For many seniors in high school, AP testing comes after the end of a long journey, which ended with submitting that enrollment deposit on May 1. Now, certain of their college, they are also certain of what their AP score could potentially mean, and it might mean a lot. Maybe a 5 on Calc BC means credit for all required math classes. Maybe a 4 on AP Physics translates to placing out of introductory physics classes.
Or maybe your test means nothing.
Maybe your college doesn’t offer credit or placement or even a gold star for a particular test. My school, for example, has one general education requirement–writing–and a 5 on AP Lit isn’t enough to test out of it. Pre-med students may also find it in their best interest to not use their AP credits, as medical schools may or may not accept college credits. (Here is a reference guide from Yale detailing general trends of medical schools in regards to AP credits in certain subjects.) Or maybe you got a 4 when you actually need a 5, because the people in charge of transfer credit at your school are monsters.
Whatever the case may be, students often take a $91 test, prepare for it with sleepless, homework-filled nights, and feel like they got nothing out of it. What’s an AP student to do?
No, really. No credit means no stress. It makes everything just a little less complicated. If you know as soon as you finish your AP test that you won’t be getting credit–either because your school’s policy doesn’t permit it or because you understood so little of the test that it might as well have been written in Japanese–then you’re done. Once you finish your test, you can put down any stress you had in relation to this test (if you even took the effort to stress out for this test) right next to your pencil and leave both at the testing site. Spend the summer binge-watching everything on Netflix.
2. Use Your AP Score
Your AP score might not translate to college credit or placement, but your experience doesn’t have to be a waste. If you prepared appropriately for this test–or even if you didn’t–the score that you receive may be an indication of how well you mastered the material.
And why does that matter? It tells you what you’ll need to buckle down and learn in college. If you can’t test out of a general education biology with your AP Bio credit but received a 5, chances are that some of what you learned may actually come in handy in that class. If you received a 1, maybe you’ll want to review your books before you start class.
3. Use Review Books and Miscellaneous Test Prep Materials
Again, your AP score might not help you, but your AP class doesn’t have to be a waste. Save your old assignments and practice quizzes. If you have to take the college version of this class, it will help to have review materials at your fingertips. If you’re an overachiever, start reviewing before class and see how many classes you can cover before classes even start. If you’re slightly less of an overachiever, keep your notes and review as you go.
More likely, you’ll probably review these materials before your college exams, but even this will save you the trouble of having to create your own materials, at least to a point. The time you spent in class does not have to be meaningless.
4. Make It Mean Something
As they say, life is what you make of it (
so let’s make it rock). The same goes for AP tests. Their value lies beyond college credit and even beyond the soothing feeling of knowing upfront that you’re not getting college credit. Like any test, it tells you if you know what it wants you to know. If you don’t, then you have an opportunity to try again. If not, that may be an easy A or two in college. In either case, your AP test is what you make of it.
For more on AP credit, check out this article about why top-tier schools often don’t take AP credit.