Where a 5 Really Matters

Jenna Berk
February 29, 2024
min read
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The whole point of standardized tests is that they’re… standardized. A 5 on an AP test should mean the same thing regardless of which test it is. Well, not quite! Our AP Student Score Distributions chart shows which tests have more students scoring higher - but don’t think that makes those tests easy!

For example, take Calculus BC, which has a very high proportion of students scoring 5s - 41.2%, in fact. However, that doesn’t mean the test is easy (just ask me when I was in high school!). Twice as many students might get 5s in Calculus BC than in AB, but those students self-selected into this very difficult class and test, so they’re going to be more confident about their math skills and ready to crush it. Languages are another area where 5s proliferate because native speakers see their chance to shine - if you look at classes where students haven’t been immersed in the language since childhood, fewer than 20% of those non-native speakers are getting a 5.

Colleges also place more of an emphasis on classes that relate to your prospective major - if you get a 5 on AP Italian but you’re not applying for a major in Italian Language, the admissions committee may not be as interested in that score than in scores that relate to your preferred Engineering major (like the dreaded Calculus BC). So when your students are planning which classes to choose or which tests to study for, take a look at our score distribution chart to see how their peers are doing.

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