If you are an international student applying to college in the US and your school doesn’t offer AP courses, you may wonder if self-study for AP exams is worthwhile. To help you decide, start with these questions:

What is your goal?
There are a range of reasons students choose to self-study for AP exams:

  • To receive college credit — it’s important to determine if the schools you plan to apply to will grant college credit for AP exams. Some grant course credit in specific subjects with a score of 4 or 5 (occasionally with a 3), which may give you the opportunity to complete your degree in less time or provide flexibility in your course schedule.
  • To bypass introductory courses — some universities use AP exam scores for course placement, which may give you the chance to skip introductory classes.
  • To prepare for college — self-study is a great way to prepare for a  successful college experience. If you are interested in the subject, have the time, and want to challenge yourself, preparing for an AP exam could be useful for your future studies.

The College Board administers AP exams and maintains a searchable database of university policies at AP Students, but be sure to check university websites as well, as policies can change.

How much time do you have?
Self-study for an AP exam can take a lot of time, especially if you are learning about a subject you have not taken in high school. For example, some international students believe that taking the AP US History exam will show their commitment to studying in the US, but this exam covers a great deal of material to learn on your own. If you want to study history in college, this might be worthwhile, but you really need to consider how much one exam score will add to your application.

Remember that your academic work in high school is most important to application review. Will self-study for an AP exam compromise your classwork? How will it limit your ability to prepare for TOEFL, SAT or ACT tests? These are important issues to consider.

Where will you take the exam(s)?
Most schools that offer AP courses also offer AP exams, but that isn’t always the case outside the US. Even if a school offers AP exams, they may not allow students who do not attend their high school to take them there.

Visit AP International to learn more about exam sites. Please note:

  • If you have identified a school where you would like to take an AP exam, you must contact the AP coordinator prior to March 1 of the year you would like to take the exam to ask for permission.
  • In China, not all schools that offer AP courses are authorized to administer AP exams. You will need to register at a designated test center.
  • There are Global AP Exam Test Centers located in Hong Kong, India, Singapore and South Korea.
About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

Join an upcoming webinar
Download a resource guide