How Many Credits Is an AP Class & More About AP Credits

An AP class is an Advanced Placement class, part of a program offered in the US and Canada. The AP class system was created by the College Board.

The College Board Advanced Placement program includes AP classes taken before college, typically in high school. Each AP class culminates in an examination. The curriculum and tests are designed to reflect college-level academic instruction and examinations. AP classes are offered in a wide range of subjects within mathematics and computer science, English, the sciences, world languages and culture, the arts, history and social sciences.

In AP class statistics for the Class of 2023, 34.7% of public high school students took at least one AP class.

In 2023, 21.7% of high school students earned a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP class exam.

AP classes are worth 3 to 8 college credits depending on the class and the score. A score of 3 or 4 is generally considered the equivalent of one college class worth 3 or 4 credits. Scores of 4 or 5 may also be considered the equivalent of two college classes, so the credits granted are higher. Schools, especially private schools, with higher academic standards require higher AP exam scores to grant AP credits.

Almost all schools grant AP credits including most of the top 50 colleges and universities. Only a small minority of schools with highly selective admissions requirements and academic standards do not consider AP curriculum up to their standards. Credit is granted for an exam score of 3 or higher out of 5. Many schools set school-specific guidelines for granting AP credits, though 35 states now have statewide policies regarding AP credits granted in all the state’s public colleges and universities.

What Affects the Number of College Credits for an AP Class?

There are three main factors affecting the number of credits you can receive for taking an AP class – The college’s or university’s policy for granting credits for AP classes, your score on an AP exam, the AP course taken, the school’s limit on AP credits, and the school’s curriculum.

  • School Policy: Every college and university sets its own policies for whether to grant credits for AP classes and exams. And some schools grant more credits for the same AP exam score.
  • Advanced Placement Exam Score: Most schools award more credits for higher exam scores starting with a score of 3 on the scale of 1 to 5. For example, the Penn State AP chemistry credit policy grants no credit for a score of 3 on the AP chemistry exam, 4 credits for a score of 4 and 8 credits for a score of 5 on the exam. Additionally, some schools may award credits for a score of 3, while others require a score of 4 or 5 on the same exam. The University of Iowa academic admissions awards credits for an AP exam score of 4. Cornell University grants credit only for a score of 5 in the AP chemistry class.
  • AP Course Taken: Some schools are selective about what AP classes and AP exams they give credit for. And more credits may be given for classes considered more difficult. The University of Rochester awards 4 credit for a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus AB class exam, but awards 8 credit for a score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC exam because the BC exam covers more advanced calculus.
  • School AP Credit Limit: Some schools, the University of Iowa for example, do not set limits on the number of credits that can be earned in non-college classes including Advanced Placement classes and exams and CLEP. However, there are exceptions. For example, the University of Michigan admissions policy for the Ross Business School caps credits earned outside of the school from any source at a total of 30.
  • Curriculum and Degree Program: Most schools only award AP exam credits that match their curriculum or degree programs. For example, if a university does not offer Japanese Language courses, it will not award credits for the AP Japanese Language class exam.

How Many Credits Are Awarded for Different AP Classes?

Schools award 3 to 8 AP credits to students who take AP classes and pass exams with scores of 3, 4 or 5 out of 5. How many credits are awarded for different Advanced Placement classes depends on the class and the score earned on the exam.

It is important to note that it is the exam that schools consider, not merely taking the class.

This chart shows the AP classes and exams, scores and the number of credits awarded for each. Note that some schools grant fewer or lesser credits for each score based on the school’s academic standards.

