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AP Score Distributions

Taking an AP class and scoring well on its exam is a great way to set yourself up for future success. 

When you earn a good score on an AP exam, it not only qualifies you for college credit at many colleges and universities, but it also demonstrates that you have the knowledge, study skills, and work ethic that it takes to master a particular course or subject.

If you’re taking an AP course and preparing for an AP exam, you might be wondering what exactly constitutes a “good” score on an AP exam. Is it possible for you to still impress college admissions officers even if you don’t get a perfect five on each of your exams?

When it comes to determining whether or not your score on an AP exam is good enough, it is important to consider one key factor: how your performance compares to that of other students. 

Just like your SAT or ACT scores, your GPA, and any other information you submit with your college applications, your individual performance on the AP exam is not as important as how it ranks in comparison to others. 

For instance, if you get a three on an AP exam and the average student scores a five, your score won’t be considered up to par. However, if you score a three and the average student scores a two, you will now be considered above average and your score will make you competitive.

It’s important to remember that each AP exam is different, and some exams have higher passing rates than others. 

The best way to see which exams are the toughest and what scores you will need to earn on the exams you are taking to remain competitive is to look at AP score distributions.

What are AP score distributions?

AP score distributions help you see the percentage of students who score in each point range for each specific AP exam. This will help you recognize your percentile score when you take the test so that you can see where you stack up in relation to other students who took the same test.

Score distributions change each year based on the scores students receive on each AP exam.

2021 AP score distributions

Below are the AP score distributions for 2021 according to data collected by the College Board. These score distributions represent the percentage of students who earned a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 on each AP exam.

AP Capstone Exams54321
AP Research13.7%25.4%42.4%14.2%4.3%
AP Seminar11.1%19.5%54.5%10.7%4.3%
AP Art Exams54321
AP 2-D Art and Design10.2%34.7%42.3%12.5%0.4%
AP 3-D Art and Design6.5%28.6%36.3%24.9%3.7%
AP Art History12.0%19.6%23.8%30.1%14.6%
AP Drawing14.2%37.7%34.3%12.4%1.4%
AP Music Theory19.9%18.1%23.2%23.2%15.6%
AP English Exams54321
AP English Language and Composition9.1%22.9%25.8%29.3%12.9%
AP English Literature and Composition4.9%12.0%26.9%37.3%18.8%
AP History and Social Science Exams54321
AP Comparative Government and Politics16.6%24.5%30.7%14.9%13.3%
AP European History10.6%19.4%24.7%32.5%12.9%
AP Human Geography14.4%19.7%18.3%15.1%32.4%
AP Macroeconomics18.0%19.6%13.7%15.7%32.9%
AP Microeconomics18.5%24.0%16.6%17.0%23.9%
AP Psychology14.1%21.2%18.0%15.2%31.5%
AP United States Government and Politics12.0%11.6%26.9%25.8%23.8%
AP United States History10.1%15.9%21.2%21.6%31.2%
AP World History9.7%18.5%24.0%28.9%19.0%
AP Math and Computer Science Exams54321
AP Calculus AB17.6%14.1%19.3%25.3%23.7%
AP Calculus BC38.3%16.5%20.4%18.2%6.6%
AP Computer Science A23.9%21.9%19.3%12.1%22.8%
AP Computer Science Principles12.4%21.7%32.5%19.9%13.6%
AP Statistics16.2%19.9%21.8%17.2%24.9%
AP Science Exams54321
AP Biology7.4%19.4%32.4%30.0%10.8%
AP Chemistry11.2%16.4%23.7%24.7%23.9%
AP Environmental Science7.0%24.9%18.5%27.6%22.1%
AP Physics 16.9%16.3%18.9%26.4%31.4%
AP Physics 215.4%17.9%32.0%27.0%7.6%
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism32.6%23.1%13.8%18.0%12.5%
AP Physics C: Mechanics23.5%28.6%21.3%14.9%11.6%
AP World Language and Cultures Exams54321
AP Chinese Language and Culture57.2%15.5%15.5%4.6%7.1%
AP French Language and Culture12.6%23.3%35.4%22.2%6.5%
AP German Language and Culture18.0%19.5%27.6%23.5%11.4%
AP Italian Language and Culture20.6%22.6%29.2%18.6%9.0%
AP Japanese Language and Culture47.5%9.2%17.6%7.9%17.7%
AP Latin10.0%16.9%29.9%25.3%17.9%
AP Spanish Language and Culture17.3%29.7%33.0%16.5%3.5%
AP Spanish Literature and Culture7.8%20.8%36.3%25.5%9.6%

Tests with the lowest percentage of perfect scores:

As you can see, some of the exams that are hardest to get a perfect score on are the:

  • AP Spanish Literature and Culture Exam
  • AP Latin Exam
  • AP Physics 1 Exam
  • AP Biology Exam
  • AP English Literature and Composition Exam
  • AP Environmental Science Exam
  • AP World History Exam
  • AP 3-D Art and Design Exam. 

For each of these exams, 10% or fewer of students who took this exam in 2021 earned a five. This means that if you earned a five on one of these exams, you are in the top percentile. 

Tests with the lowest passing rates

The tests with the lowest passing rates overall (below a three) are the:

  • AP Latin Exam
  • AP Physics 1 Exam
  • AP Chemistry Exam
  • AP Biology Exam
  • AP European History Exam
  • AP English Literature and Composition Exam
  • AP Psychology Exam
  • AP Macroeconomics Exam
  • AP Human Geography Exam
  • AP Statistics Exam
  • AP United States History Exam
  • AP United States Government and Politics Exam

This means that if you score a three or above on one of these exams, you have earned a “good” score, even if it is not a perfect five.

Tests with the highest passing rates

The tests with the highest passing rates (three or above) are the:

  • AP Chinese Language and Culture Exam
  • AP Calculus BC Exam
  • AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam
  • AP Drawing Exam
  • AP Research Exam
  • AP Seminar Exam
  • AP 2-D Art and Design Exam
  • AP 3-D Art and Design Exam

If you take one of these tests, you will need to score a four or a five in order to have a chance of standing out among other students.

Next steps

If you need help preparing for your upcoming AP exams so that you can earn a good score, sign up for private tutoring through Prep Expert.

Prep Expert only hires expert instructors who scored highly on their own AP exams so that you know they have the experience and expertise to help you master yours.

Enroll in private tutoring today when you visit our website.

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