What Happens If You Don’t Take the AP Exam?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Are you an AP student grappling with the idea of not taking your advanced placement exam? Is something stopping you from taking the AP exam, and do you want to know your options? If either of these questions can be answered with a yes, you have come to the right place.

Taking the AP exam may offer significant benefits based on your field of study and what you are looking to achieve. The exam is often taken after taking an Advanced Placement course though the course is not mandatory. However, there are some courses where the product of the course will be the portfolio created for the exam, like, AP Art.

We will answer some of the most important questions you may have to help you know what may be coming if you decide not to take the exam. All you have to do to find the answers you need is keep reading.

How Important is the AP Exam?How Important is the AP Exam?

Let’s be honest; The AP exam will not make or break your life. However, it will give you the jumpstart you need in college if college credits are granted. Your AP exams are an investment in your future. They require time, commitment, and funding to pass. It will be vital to you if you are serious about receiving college credits and using the course to your advantage. However, it is not something that will likely be important for all students, even all students taking Advanced Placement courses.

Is it Necessary for Students to Take the AP Exam?

Is it Necessary for Students to Take the AP Exam?

Generally, students don’t need to take the AP exam if they do not want to. Ironically, if you think you are alone, you are not. Several students do not want to take the exam even though they have taken an advanced placement course. However, you may need to check your course syllabus to determine if taking the AP exam is mandatory for the course or as determined by your school.

What are the Pros and Cons of Taking an AP Exam?

What are the Pros and Cons of Taking an AP Exam?

There are several pros and cons to taking the AP exam. One of the biggest benefits students can receive from taking the exam is the college credit they receive. Let us start by exploring some of the essential benefits students can experience.

Students also receive experience taking college courses. They can get a taste of what courses will be like and adapt before they get to school. AP courses are generally harder than regular courses. However, they force students to get into the mindset of college.

These classes are not at all for everyone. Students must have the discipline and dedication needed to survive and do well. Use the list below to understand the pros and cons that will help you in the future.

Pros of Taking the AP Exam

Several upsides come with taking the AP Course and ultimately taking the AP exam. These two items in tandem have the power to change your educational trajectory if you allow them to. Check out this list of potentially positive things if you decide to take the course.

College Credit

One of the main benefits of taking and doing well on the AP exam is being awarded college credit. If you are lucky enough to attend a school that accepts your scores, take advantage of it. Earning college credits may allow you to get a jumpstart on your first-year courses. However, be mindful of each college’s rules surrounding AP courses.

Fulfilling Prerequisites & Course Placement

In addition to college credit, students can also use AP courses to fulfill course prerequisites. This would allow them to start in 2nd-semester freshman or even sophomore level courses giving them a jumpstart on their curriculum.

Some schools, though they do not award college credits, may utilize the AP exams as placement exams. This helps them to determine which courses a student is eligible for based on their score or other standards, as determined by the university.

Introduction to College level teaching

AP Courses give students an introductory into what college courses may be like. For some students, an AP course may be like drinking from a fire hose. This course and exam may be a great way to ease students into “college life” and get them acclimated to what to expect. These courses are generally harder, and taking these courses shows colleges that you are prepared for a challenge.

Cons of Taking the AP Exam

Several cons can be associated with taking the AP exam. The list below provides potential pitfalls to taking the exam, which should be explored before you commit.

Acceptance & Scoring for College Credit

One of the most significant benefits of taking an AP course is the college credits that students will receive. However, contrary to some misconceptions, students will not simply be awarded credit for taking the exam or the course. This is especially important to remember as some children will not even have the course as an option to take. The thresholds needed to obtain college-level credit will vary by your institution.

Before committing to an AP course or even sitting for the exam, it is crucial that you know what options are available to you at the university you are looking to attend. Even some of the top universities in the country do not allow students to receive college credit. These schools include the following:

  • Amherst College
  • Brown University
  • Williams College
  • Cal Tech

However, many schools are getting away from simply awarding traditional credits to students. Instead, some schools opt to use AP exams for placement rather than credit. If you are unsure about what school you will end up at, it may be beneficial to take the course. However, if you are dead set on your school and know they do not accept the exam, taking the exam will not be something as crucial for you.

Schools will also have a max on the number of credits you can receive. Therefore, if you plan on stacking your AP courses, ensure they do not exceed the max number of credits that you can earn from your top choice schools. However, depending on the number, some schools, though not able to award credit, will use your AP courses to fulfill prerequisites.


