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Can you retake AP exams? A Comprehensive Guide

Apr 1, 2023

If you are a high schooler taking up your AP exam soon, you must know that the exam can be very challenging. As a result, you may not always get the score you imagined you would. Further, while an AP 3 score is considered a pass, it may not always benefit you as you wanted it to (for extra college credit and AP scholar awards). 

In such a case, the only thought that comes to one’s mind is to retake the AP exams. However, the real question here is – can you retake AP exams? And if you can, is it worth it? Also, what about your old AP score? If you are concerned about any of the above questions or more, we are here to help you out.  


Keep reading to find out all about AP exam retake and how you can bounce back from an AP score of 3 or less 3 to a higher score. 

AP Exam Retake – What’s The Purpose? 

Before we tell you why you may need to retake your AP exam, do you know what the benefit of taking the exam in the first place is? For those who are not aware, taking up AP classes can give you college class experience in high school, and once you take the exam for it, you get extra college credit. 


A high score can also get you scholarships and other benefits at some places. Also, you may qualify for the AP Scholar awards. Now, the problem is that a score that can be considered good for one college might not be the same for your dream school. Usually, AP scores are proof of your academic achievements against other applicants.  

And a lower score might not be good for you. Sure, APs are not compulsory to apply to college, but make sure you get the best in it if you are given one. If it is not the case, and you need a higher score to stay ahead of other applicants, it is a good idea to retake the test. So, the purpose of AP exam retake is to improve your score to stay ahead of the competition. 


What AP Score Do You Need to Earn College Credit? 

Any student who gets a score of 3, 4, or 5 in their AP exam is considered a passing score. A 3+ score proves that the applicant knows about the material at the college level. Typically, if you take the AP exam, you get course credit for it if you pass it. Further, some schools even allow such students to complete graduation early. 

Thus, taking up AP classes and exams accelerates tracks in your educational journey for you and even gives you access to further advanced courses. However, one thing you need to keep in mind here is that the minimum score needed for this is 3. Also, it depends on the school you are choosing. You can check its website to see its policy regarding APs. 


It is because not all schools follow the same policy when it comes to the AP score and granting credit for AP courses. There are numerous schools out there that do not grant credit for AP exams at all. So, what is the purpose of passing the exam with a 3+ score in such a case? Well, such colleges often consider AP scores to determine placement for their courses. 

So, Can You Retake AP Exams? 

Now, you know that a score of 3 or more is needed to be able to pass any AP exam. However, what if you are not able to pass it? What if you have a three on the exam and you need a high score of 5 to get into your desired college? In such a case, the major question remains – can you retake AP exams? Let us find out the answers to it. 


First of all, a straightforward answer to whether or not you can retake your AP exams is – Yes. You could retake the test if you were not able to perform well for the exam. Now, coming to when you can do so, the answer is simple, as well. Students can retake their AP exam next year in May. 

That being said, you need to take this decision of whether or not you should retake AP exams carefully. For instance, if you have a score of 3, a retake may not be necessary. However, if you are applying to the most selective colleges, you may need a higher score. And in this case, a retake is necessary.  


The same goes if you are keen on earning college credit. If these two are not your goals, a retake may not be needed. It is because the score ultimately has a minimal impact on admission chances in most colleges. If you go by the numbers given by the College Board FAQ, reports claim that more than 75 percent of admission officers believe that a low AP score does not harm your admission prospects. 

Many say that the grade you will earn via your year-long AP class is far more crucial than the AP exam score. Therefore, if you are retaking the exam for admissions purposes, do it after you are sure that it is a necessity for your dream college. Also, keep in mind that retaking the exam can be quite expensive. 


For anyone who wishes to do so, the AP exam retake will cost you an extra USD 94. Also, along with preparing for the exam, you need to focus on the full course over the year. This can be a big-time commitment for most students and should be taken if they think it is worth it in the end. Your school’s AP Counselor or AP Coordinator can help you with the decision. 

Also, they are the ones who will help you sign up for the retake through your school. The process is the same as that of the AP exam you took the previous year. The only difference is that the teacher will not help you on your own. You will have to track down the coordinator yourself. Also, you are the one who has to request them to make arrangements to retake the test this coming May. 

