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What does it take to get a 5 on an AP Exam?

By Ignacio Chazarreta

With AP season out of the way and a big weight lifted off thousands of students across the United States, we wonder how hard these classes really are. The majority of students are passing the AP exams, with 60% of students earning a 3 or above (according to College Board), which is considered a passing score.

Even with such a good score, many top schools like Duke, MIT, and Ivy League schools won’t accept these scores, as they are looking for higher scores. Most of these schools would prefer a 4, but many high-level students are aiming for the elusive 5. So, how hard is it really?

AP Score Scale Table showing what each AP score is equal to in perspective to common grades (provided by College Board)

According to College Board (the makers of the AP exam), only around 19% of students are getting a 5 on AP exams, which may seem normal since you have probably seen many students get 5s. However, it is very important to take into consideration which AP exam you are taking. For example, in AP Japanese Language, around 50% of students are getting a 5, while in other classes like AP Environmental Science, only 8% of students are getting a 5.

Additionally, it is important to consider the students taking these classes. For instance, AP Physics C has 26% of students getting a 5, but these students have to go through a Calculus course, which many students don’t take. Even with all these variables, it could also depend on other factors like your teacher, your schedule, and even your school.

Knowing this, we understand that getting a 5 depends on many factors, but all these classes are similar in one way: they require a lot of studying. To see how much studying it takes, we will look at what it takes to get a 5 on an AP exam from students at Christopher Columbus High School.

Daniel Pilarte, a sophomore honors student at Columbus, said, “Getting a 5 on an AP test is tough because it demands a deep understanding of the material and the ability to excel under pressure. It requires thorough preparation and mastery of complex topics.”
Score of 5 on AP Psychology (Provided by Luci DiBonaventura{)

Nicholas Diaz, a senior AP-level student, said, “At the end of the day, getting a 5 on an AP test isn’t that difficult. It just requires knowledge of what to expect on the test and familiarity with the scoring rubric. Knowing every detail from the course isn’t necessary if you have a basic grasp of the course concepts and can form connections between them on the test.”

From this, we can see the difference between various students and how much work an AP class requires for different people. With many students starting to review around 2-3 months before the test (according to the Princeton Review), we can get a better perspective on its difficulty. For every student, the amount of work needed is different, and their goals are also different. So, study hard and get that 5!

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