Are you a high school student wondering how many credits you’ll earn by taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes? Or maybe you’re a parent trying to understand how AP credits will help your child in college.

Either way, this comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about AP credits in high school.

The quick answer is that an AP class is usually equivalent to 3-8 semester credits at the college level. However, the exact number of credits earned depends on the AP exam score, the college’s AP credit policy, and the subject tested.

What is an AP Class?

An AP class, short for Advanced Placement class, is a college-level course that is offered in high schools. These classes are designed to challenge students and provide them with an opportunity to delve deeper into a particular subject.

AP classes are available in a wide range of subjects, including calculus, literature, history, biology, and many more.

Advanced college-level courses offered in high school

AP classes are more rigorous and demanding compared to regular high school courses. They are taught at a higher level and cover more material in a shorter period of time. These classes are designed to mimic the experience of a college-level course, giving students a taste of what they can expect in higher education.

Take AP exam at end of year to potentially earn college credit

At the end of the AP class, students have the opportunity to take an AP exam. This exam is administered by the College Board and is scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Many colleges and universities offer college credit or advanced placement to students who score well on these exams.

This can potentially save students time and money by allowing them to skip introductory courses in college.

Classes available in 30+ subjects like calculus, literature, history, etc.

AP classes are available in over 30 subjects, ranging from mathematics and science to English literature and history. This wide range of subjects allows students to explore their interests and dive deeper into a particular area of study.

Whether a student is interested in pursuing a career in STEM or the humanities, there is likely an AP class available to suit their interests.

How AP Exams Are Scored

When it comes to AP exams, understanding how they are scored is crucial for high school students. The scores they receive on these exams can not only determine their eligibility for college credit, but also showcase their knowledge and skills in a specific subject.

Here’s what you need to know about how AP exams are scored.

5-point scale: 5 is highest, 3 is passing

AP exams are scored on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the highest score and 3 considered passing. The College Board, which administers the AP program, has established this scale to assess students’ understanding and mastery of college-level material.

A score of 5 indicates that a student is extremely well-qualified, while a score of 3 demonstrates that a student is qualified to receive college credit.

It’s important to note that scoring a 3 does not mean a student has failed the exam. In fact, many colleges and universities accept a score of 3 as passing and offer college credit accordingly. However, each college sets its own policies regarding AP credits, so it’s essential for students to research the specific requirements of the institutions they are interested in attending.

Each college sets minimum score to award credits

While a score of 3 is generally considered passing, each college and university has the authority to set its own policies regarding AP credits. Some institutions may require a higher score, such as a 4 or 5, in order to award college credit.

It’s therefore important for students to consult the websites or admissions offices of the colleges they are considering to determine the minimum score required to earn credits.

For example, the University of California system typically requires a score of 3 or higher to earn credits, while Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale often require a score of 4 or 5. On the other hand, some community colleges may accept a score of 2 for credit, depending on the specific course and institution.

Higher scores allow more credit at most colleges

While a passing score of 3 can earn students college credit, higher scores on AP exams can often result in more credits being awarded. Many colleges have specific policies in place that grant additional credit for higher scores, allowing students to potentially skip introductory courses and dive deeper into their major or area of interest.

For example, a student who scores a 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus exam may be eligible to receive credit for Calculus I and II at their college, while a student who scores a 3 may only receive credit for Calculus I.

This can save students both time and money by allowing them to bypass certain introductory courses and accelerate their progress towards their degree.

It’s important for students to research the credit policies of each college they are considering, as they may vary significantly. The College Board website provides a search tool where students can view the AP credit policies of various colleges and universities across the country, helping them make informed decisions about which institutions best suit their educational goals.

Number of Credits Earned per AP Exam Score

Score of 5: Typically equivalent to 6-8 semester credits

Scoring a 5 on an AP exam is a remarkable achievement. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the subject matter and can often earn students a significant amount of college credit. In most cases, a score of 5 on an AP exam is equivalent to earning 6-8 semester credits in college.

This means that students who score a 5 may be able to skip introductory-level courses and jump straight into more advanced coursework. This can save both time and money in the long run, as students can graduate sooner and potentially avoid paying for additional classes.

Score of 4: Typically equivalent to 3-6 semester credits

A score of 4 on an AP exam is also highly regarded and can often earn students college credit. Typically, a score of 4 is equivalent to earning 3-6 semester credits in college. While this may be slightly less credit than a score of 5, it is still a significant accomplishment.

