Advanced Placement FAQs
An informal and unofficial list of answers to the most common questions for LOSD students and parents
What is College Board?
College Board is the for-profit corporation that created and operates the global Advanced Placement program. Other College Board programs are the SAT and PSAT.
What is the Advanced Placement (AP) program?
The AP program is a set of high school courses created by College Board. The program gives students access to rigorous college-level work in the high school setting. It is called Advanced Placement because successful students have the opportunity to “advance” their “placement” in future college classes by scoring well on their AP Exams.
This college-level curriculum in high school and the possibility to achieve college credit are two elements that set the AP program apart from Honors and other rigorous content high school classes. College Board works closely with teams of secondary and college educators across the nation to build course outlines/expectations/support materials for the program and the culminating AP Exams.
What is the AP Exam?
The AP Exam is designed and offered by College Board to measure the degree of college-level mastery students have achieved after completing (or nearly completing) an AP course.
AP teachers have no control with regard to the culminating AP Exam. However, College Board communicates the elements and essential understandings that teachers are expected to cover by May, and resources and conferences are available through College Board to assist teachers with this preparation.
The official AP Exam is given in a separate location (not the teacher’s classroom) under very prescribed conditions. In fact, to ensure a secure an unbiased test, AP teachers may not obtain a copy of the Exam nor are they allowed to proctor the Exam. The rules and regulations regarding seating, proctoring, what students may bring and not bring with them into the test setting are detailed and firm.
The AP Exam is not a test to gain entry into an AP class. For information regarding enrollment in AP classes at your school, please contact your school counselor or the AP instructor.
Is the AP Exam the student’s “Final” Exam?
No. The AP Exam should not be confused with the teacher produced test given in AP class during Finals Week. This teacher created in class Final is the typical culminating activity teachers administer to help formulate their end of term grades. **The in class Final has no bearing on the AP Exam score AND the AP Exam score has no bearing on a student’s course grade.
Why take the AP Exam?
These are the top 5 reasons why a student should take the AP Exam:
Chance to earn college credit, upper level placement, or both
Chance to reduce tuition costs.
Chance to graduate in four years or less.
May allow students time to study abroad or double major.
Chance to qualify for achievement recognition which can strengthen your college admission portfolio.
Local family unsolicited endorsement: “...my oldest entered UCLA last fall with 32 credit hours (worth approx 2 quaters of school = $40,000) because of LOSD AP classes.”
Exam Scores: Does the AP Exam score factor into a student’s AP course grade & GPA?
No. The score the student achieves on the AP Exam is not reflected in the high school course grade. The AP Exam produced by College Board is separate from the student’s grade in class. In fact, since the AP Exam score is not released until July, the teacher cannot use the student’s AP Exam score to roll into his/her class grade.
Exam Scores: What is a passing AP Exam score, & what score will earn college credit?
The AP Exam is scored on a numeric 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest, 1 lowest, and 3 being the minimum passing score. The higher the score, the greater the chance a student may receive college credit for the content area from the student’s future college (a passing score does NOT guarantee college credit). A list of colleges which accept AP score for credit (and the terms under which they will do so) can be found on the College Board site and also on each individual college website.
Is the Exam mandatory? Does an AP student have to take the AP Exam?
LOSD does not currently require students enrolled in AP classes to take the associated AP Exam. However, they do have to take the teacher’s final for the class at the end of each semester.
If a student is a senior and already accepted into the college of their choice, why should they bother with the AP Exam?
Even if the student’s selected college will not accept the AP Exam score for credit, a number of students transfer to another college after the first year or two and the new college may accept the AP Exam score for credit.
The student can decide after seeing their score whether to release it. Since the student controls whether to release the score or not, there is no risk.
After studying for so many months, a student has a good idea where they stand academically within their class, but the AP Exam is the only way to compare themself to the larger international pool of students.
Given that there will likely be other such exams in a college student’s future, it is valuable practice to sit for this rigorous AP Exam.
Does a student have to be enrolled in an AP course to take the AP Exam?
No. Students can independently study for any of the AP Exams. However, this is not an effort to take lightly. Students are urged to discuss this option with the teacher of that content area (AP teacher) and to refer to the College Board website for course/Exam information and supportive links.
