So You Failed Your AP Test – Now What?

The advanced placement exams have just wrapped up for many high schoolers across the country, and while some students have all scores that they're happy with, many others do not. A common question from students and their parents is what to do if they've failed their AP test. Here, we'll talk about your options depending on age and grade on the test. This post will be discussing students using the AP tests as a means to earn college credit after high school. You can still earn yourself credit even after a failed AP exam - our online AP tutors are here to help.

For Juniors and Younger: Take the Test Again Next Year.

If you aren't a senior and just failed your test, it actually isn't nearly as bad as you think. Since you'll still be in high school next year, you can take the AP test again. AP tests are only offered to high school students and are only administered once per year, so scheduling is the most difficult hurdle for students trying to retake exams. However, if you take some steps to prepare, you can still turn your failing grade into one that earns you credit.

I Got a "1"

Scoring a one on the exam is the lowest score you can receive. However, it does not have to mean that you are terrible at the subject. If you took an AP class for an entire year, chances are you picked up on a lot of information and knowledge in that subject. However, you weren't able to show enough on the test. This could be for many reasons: your teacher didn't tailor the class to the tests enough, you never took practice tests and weren't ready for the AP questions and pacing, you didn't study enough or correctly before the exam, or maybe you had a lot happening at the same time (finals, sports, other AP tests, performances) that tend to stack up at this time of year and exhaust you mentally. Whatever the case, a 1 can still be turned into a positive score.

If you received a one, you almost certainly need to study over the summer. During the summer you have a decreased workload and can dedicate more time to specific work. The course is also fresher during the summer. Invest in some official, College Board study materials and practice tests. Work on these yourself over the summer or with an experienced tutor who can evaluate your progress. Once you are getting at least a three or four on the practice tests you can relax, then review the material again at least five weeks before the test again next year.

I Got a "2"

A two means you were able to show some knowledge of the subject, but just not enough to get you a recommendation for credit. While a one usually requires intense, corrective summer studying, a two doesn't need quite as much. You need to take practice tests during the summer until you achieve the score you want. It is not uncommon to get a 3 on a practice test right after getting a 2 (despite no extra studying). This is because the experience of taking the test is the most valuable practice you can get: you see the types of questions, get used to how much time you have, and see the material that is covered. Once you have the score you want on a practice test, relax and wait until the test gets closer to review the material. You should start studying/reviewing at least five weeks before the test next year, but you don't need to keep your studying up year-round.

I Got a "3"

While a three is a passing score for many, some colleges only award credit for 4's and 5's for some tests. If you got a three and needed a four you just need to fine-tune your studying to improve your score. For a "3" I find that summer studying is not usually necessary. The test you're retaking is an entire year away, and you don't need to learn or relearn a ton of material if you already scored a 3. Intensive summer work might be a waste since you'll likely forget a lot of it by the time next spring rolls around. Instead, maybe take one practice test and have practice tests and review material for yourself in the future. Sign up for the test next year, and start your intensive review and practice tests at least five weeks before your test date (preferably two or three months before so you aren't cramming as aggressively).

For Seniors:

You don't have the option to re-take the AP exam since it is only offered for high school students. However, you can still look to try to earn some credit for your hard work if you feel you knew the material.

CLEP Exams

If you are going to a community college, or a school that accepts community college or CLEP credits, check your school's CLEP policy. The CLEP exams are like AP exams except anyone can take them and at any time of the year. They tend to be less difficult and scored more leniently than the AP tests. Because of this, many colleges, unfortunately, don't accept them. However, if yours does, you should definitely look into taking them. They are also administered by CollegeBoard, so make sure you are finding official material to practice. Consider looking into an experienced CLEP tutor who might help you earn even more credit than you expected.

Testing Out of Classes

Some colleges will allow you to test out of certain subjects or classes. Sometimes, they grant you the credit for the class. Other times they simply waive it for you as a prerequisite (like if you need Statistics 101 before you take Statistics 102, but you tested out of 101, you can jump straight to 102 and save time). You might be required to take a final, or a different specific test. Look to see your school's policy – testing out isn't very common in four-year colleges anymore, but you should still be checking if it's a possibility you can take advantage of. Ask an advisor or a professor for the class you're trying to test out of what they recommend in terms of studying and preparation.

Just Boost Your GPA

There is a good chance that you won't be able to get credit for your hard AP class work if you are a senior and failed your exam. Many schools don't take CLEP exams, and chances are you won't be able to test out of a class. Instead, look at this as an opportunity to boost your college GPA. AP credits rarely contribute to your GPA, they're simply credits with no letter grade associated to them. However, if you didn't earn AP credits you can still use your knowledge learned to ace the related college class and earn an ‘A.' Just don't slack off during the class – real college classes are very teacher and curriculum dependent. You have a head start with your AP knowledge, but don't get overconfident and fail to earn your best grade.


Failing your AP test is not the end of the world. The tests are standardized, which means they are curved in a way that requires a significant portion of test-takers to earn 1's and 2's. Remember that your goal is to earn college credit to save money and make your college experience smoother and more successful. You can do this by proving your knowledge and retaking the test next year, or by taking advantage of other ways to earn college credit with your knowledge. If all else fails, take that class again in college and earn yourself an ‘A' to prove that your hard work did pay off – regardless of what some AP score might say.

Sign up for your online San Diego AP tutoring today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.