Students who score a 4 may still be able to bypass introductory-level courses and dive right into more advanced material. This can provide a head start in their college education and allow them to explore more specialized topics sooner.

Score of 3: Typically equivalent to 3-4 semester credits

While a score of 3 on an AP exam may not earn as much college credit as a score of 5 or 4, it is still a respectable achievement. Typically, a score of 3 is equivalent to earning 3-4 semester credits in college.

While this may not allow students to skip as many courses, it can still provide some credit towards their degree. It’s important to note that credit policies vary among colleges and universities, so it’s always a good idea to check with individual institutions to see how they award credit for AP scores.

Factors That Determine AP Credits Earned

When it comes to earning college credits for Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school, there are several factors that come into play. These factors can vary depending on the college’s AP credit policy, the student’s AP exam scores, the subject tested, and the major/degree program policies.

College’s AP Credit Policy

Each college or university has its own AP credit policy, which determines how many credits a student can earn for their AP classes. Some colleges may only give credit for certain AP classes, while others may offer credit for a wider range of subjects.

It’s important for students to research and understand the AP credit policies of the colleges they are interested in applying to.

Student’s AP Exam Scores

The scores that a student receives on their AP exams can also impact the amount of credits they earn. Most colleges require a minimum score of 3 or higher on the AP exam to grant credit, but some may require higher scores.

It’s essential for students to prepare for their AP exams and aim for the highest score possible to maximize their chances of earning college credits.

AP Subject Tested

The AP subject that a student takes can also influence the number of credits they receive. Some subjects may be more heavily weighted or have more relevance to certain majors or degree programs, resulting in more credits being awarded.

For example, a student who takes an AP Calculus exam may earn more credits towards a math or engineering degree compared to someone who takes an AP Art History exam.

Major/degree program policies

Finally, the major or degree program that a student intends to pursue can also impact the number of AP credits they can earn. Some majors or degree programs may have specific requirements or restrictions regarding AP credits.

For example, a student majoring in biology may be able to use AP Biology credits towards their degree, but a student majoring in English may not have the same opportunity.

It’s important for students to consider these factors when planning their high school course load and deciding which AP classes to take. By understanding the AP credit policies of their desired colleges, aiming for high exam scores, considering the relevance of the subject tested, and taking into account their intended major or degree program, students can maximize the number of AP credits they earn and potentially save time and money in college.

Benefits of Earning AP Credits

Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school offer students the opportunity to delve deeper into subjects they are passionate about and challenge themselves academically. These rigorous courses not only provide valuable knowledge and skills, but they also have several benefits when it comes to earning credits towards college.

1. Graduate early by entering college with credits

One of the major benefits of earning AP credits is the opportunity to graduate from college early. By taking AP classes and scoring well on the corresponding exams, students can earn college credits that can be applied towards their degree requirements.

This allows them to potentially skip introductory courses in college and move directly into more advanced coursework. As a result, they can complete their degree in a shorter amount of time and enter the workforce or pursue further education sooner.

2. Potentially save on tuition costs

By earning AP credits, students can also save on tuition costs. With the rising cost of college education, every credit earned through AP courses can make a significant difference. By entering college with a substantial number of credits, students may be able to reduce the number of semesters or years they need to pay for, ultimately saving them thousands of dollars in tuition fees.

This can provide a financial advantage and help alleviate the burden of student loans.

3. Fulfill general education requirements

Many colleges and universities have general education requirements that students must fulfill in order to graduate. These requirements typically encompass a broad range of subjects, including math, science, humanities, and social sciences.

By earning AP credits, students may be able to fulfill some of these general education requirements, allowing them to focus more on their major courses and areas of interest. This can provide a more streamlined and efficient path towards graduation.

4. Take higher level courses sooner

With AP credits, students have the opportunity to take higher level courses sooner in their college career. By skipping introductory courses, they can enroll in more advanced and specialized classes that align with their academic goals and interests.

This not only allows students to dive deeper into their chosen field of study but also provides them with a competitive edge in the job market or when applying to graduate programs.


In summary, Advanced Placement classes allow motivated high school students to take college-level courses and potentially earn valuable credits. While each college sets their own policies, a passing AP exam score typically equates to 3-8 semester credits.

Earning AP credit provides a host of benefits, like graduating faster, saving money, and getting into advanced courses sooner. Taking AP classes demonstrates academic rigor which can boost college applications too.

Hopefully this detailed overview gave you a comprehensive understanding of how many credits an AP class is worth in high school!

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