What is the AP Coordinator?
The AP Coordinator is a position formally required by College Board for each school/district that has an AP program. It refers to the person responsible for the coordination of the May Exams. The AP Coordinator does NOT coordinate AP placement or enrollment in AP courses. For assistance with AP course enrollment, please contact your school counselor or AP instructor.
Cost. Is there an extra charge for students to take an AP course or AP Exam?
There is no charge for students to enroll in an AP course, but College Board does charge for each Exam. In 2020, the fee is $80 per exam for payment before September 20, 2019.
Students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program do not pay a fee for taking AP Exams.
When is the AP Exam?
The AP Exams are typically held in May and the schedule is carefully prescribed by College Board a year in advance. The Exam schedule can be found on the AP page of the school’s website.
How long is each AP Exam? Can students who finish early leave early?
Each Exam is roughly four hours long and can, on occasion, last longer. This allows check-in, initial instructions, mandatory breaks, questions, and unavoidable delays. Per College Board regulations, students may NOT be excused early, even if they believe they are finished. Even if all students in the room believe they are finished. All students must stay until the time College Board has allocated for the Exam is expired. In preparation for Exam day, students should proactively notify affected teachers, classmates, employers, coaches, teammates, etc.
Do AP testers have to go to school on Exam day?
Yes. Students are only excused for periods missed due to the half-day AP Exam session.
Morning Exam: Testers will miss periods 1, 2, 3 and attend period 4.
Afternoon Exam: Testers will miss period 3 and 4 and attend periods 1 and 2.
Registration: When is the AP Exam registration?
AP Exam registration and payment takes place in the first month of the school year.
What is the AP Exam registration process?
AP Exam registration is a 2 step process:
Selection: In your AP class, you will be joining your AP Class Section which is provided by College Board. It provides AP class resources and is where you can select to take the May Exam. Refer to the information sheet provided by your AP teacher. Contact the AP Coordinator at your school if you plan to take the Exam as an independent study student.
Payment: Submit payment to the school’s bookkeeper. Cash or check made payable to the school. OR pay online on the school’s website using the webstore.
18. Exam Schedule Conflicts
If the student has a conflict with the regular Exam schedule they should contact the AP Coordinator as soon as possible. College Board provides a Late Testing (Alternative Test) Schedule during the third or fourth week of May. Depending on the reason, there may be a $40 fee for moving an Exam to the Late Testing Schedule.
19. What is the difference between the Late Registration fee and the Alternate Exam fee?
A $40 per Exam late registration fee is incurred for registering late after the regular registration window has closed.
A $40 per Exam Alternate Exam fee is incurred when a student requests to test during the Alternate Week of testing due to a conflict with the regular Exam schedule.
Both fees are imposed by College Board, not by the school/district.
20. Alternate Exam Fee
In 2020, the Alternate Exam fee is $40 per Exam. This fee is waived only under the following circumstances:
The student has a conflict between two AP Exams (both Exams are offered at the same date/time).
Sudden and severe illness or family emergency.
An athletic or academic contest or event. (Added by College Board in 2018-2019).
Alternate Exams are ordered at the latest possible date to accommodate student changes.
All Alternate Exam transactions are FINAL. There are no refunds of either the regular exam fee or the additional alternate fee once payment is submitted regardless of circumstance.
21. Can a student cancel their AP Exam and is there a refund?
There are circumstances under which a student may receive a full or partial AP Exam refund. An AP Exam cancellation document with information and instructions, as well as the AP Cancellation Request Form can be found on the school’s website/AP Exams page.
22. When are the AP Exam scores available?
The Exam scores are available mid-summer. Students can find information on how to access the score on the College Board website.
23. Is the AP Program right for my student?
Ask your student’s counselor
Ask parents of students who have taken AP courses and Exams
Discuss the program with the AP teachers. Particularly in content areas in which your student is interested in participating.
Discuss with non-AP teachers who know your student’s skills, talents, and drive.
24. Besides the College Board website, where can I get more information on AP programs?
Go to the school website under the Academics tab and search AP Exams.