Conditions Under Which You Should Retake the AP Exam 

For all those who want to know how to cancel the AP exam if you get a low score, the process is pretty simple. However, regardless of whether you are canceling your score or not, retaking it is a completely different story. From everything discussed in the previous section, one thing is pretty clear. You must not retake your AP exam only if you did not like your score. 

It is not the correct reason, considering the re-test can be pretty expensive – $ 94 per AP exam you want to retake. Along with the cost, there are numerous other things you need to take care of. For instance, you will need all the prep materials along with countless hours of your time to go through it and prepare for the retake. 

In simple words, since AP exams are offered only once per year, retaking them means you have to commit to preparing for them for a whole school year. Therefore, if you are looking for the answer to – can you retake AP exams, we suggest you do so only if you are sure that with some extra effort, you can get enough college credit. 

Here are some of the reasons under which you can consider retaking the AP exam. Have a look: 

If, on the Day of the Exam, Circumstances Outside of your Control are the Reason for a Low Score 

You could retake the exam if there were some external circumstances involved due to which you got a low score. For instance, someone who gets an A in their class is a great candidate to retake the test. Then, if someone has chronic migraines, and that is the reason for their low score, which was otherwise good during practice, they should retake the test. 

Further, if you are someone who had an undiagnosed learning disorder when you took the test as a sophomore, you can take the test when you are a junior. When you do so, make sure to take care of all additional accommodations for the test day. 

If you were Underprepared and did not have Enough Time to Prepare for the Exam 

If you were somehow underprepared for the exam, it is a good idea to retake it in May. Let us say that you were self-studying for your AP exam using a prep book. After four months of self-studying, you find out that the prep material consisted of teachings that were not as per the latest AP format. When you found this out, you did not have enough time to prepare using the right material. 

If you belong to this category, you are, without a doubt, the best candidate to retake the exam the following year – with adequate preparation. Another case you can consider here is that you took up an AP class but never took it seriously. You attended the classes but never did any homework for the AP class.  

Then, gradually, you develop an interest in the subject and now want to pursue a related field in college. In such a case, if your love for interest is deep, and you can commit to studying for the AP exam for an entire year, retake the test. If you prepare well, there are chances that you may even end up getting a high score. 

There was a Mechanical Error on your Exam that Resulted in a low AP Score. 

What if you did well on the exam day but made a mechanical error regarding turning in your exam material? In such a case, it is a good idea to retake the AP exam next year. Let us say that you were pretty confident for your AP Biology exam. However, while turning in the exam material, you forgot to include the test booklet that had the free response answers. In this scenario, a retake can be done. 

On the other hand, consider that you are an AP Calculus BC student, and you are very good at it. You got straight A’s during the class the whole year. However, on the exam day, you forget your calculator, or for some reason, it is not working properly. Since without it, there is little chance of doing well in the paper, a retake for improvement the following year can be considered. 

Do Both AP Scores (The First Test and The Retest Scores) Show Up? 

When you get your AP score report, it includes each one of your AP scores. It means that it will have all the AP scores of the subject that has repeats too. Of course, you can either choose to withdraw a score or even cancel it. Before we tell you how to cancel the AP exam or withdraw your score, let us first clarify the difference between the two. 

When you cancel your AP exam, the score is permanently deleted. In simple words, it would appear as if you never even took the exam in the first place. Also, there is no fee needed to do so. On the other hand, withdrawing a score does not permanently delete it. Instead, on withdrawing the score, your score would not be seen by colleges. 

In the latter’s case, the score does remain on the record, and in case you wish to send it later to the college, you can do so. While for the cancellation, no fee is needed, this one costs $ 10 per score that you need to withhold from the college. As for how to cancel the Ap exam or withdraw your score, cancellation or withdrawal form is needed for them. 

Further, for filling either of the forms – Score Cancellation Form or Score Withholding Form, there is a deadline. Usually, this date is June 15. If you are unable to complete the formalities by this deadline, there is nothing you can do to hide or delete your score. Instead, all your AP scores will be sent to the colleges that you have named on your answer sheet. 

Which Score (Original Score / Retake Score) Counts for AP Scholar Awards? 

