Does taking harder APs in the early years of high school by self studying make any difference?
– Mridul, a student in New Delhi, India
It can. Typically, anyone who signs up and pays can take AP tests, even if you haven’t taken the corresponding AP course at school.
From the College Board website as of June 2019:
“We recommend taking the AP course before taking an AP Exam—but it’s not required. We want to be sure homeschooled students and students in schools that don’t offer AP can take AP Exams.”
As a high schooler, I took an AP exam without taking the course. I got a 5, submitted those scores to Northwestern, and got college credit for it.
Because of this, taking an AP exam in early high school can make a difference in 4 ways.
1. You can graduate from college earlier.
Depending on the college, you can get college credit toward graduation with AP scores of 3, 4, or 5. Sometimes even a 2. Fulfill those requirements by earning AP credit as a high schooler who scores between 3-5 on the AP exam and save money on college tuition.
2. You can take more advanced classes earlier in college.
Some colleges won’t allow you to replace college-level courses even with perfect AP scores. But they’ll let you take more advanced classes in lieu of those introductory classes. For example, if you get a 5 on AP Chem, you may still need to take a chem class at that college, but can take an advanced chem instead of an intro chem.