Why Are AP Tests So Expensive?

By Alana Shields

November 16, 2023

In 2022, almost 1.2 million students took more than 4 million AP tests. In 2023, 420,000 students signed up and paid in order to take an AP exam. To take the AP test this year in May of 2024, parents in the US are having to pay $98 for their kid to take a rigorous test. Outside of the US, parents have to pay $128, and the fee only goes up more after the first deadline and rises a couple dollars every year. 

What is the AP test? The AP test is a test taken by students in Advanced Placement classes from AP World History to AP Art. Participants gear up for the test with 8 months of learning under their belt and study for the 2 sections of the test, multiple choice and free response.

How are these tests graded? AP tests are graded through the 1-5 system. 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest score possible. Some colleges look for certain scores. In California, Stanford University is looking for a 4-5, whereas Cal Poly SLO accepts people with a grade of 3 or higher. For juniors and seniors in high school, only 14.5% of students get 5’s on their AP tests each year. But there still are plenty of colleges that accept 1-2 as well. Taking the AP test for sure helps the admission officers see your academic dedication but no score changes each college's decision in any way.

This test seems important right? So why is it so expensive to take? Where does all of this money go? 

There is a way to qualify for a fee reduction. Due to the fees being a lump sum of money it’s understandable for some families needing a bit of help to pay for an AP test. But not all families are granted this wish. Although students who get free breakfasts and lunches through CEP, Community Eligibility Provision, are able to get a $36 fee reduction from the existing amount, the College Board still decides if each individual student is eligible for that reduction. 

Through the community I have heard many opinions on the price of this AP test. I asked a parent what her feelings were, “As for the price, I don't agree that families should have to pay for the test. I feel like it should be funded by the state and therefore covered by the district,” they said. So why aren't AP tests state-funded? Where are these $98 going?

College Board, a non-profit organization led and managed by their elected Board of Trustees manages and oversees the AP exam process. Why do they need this money? No article states the exact place that these families' money are going to but according to Quora (an unreliable source), the money from the fees go to experts in order to write the test questions, to pay test administrators, to pay teachers in order to grade, and to be able to print all papers that are needed. 

Overall, AP tests are challenging and an inconvenience to pay for, but they are still a great opportunity and it’s a smart choice to take the test. Taking the AP tests helps students to get into great colleges no matter the score. Just seeing that you took an AP course and the test to finish helps colleges better decide on accepting you into their school.