When it comes to the AP Scholar Awards, only the highest score counts. So, if you retake any of your AP exams and get a higher score than the previous one, it will count for AP scholar awards. However, if the previous score is high, it will count. It means that irrespective of your reattempt, you do not have to worry about qualifying for AP scholar awards. 

Further, while AP Scholar Awards can be important, taking AP exams still is beneficial to college admissions without them. Doing well in the exam can get you into numerous colleges, and you can also save money in college. Some colleges also allow early graduation with AP scores. Further, starting with the May 2021 Exam Administration, there will now be no distribution of AP scholar awards. 

How Do Colleges Look at AP Exam Retake? 

AP exams play a critical role in a student’s college application. However, you must note that when it comes to admissions, college admissions officers pay more focus on the overall consistency and achievement of a candidate’s academic profile. If your score is a little here and there, it will not make much difference in comparison to your overall score. 

While certain peaks and valleys in your scores can be overlooked, admissions officers can easily detect missing or incongruous data. For instance, if your AP Biology score is for a test date that comes after a full year after you took the course, they will know you retook the test and canceled or kept the old score from them. 

Similarly, if there are AP Biology scores, it clearly shows you retook the test. Therefore, when you fill in the information in your application, make sure to add an interesting story as to why you retook the exam, if possible. A simple way to add this information is by writing about it in an essay.  

Alternatively, you can add it in the “Additional Information” section or ask your recommenders to mention it in their letter. That being said, it is not compulsory to state the reason. For instance, if you think that telling your story might hurt more than help, do not mention anything. After all, if your overall academic performance is exceptional, the admissions officer may overlook the reason. 

How to Study for AP Exam Retake? Our Top 3 Tips 

Now that you know the answer to “can you retake AP exams,” and a lot more about it, you may have decided if you are retaking the test. In case you want to, we have come up with a few important tips that you need to be mindful of while preparing to retake your AP exam. The three tips mentioned below will help you assess your assets and weaknesses critically. 

Have a look at them, and study strategically for your AP exam retake: 

Analyze Your Previous Performance and Understand Where You Went Wrong. 

When you are retaking an AP exam, what is your primary goal? We are sure it is to score better by not repeating the mistakes you made during your first AP exam. The best way to avoid this is by analyzing your previous performance. Take a moment and ponder on why you did poorly on the exam. Jot down all the things you could have done to prevent it. 

Here are some of the Reasons you may Come Across: 

  • Some students wait too long to start studying for their AP exams. 
  • Then, some candidates rely on unofficial practice tests. (These can give you an impractical impression of the content of the test and its difficulty level.) 
  • Another reason is that many students only rely on their classes and refuse to take up any help. 
  • You may have missed out on a portion of the test due to poor time management. 

Apart from these, there may be several other reasons for your poor performance in the AP exams. Whatever these are, start with reflecting on them and finding a way to fix them for your retake. Then, depending on all the reasons, come up with a proper study plan. If required, you can even take up additional coaching. 

Get Study Material That Covers All the Vital Concepts. 

The next crucial thing is your study material. When you took your first exam, you got to prepare for it by studying the subject in class. Due to this, you had notes and study materials handy and readily available. It will not be the case with the retake. Here, there will be no class schedule or a teacher to guide you. 

Therefore, it is crucial to get proper study material along with a top-notch review book. This book should cover every concept in your AP course thoroughly. With its help, you can readily plan out your self-study time, have a super-easy way to study all the concepts of the course, and practice questions regularly. 

Do Not Wait Until the Last Minute to Study. Start Early! 

Lastly, unlike the last time, do not wait until the last minute to study and cram everything. This time around, begin early. Since AP courses require high-level critical thinking, it will give you enough time to prepare everything. 

Also, this way, by the end, you would not find yourself skimming through only the important parts and skipping others. Along with this, you will have plenty of time to take up practice tests so that you can analyze your preparation and see what areas still need improvement for the retake. 

Final Thoughts: Can You Retake AP Exams? 

So, the answer to your question – “can you retake AP exams,” is a clear YES. You can retake the exam when it happens again the following year. However, make sure to retake an AP exam only if it is important and you are sure about improving your score. Once you retake the test, you can also choose to withhold or cancel your lower score. This way, it will not show up on your record for college application.

can you retake ap exams


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