Score Setting and Scoring

How do we decide which score a student response merits? Find out here.

AP Exam scores are a weighted combination of student scores on the multiple-choice and free-response sections. The final score is on a five-point scale.

Setting AP Exam Scores

We use the following steps to define the knowledge and skills required to earn scores of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 on an AP Exam.

  1. Develop ALDs. First, committees of college faculty who teach the comparable college course develop detailed descriptions of the performance required to earn each score—these are called achievement-level descriptions (ALDs).
  2. Conduct standard-setting studies. During a standard-setting study, a panel of 15 college faculty and teachers reviews the ALDs and determines how many questions a student would need to answer correctly at each ALD. These raw scores become the cut scores for each AP Exam score.
  3. Conduct college comparability studies. The same committees administer portions of an AP Exam to students in their related college course. Student AP scores are correlated to their final course grades. The results of both studies establish the standards and inform the cut scores for the relevant AP Exam.

These processes ensure that AP Exam outcomes align with college faculty expectations. While colleges and universities are responsible for setting their own credit and placement policies, AP scores signify how qualified students are to receive college credit or placement:

AP Exam Score


College Course Grade Equivalent


Extremely well qualified

A+ or A


Very well qualified

A-, B+, or B



B-, C+, or C


Possibly qualified



No recommendation


How AP Exams Are Scored

The multiple-choice sections of AP Exams are scored by computer. The free-response sections and through-course performance assessments, as applicable, are scored by AP teachers and college faculty who have experience teaching corresponding college courses. Most are scored at the annual AP Reading, while a small portion are scored online. Approximately half of the readers are college faculty. Readers are selected to ensure an appropriate balance in gender, race, ethnicity, school locale and setting, years of teaching experience, and other factors.

The chief reader for each exam develops scoring rubrics for free-response questions, oversees day-to-day scoring activities, and selects readers and Reading leadership. Chief readers are always college or university faculty members.

Readers undergo a rigorous training to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the scoring rubrics. Their work is monitored throughout the Reading for fairness and consistency.