Exam NameMinimum Score RequiredNumber of Credits
AP 2-D Art and Design3 or 43
AP 3-D Art and Design3 or 43
AP Art History33 to 6
AP Art History46
AP Biology33 or 4
AP Biology44
AP Biology58
AP Calculus AB3 to 54
AP Calculus BC3 to 54
AP Calculus BC4 or 58
AP Calculus BC: AB Subscore3 to 54
AP Chemistry34
AP Chemistry44
AP Chemistry4 or 58
AP Chinese Language and Culture3 or 44
AP Chinese Language and Culture48
AP Comparative Government and Politics3 or 43
AP Computer Science A3 or 43
AP Computer Science Principles3 or 43
AP Drawing3 or 43
AP English Language and Composition3 or 43
AP English Language and Composition46
AP English Literature and Composition3 or 43
AP English Literature and Composition4 or 56
AP Environmental Science3 or 43
AP European History3 or 43
AP European History46
AP French Language and Culture3 or 44
AP French Language and Culture47
AP German Language and Culture3 or 44
AP German Language and Culture48
AP Human Geography3 or 43
AP Italian Language and Culture3 or 44
AP Italian Language and Culture47
AP Japanese Language and Culture3 or 44
AP Japanese Language and Culture48
AP Latin3 or 43
AP Macroeconomics3 or 43
AP Microeconomics3 or 43
AP Music Aural Subscore3 or 44
AP Music Non-Aural Subscore3 or 44
AP Music Theory3 or 43
AP Physics 13 to 54
AP Physics 23 or 44
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism3 to 54
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism4 or 55
AP Physics C: Mechanics3 to 54
AP Physics C: Mechanics4 or 55
AP Psychology3 or 43
AP Research3 or 43
AP Seminar33
AP Spanish Language and Culture34
AP Spanish Language and Culture47
AP Spanish Literature and Culture33
AP Spanish Literature and Culture46
AP Statistics33
AP United States Government and Politics33
AP United States History33
AP United States History46
AP World History: Modern33
AP World History: Modern56

Academic standards differ by school. As a result, an exam score of 3 will earn 3 or 4 credits at some schools with moderate standards. A score of 3 is roughly equivalent to a college grade of a C, C+ or B-. However, where academic standards are higher, a score of 3 might not earn any credit. At those schools, a score of 4 earns 3 or 4 credits, since it is equivalent to a letter grade of B, B+ or A-.

A score of 5, which is equivalent to a college-level A or A+, earns between 3 and 8 credits depending on the school and the class. MIT Advanced Placement credit policy, for example, requires a score of 5 on the AP Calculus exam to award any credits.

Credit: College Board

The minimum test score required depends on the academic standards of the school.

If a school does not offer classes in a subject, then it likely will not award college credits for passing the AP class and exam in that subject. For example, Cornell does not award credits for any AP Art classes and exams. Schools also may not award credits in areas it believes students would be better served by taking the courses it offers in the subject. MIT, for example, does not award Advanced Placement credits for As noted above, MIT does not accept AP credits for commonly taken Advanced Placement exams including Statistics, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Computer Science.

How Many AP Credits Do Colleges Typically Accept in Total?

Most schools accept all AP credits that can be used to fulfill general education requirements, electives and prerequisites.

Depending on the school, some limits might be in place.

Many colleges and universities cap the number of AP credits between 15 and 60. These numbers represent 1 to 4 semesters’ worth of courses. AP credits are typically used in place of 100 and 200 level courses, which are often taken during the first 4 semesters.

There are also restrictions by subject. At schools with academic standards that are higher than average, a limited number of AP classes and credits are accepted. 

Small universities, especially liberal arts schools, typically accept the greatest number of AP greatest with flexible requirements.

Large public universities also have flexible policies about accepting AP class credits. The goal is to encourage students to move through their programs more quickly, even graduating early.

Many schools also have departmental policies about the number of AP credits that can be applied toward graduation.

What Colleges Accept AP Credits?

Almost all colleges and universities accept AP credits, though each school or department within the university sets its own policies for credit by exam.

Here are schools in the US News top 50 rankings that accept AP credits. Policies vary widely regarding what type of credits are accepted and what exam scores are required to earn credits. 

Top 50 Colleges /Universities that Accpet AP Credits
Princeton University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yale University
Stanford University
University of Chicago
University of Pennsylvania
Johns Hopkins University
Northwestern University
Duke University
Dartmouth College
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis
Rice University
Cornell University
University of Notre Dame
Columbia University
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Berkeley
Georgetown University
Emory University
Carnegie Mellon University
University of Virginia
University of Southern California
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
New York University
Wake Forest University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Florida
University of California, Santa Barbara
Tufts University
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Irvine
University of Rochester
Boston College
University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Texas at Austin
University of California, Davis
William & Mary
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Boston University
Tulane University
Northeastern University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Case Western Reserve University
Brandeis University
University of Georgia
The Ohio State University

While most schools accept Advanced Placement credits, some highly selective colleges and universities do not accept AP exam credits.

