The cost of knowledge for college


Photo by Hannah Etienne

Students use textbooks and test prep books to prepare for the AP tests. Most colleges will only accept a 4 or a 5 on an AP test to give college credit.

AP level classes are often associated with hard-working, busy students spending hours on guided reading packets and targets. And what’s it all for? To take a test that can potentially waive students from a class in college.

To many students, the extra work of an AP class is a fair price to pay for college credits. But what about the monetary price of an AP class? AP tests are $94, with AP Capstone Exams (AP Seminar and Research) costing $142 per test, according to

For a senior like Zach Richards, who has taken nine AP classes (and tests) over the course of his four years of high school, this adds up to almost $900 spent on tests. Richards’s parents could also have to pay similar prices for his two younger siblings if they also choose to take multiple AP classes.

However, Richards said it’s worth it to take the one test because “that’s kind of the whole point of the course, and even if I don’t get college credit for it, it’s worth a try to get a little college credit, because it’s a lot more expensive to retake those courses in college.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the tests are no doubt expensive to create and grade. Tests must be developed with unambiguous questions with a fair grading rubric, and graders have to be consistent in grading proofs and essays. But there’s one change that was made this year that provokes a question on how much the College Board is in it for the money.

“The way they changed the registration this year, to being in October instead of March, they’re definitely just trying to get more money. Because last year, seniors could choose which tests they were going to take based on where they were going to college, but in October when we committed to the test nobody knew where they were going to school. So you kind of had to pay the money even if you commit somewhere later this year [where] you’re not going to get credit anyway,” Richards said.

This change was unnecessary, and although the College Board states that it was made to increase student success on the exams, it’s hard to believe that money wasn’t somehow involved. But however financially-driven the early registration decision was, the AP exams themselves aren’t overpriced. They are worth the money considering the hundreds of dollars they can save students in college tuition. It’s better to get those credits out of the way to have more space for classes that are crucial for a specific degree.