AP tests give little bang for the buck

College testing is a business that’s crescendoed to a billion-dollar industry, of which AP tests play a crucial role for both the conscientious student and the revenue-conscious CollegeBoard official. Considering that most college counselors advise students to take multiple AP tests, odds are that many families end up paying hundreds of dollars for their students to embark on the AP adventure. But with recent changes to the testing timeline comes a plethora of issues for students looking to prioritize financial responsibility.

Problem 1: The registration deadline for AP tests is too early in the school year.

Most students take AP tests in hopes that they’ll receive college credit(s) for the material they’ve learned over the course of the year. But just taking the tests isn’t enough; most colleges require scores of four or higher to qualify for course waivers or exemptions. Subsequently, for students to make a well-informed decision on if they should take a test, they must first ponder if they’ll do well in the class.

But with a registration date set on Sept. 20, students have a hard time predicting how the next seven months will go. From an optimistic point of view, they might choose to sign up despite the high level of uncertainty about the payoff. On the other hand, the late registration fee might act as a powerful deterrent from holding off to sign up for a test: the late period runs from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4 when each additional test will set you back $120 instead of the usual $80. CollegeBoard’s timeline is set too early in the year for students to be able to reasonably judge which tests they should or shouldn’t take.

Problem 2: Once a student is signed up for a test, they’re disincentivized from canceling, even when legitimate concerns arise.

CollegeBoard only offers partial refunds after Oct. 4 and until 24 hours before the exam date, stubbornly hanging on to a $40 fee. The financial factor has the potential to leave students stranded in classes they have no interest in taking, reducing their freedom to switch in and out of classes based on changes in passions and pursuits.

An example is when considering that different colleges will accept certain AP scores and not others. But since the majority of college acceptance decisions come out from mid-December through March, most students won’t have a clear idea of their scores will be useful or not. If it turns out that a student is taking a test that won’t help them gain credits for the college they end up choosing, they’ll still be charged for canceling. Such an unreasonable fee becomes even more ludicrous when considering that they’re charging late fees for students that want to cancel multiple months before the exams take place; canceling would be saving them the trouble of printing an additional test booklet, not justifying a $40 price tag for a test not taken.