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I Bombed My AP Exam, What’s Next?

Question: I bombed one of my AP exams. What do I do now? 

Brief: There are several options for students who receive a 1 or 2 on their AP exams; students are advised to carefully weigh their options before making any permanent decisions. The most important thing is that students figure out what went wrong this time around and prevent the low score from damaging their college applications, if possible – this is why it’s important to hire an Irvine AP test prep tutor early in the semester.



First, it’s important to know that you are not alone in this situation. Many students, especially those taking an AP for the first time, will fail to score the 3 needed to receive college credit. It’s important for AP students to go through the following checklist and make the best of a bad situation.

1. Speak with your classroom teacher

If you failed to score a 3 or higher on AP exams, speak to your classroom teacher ASAP. It’s important to find out if you will still receive classroom credit even if you failed the AP exam. Each school district is a little bit different, thus students should not make any assumptions. Some students will still receive an English, Math, or History credit on their transcripts while others may not. If you have to take a makeup course over the summer, you should find out now (READ: “5 Reasons to take a Practice Test Before Taking the AP Exam”).

2. Speak with your college counselor

Assuming that you can receive classroom credit for your AP course, you will want to determine what happens as far as college applications are concerned. The colleges you apply to will see that you took, for example, AP US History but that you didn’t send in your test scores. This can put you in a bad position so it’s essential to talk to your college counselor about your options based on the specific colleges you wish to apply to.

3. Hire a private tutor

The reality of AP courses is that they are college level classes taken in high school. The majority of students taking AP are likely to have an Orange County private test prep tutor help them prepare for their exams because solitary study is generally not enough. If you received a 1 or 2 on this year’s exam, speak to a tutor and figure out if you will be capable of scoring at least a 3 next year before you commit to another year of AP courses that you may not get credit for.

4.  Look over your summary score report

It’s important for students who scored low on their AP exams to review their summary score report and see what the issue was. Students who scored low on the multiple choice sections should work on test prep techniques, such as process of elimination, whereas students who scored poorly on their DBQ or synthesis essays (depending on the subject) will need to work with a tutor to improve their writing skills before next year.

5. Spin it

Students who are in their junior or senior year will have a difficult time spinning this situation, however, freshmen and sophomores may be able to include supplementary material with their college applications explaining that, although they scored low on that particular exam, they did make the effort to be in an AP class and scored higher on later exams. If a sophomore scored a 1 or 2 on AP US History but then scored a 4 or 5 on AP World History the following year, it’s a good demonstration of self-improvement and academic maturity (READ: “AP Exams and the DBQ: How to Improve”).

It’s important for students to know that failing one AP exam is not the end of their potential college career. However, it’s paramount that students learn from their initial setbacks and improve in the future. If they got a 1 or 2 this time around, it’s even more important that they get a 5 next year.

6. Consider if AP classes are right for you

If a student signed up for AP Calculus but was struggling to get a B in Algebra, it probably wasn’t the right AP class to take. It’s essential to learn from this and make sure to only take AP classes in a subject you know, enjoy, and are willing to dedicate an extended amount of time to. If you scored a 1 on multiple AP exams, it might be time to think about switching into Honors classes (assuming your AP classroom grades are high), or into a regular high school class where you can receive both credit and a good GPA.

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