, AP classes are weighted on a 5.0 scale — in an AP class, an A is equivalent to 5.0 instead of 4.0, and a B is equal to 4.0 instead of 3.0.

How rare is it to get a 5 on an AP exam? ›

The odds of passing with a 5—the highest score—are quite low on any exam: between 10% and 20% for most tests. They are even lower for popular tests, such as AP English Lit and AP Environmental Science, which have 5 rates below 10%.

Is the AP test curved? ›

In other words, AP scores are not graded on a curve but instead calculated specifically to reflect consistency in scoring from year to year.

What is a 3 on AP stats? ›

What is a good AP® Statistics score? The College Board deems scores of 3, 4, and 5 as passing scores. Qualitatively, scores of 3, 4, and 5 are designated as “qualified”, “well qualified”, and “extremely well qualified” respectively.


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