If you are passionate about things and foresee multiple AP exams in your future, you should prepare your wallet now. Much like college, you can not think that anything supplying your coveted college credits will be cheap. Though not the cost of a semester at Harvard, the costs for the exams can begin to add up fairly quickly. However, taking the exam doesn’t simply mean paying for the test, there is much more to it.

To ensure you pass your exam, students will need resources to help them do well.   This will include not just the cost of the exam but also preparation books, courses, or any other required material. If you take multiple AP courses, this amount will only get greater. Taking each exam comes at the cost of $97. That is a $1 increase from the previous school year. Schools outside of the United States and Canada will pay a bit higher. They will pay a cost of $127. However, it’s important to remember that fees can vary outside of the United States. These fees will be even higher if you take an AP Capstone exam.

In addition to these fees, students may incur others if they are not diligent in their scheduling. Late fees will be charged an additional $40 in addition to the original exam fee. If you are wondering are late AP exams harder, the answer is no. Academically, they are not more challenging than the initial exam. However, your wallet will take the hit. Students will just receive a different set of questions.

An additional fee will also be incurred if you cancel your seat for the exam after a specific date. There are options that your school can explore or that you can explore via the College Board’s website for some financial relief if needed. You may even be able to find state and federal-level funding.

Heavier Course load

A heavy course load may not be the best option for juniors or seniors. Generally, when taking an AP course, you must also consider what your course load will look like in the future. In addition to this, you must think about your extracurriculars and even if you have a job. These are things that will weigh heavy on you when you begin working.

You will also need to take into consideration what course you want to take. If you are taking an easier AP course, it may be easier to juggle multiples. These courses are said to be the easiest, including AP Psychology and AP Environmental Science. If you are taking some more demanding courses like AP Chemistry, which is one of the hardest, or AP Biology, you may want to be more critical when weighing your options.

Can You Take the AP Exam Without Taking an AP Course?

Can You Take the AP Exam Without Taking an AP Course?

You may be wondering if you can sit for an exam without going through the hassle of taking the AP course. The short answer to this question is yes. To take the AP exam, you do not need to take the corresponding AP course though it is highly recommended that you do.

The course can provide you with a level of learning that you will not be able to accomplish alone. When taking the exam on your own, you will be forced to do supplemental preparation and paid for outside tutoring services as needed.

What Happens If You Don't Take the AP Exam?

What Happens If You Don’t Take the AP Exam?

Is it bad not to take the AP exam? In short, no it is not. Not taking or even failing the AP exam has no bearing on your high school class grade or even your ability to go to college. Though failing the exam may mean you miss out on the college credit you thought you would be getting, it does not affect your admissions decision. However, your intended schedule may change.

If you have registered for the exam and choose not to take it, you will be charged a fee, as determined by the College Board. If you have an emergency and cannot make your test date, you may be able to reschedule. Yet, it is essential that you let the testing agency know as soon as you are aware of the emergency. Some time conflicts may be unavoidable, especially if you are taking multiple AP exams at once.

However, do not worry; it is not the world’s end. Life will continue, and you will likely get through your college tenure without a hiccup.

Should You Take AP Exams?

Should You Take AP Exams?

Taking the AP exam is not something to be taken lightly. It is a personal decision that only you can make. No matter how much others pressure you, do not take the course for the sake of having a class with a friend or even listening to parents. You should be heavily prepared to put in the work which is needed for each course. This may include sleepless nights or even missing social events.

Taking the AP exam comes with many benefits if you choose the right university. If you are ready to take on the challenge, go for it! However, if you are skeptical, it may be best to reconsider or weigh your options.

Wrapping Things Up: What Happens If You Don’t Take the AP Exam?

So, what happens if you don’t take the AP exam? To be honest, nothing. No one will be wagging their finger, chastising you for your decision. No one will ridicule you for not taking on the extra workload. The decision is entirely yours. There are several pros and cons to taking the exam. Some reasons may be more obvious than others.  To start, taking the AP exam can be expensive, especially if you plan to take multiple exams in addition to being very time consuming. However, whatever you decide, make sure that it is a decision you can live with.

If you found value in this post, take your learning to the next level by exploring our comprehensive collection of AP Guides.

If you want to learn more AP-related topics, check out these articles.

> What You Need to Know Before Taking AP Classes?

> When Should You Start Taking AP Classes in High School?

> How to Study for AP Classes and Pass Them

> Do Ivy Leagues Accept AP Credit?

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More