The College Board AP program participation data 2021 showed that 3,024 colleges accept AP credits, which is down from a high of 4,361 in the 2018-2019 school year. This decline in numbers was due to COVID, which led to AP exam testing online rather than in person with a proctor present. This produced concerns about the ability to provide fair and reliable testing free from cheating. Andrew Ho, expert in educational testing reliability at Harvard said during the pandemic,“”None of us would say that we are confident that a 3 or 4 or 5 on the AP exam this year means the exact same thing as a 3, 4 and 5 on the exam last year [before COVID].”

As a result, many schools paused the acceptance of credits by exam. While a new count is not yet available, in 2024, it is likely that more than 4,000 schools are accepting AP credit.

What Colleges Don’t Accept AP Credits?

Colleges that do not accept AP credits include Harvard, Brown, the California Institute of Technology aka Caltech, Amherst, and Harvey Mudd.

While the schools don’t grant credit for AP exam scores, some use these scores for class placement purposes. Most of these schools are similar to Brown. The Brown University Advanced Placement exams policy states, “Advanced Placement exam scores are not eligible for course credit at Brown, but students may use certain AP scores for placement to enroll in higher-level courses and/or to satisfy concentration requirements.”

The primary reason that some schools do not accept AP credits is that they do not consider AP classes to be up to their academic standards. In their view, doing well in an Advanced Placement class does not demonstrate that the student will also do well in equivalent classes at the school.

Schools like MIT and Dartmouth historically have not accepted AP credits but now do.

Do Med Schools Accept AP Credit as Pre-med Requirements?

Whether med schools accept AP credits credits as pre-med requirements varies by school.

Many medical schools, including the University of Michigan Medical School and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, accept AP credit for pre-med requirements when the applicant’s undergraduate school acceptsaccepted them. Others, like Stanford School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, require all pre-med prerequisites to be completed at the undergraduate school rather than by exam.

However, when evaluating an applicant, med schools prefer college coursework over AP exam credits because the view is that college-level classes provide a deeper base of knowledge and scientific concepts than AP classes.

How Do AP Credits Help You Graduate Faster?

AP credits allow you to gain college credits before starting college that can be applied to graduation requirements, and this reduces the number of credits you must earn while in college.

Keep in mind that each college and university has its own standards for the score that must be earned on an AP exam in order for credit to be awarded, though the score needed is typically 3 or higher out of 5.

Earning AP credits can shorten how long it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree, which is typically 4-6 years.

Advanced Placement credits can also reduce the time it takes to earn an associate degree, which is typically 2 years.

How Do AP Credits Help You Save On the Cost of College?

Earning AP credits helps you save on college costs because it means that you have to take fewer classes and be in school for fewer semesters to earn a degree.

Being in college for fewer semesters reduces tuition and also the indirect cost of attendance (COA) including room, board and transportation.

Needing fewer college credits to graduate gives you the opportunity to take fewer classes each semester and still graduate on time. With fewer classes, you have time for a part-time job to help offset college expenses.

Do AP Credits Count Towards College GPA?

No, AP credits do not affect your college GPA.

This is because AP classes and exams are administered by the College Board, not by the college or university. While the material is supposed to reflect college course expectations, the exams and credits are not a perfect reflection of the student’s abilities.

Colleges only consider your performance in your college courses for your grade point average.

Instead, AP credits are accepted by most schools for fulfilling graduation requirements.

What are Statewide AP Credit Policies?

Statewide AP Credit Policies are uniform policies adopted by states that apply to all public higher education institutions within the state.

The College Board reported that, “As of fall 2023, 35 states have implemented statewide or systemwide AP credit policies, which typically require all public higher education institutions to award credit for AP Exam scores of 3 or higher.” The other 15 states have not adopted statewide AP credit policies. 

Specific requirement policies are up to each state’s state board of education to develop and adopt. 

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