Taking the AP test (a trademark of the College Board) has benefits that many students need to jumpstart college education. However, the exams do not come for free. The cost is not cheap, either.
Despite what it gives to aspiring university students, if you plan to take the test, you have to shell out a quite a sizable amount of money to reap the perks. So you must be wondering, how much do AP tests cost? We are here to answer.
AP Exam Cost - Breakdown of Fees
The College Board mandates students taking the AP exams to pay for every AP test they sat on. The base AP exam fee is about $95 before any fee reductions. The College Board exam fee for each AP applies to those from:
- The United States
- The U.S. territories
- DoDEA schools
If your high school is not under the mentioned testing categories, the AP tests cost more or less $125 per exam sat on. And note that additional exam fees may also vary if you take it at the College Board, the authorized test center outside the U.S.
For those who will take the AP Capstone/ AP Seminar/ AP Research exam, the test fee is $143 per exam sat on.
Additionally, you have to pay $40 per exam sat on if you ordered late. To avoid this, get your exam from the College Board before November 14 to March 12. You also have to spend money per exam if you ask for a refund after deciding not to take an AP test. 
Can I Get It For Free?
Before discussing the fee reductions and cost waivers you could get per exam from the College Board and outside, you should know that in the year 2020-2021, the unused/ canceled exam fee is not applicable. But, it only applies to this year’s exams.
Additionally, you might have much trouble looking for a school where you can take your AP test safely. In response, the AP testing program has given the late exam fees for free for orders that came after November 13.
The late fee reduction also applies to virtual students, homeschoolers, independent study students, and high schools outside the U.S. and Canada. You just have to inform AP Services for Educators of your late request and order your tests by the March 12 spring orders or the fall testing orders online. 
Despite the fee mentioned earlier, taking the AP test is beneficial if you want to save on some college fees. And, there are waivers available per exam fee that you can apply to get fee reductions.
Talk to your high school AP coordinator or your AP Class adviser at school for additional information. Nonetheless, we also outlined the options below, so you can assess whether you qualify for a fee reduction or not.
The College Board lists the following information as requirements to qualify for their $33 per exam fee reduction. Also, your high school should waive the $9 test fee they impose as a rebate. If you are part of these groups eligible for the fee reduction, your AP test costs would generally be around $53.
- A student belonging to a family with an income that is 185% below the federal state's mandated poverty line is eligible for cost assistance peer test.
- A student under foster care, or homeless, or a migrant can have their testing costs paid by the state provided they have proof.
- Students coming from families that receive the TANF or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families also do not pay the costs per testing.
- The state also pays for the AP cost per student whose families are a beneficiary of the Indian Reservation benefits.
- Students who participate in the federal TRIO programs and the like that target individuals with a financial need can have much of the cost cut.
- Students who are orphans or are wards of the district do not have to worry about the per AP exam cost.
Additionally, for those qualified outside the U.S. or Canada, the AP exams would have a test fee of $83 per exam. On the other hand, AP Seminar or AP Research exams would have a $101 fee per exam after the subsidies are applied.
When To Apply
For this school year, the College Board deadline for the AP exams fee reduction request is on April 30, 2021. You have to submit your test registration to your high school AP coordinator by the said date to qualify. Early submission is favorable so that they can request the test fee waiver along with your registration.
To avoid paying the late exam fee, you have to take the exam early in the school year, which you should also consider in scheduling your fee reduction application. The bottom line is, always talk to your high school AP Counselor or AP Class advisor regarding your test registration (and its corresponding cost).
Are There Other Options?
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Under Title IV, Part A block grant of the ESSA, states, and districts receive the cost to lower the AP exam fee for school students with financial need. About 95% of these funds are for distribution to the different neighborhoods. And, they can reserve the remaining 5% for a similar future cost. The following are some AP exams activities that the local governments can do with their funds:
- Provide funding that covers the AP exam fees of low-income students
- Includes the exam fee of students not from Title I schools
- Fund specific AP courses/exams
For those who will take the exams in May 2021, the districts can use the fundings received last summer 2020. And they must remember to provide equitable test services to private school teachers and students. 
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the United States Congress released about $13.23 billion to maintain the K-12 education program. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds under the act give schools the authority to use their AP exams funding. Included are the following:
- Any ESSA authorized activities
- Planning long-term closure of schools
- Coordination of long-term schools closure
- Funding AP Exam fees
Similar to the ESSA funding, the state can also choose to retain a portion of the money it receives. They can reserve up to about 10% of the financing and distribute the remaining 90% to various schools in their district. Both the state and district can choose to use their funds for subsidizing AP exam fees. 
"Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you but to help you realise your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult."
- Avul Pacir Zainulabidin Abdul Kalam, Atomic Scientist and President of India (1931-2015)
Getting AP Credit
Understanding AP Credit and Advanced Placement
Before discussing how you can get AP Credit, you first have to distinguish it from Advanced Placement. As a trademark of the College Board, AP Credit benefits are from getting good AP scores where you enter college bagging some credits.
You can take these off from the total college credit needed to get your degree. Some students can graduate from university early because of this, saving them the cost of tuition fees.
On the other hand, advanced placement is where the college allows you to skip some introductory courses. Based on your AP scores, the school decides that you have mastered the lessons taught in these subjects.
Thus, you can forego enrolling in them to free up your schedule for higher courses. AP generally benefits those that want to pursue double degree programs.
Note that a student can receive both types of benefits, depending on their AP exam score and the college regulations.
How to Get AP Credit
Because this is an article that talks about costs, we zero in on getting AP credit since it saves you tuition fees. How is this made available to students, and what are the surrounding policies?
You have to get a good AP Exam score to qualify for getting AP Credit. To do that, you can follow these simple tips to make the most of your chance of lowering your college tuition:
- Start reviewing the AP test coverage (on the College Board website) early. Set aside some of your time every day for your course prep. Early preparation can spell the difference between a good-enough score and your score being eligible for AP Credits plus a scholarship.
- Get and utilize AP test materials available and approved by the College Board. Take AP classes and make sure to maximize your time and materials provided there. You can also use the many online practice tests available. Be resourceful so you can improve your score.
- Always practice. Like any other significant examination, you can get a good AP test score through persistent and correct practice. Make sure to cover all necessary topics which are available online.
- Get yourself study buddies that will encourage you to continue reviewing and pursue your target score. The coverage of the exam is enormous, and studying alone can get boring after some time. Doing it with one friend or two from school can be much help.
- Do not hesitate to ask for additional course information and prep resources from your AP instructor if you need support when doing your review.
Most, if not all, colleges in the U.S. recognize the value of good AP test scores. They have written policies that give information on the exams’ benefits, although it varies between schools. If you are curious about the specifics, you may approach your AP counselor and seek additional information.
Are The Exams’ Costs Worth It?
Yes, the exams’ costs are worth it because they will help in your college program application (and costs). We know that the AP exams have an expensive financial fee that many students may find too much. However, getting high scores from these tests may save you thousands of dollars in costs and additional fees if you are eligible.
Besides, there are various government aids available that may free you from the fees. What we want you to understand is you have many choices. Talk to your AP counselor and get started on aiming to ace your AP exam this May.