So You Got An AP Scholar Award. What Does This Mean?

⏱️  5 min read

written by

Peter Cao

peter cao

August 25, 2020


If you've looked at your AP score report recently, you might have seen an AP Scholar Award above your scores. But what does this mean? If you didn't get one this year, how do you get one?

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What is an AP Scholar Award?

You can get an AP Scholar Award with high performance on your AP Tests throughout their high school career. These awards are given a week or two after AP scores release, and they are calculated using cumulative data instead of results from a single year's tests. Thus, you can work your way up to an AP Scholar Award gradually instead of taking too many AP tests at once.

AP Scholar Awards can be used for recognition for hard work and academic performance on college applications and resumes. For example, only 100 students out of all the AP test-takers in the United States earn the AP State Scholar award.

To check if you have received these awards, go to your College Board account where you normally see your AP Scores. You may see AP Scholar awards above the AP scores for a particular year. For example, here is an example of my AP Scholar Awards.

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Courtesy of College Board

So... how do you get these awards?

There are multiple AP Scholar levels, and each of these levels has different requirements:

AP Scholar

To start, we have the classic AP Scholar award. To earn this, you need to pass at least 3 AP tests with a score of 3 or higher.

AP Scholar with Honor

Next, we have the AP Scholar with Honor award. To get this, you'll need to score a 3 or higher on 4 AP exams and have an overall AP score average of a 3.25 or greater.

AP Scholar with Distinction

Moving on, the AP Scholar with Distinction is basically the AP Scholar with Honor with stricter requirements. You will need to score at least a 3 on at least 5 AP exams and have an overall AP score average of at least 3.5.

State AP Scholar

Now, we get into the awards that are harder to get. To get the State AP Scholar award, you must pass the greatest number of AP exams and get the highest AP average in your state for your gender.

National AP Scholar

The National AP Scholar award, in my opinion, is easier to get than the State AP Scholar award. To earn this, you need an AP score average of at least 4 and at least 8 tests with scores of 4 or higher. There are also Canadian and Bermudan equivalents to these awards.

DoDEA AP Scholar / International AP Scholar

The DoDEA and International AP Scholars have almost the same requirements as State or National AP awards. Both DoDEA and International awards require that you are the male or female with the most passed AP Exams and the highest AP score average. However, the DoDEA Scholar is only for DoDEA students and the International Scholar is only for non-US, non-Canada, and non-DoDEA students.

AP International Diploma (APID)

Finally, we have the AP International Diploma. Only available for international students or those applying to international schools, this is perhaps the most complicated of the AP Scholar Awards to get. Similar to the IB Diploma, this award requires taking AP Exams from different subject areas. You will need 2 AP Language or Literature exams from different languages, 1 AP exam giving a wider view of the world, 1 STEM AP, and an additional AP test.

Wait, aren't they removing these awards next year?

In a recent Twitter reply, the head of the AP program, Trevor Packer, has hinted that the AP Scholar awards may be removed soon.

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Courtesy of Twitter

What does this mean, and is this a good thing?

Basically, if you currently have an AP Scholar award, you will get to keep your current awards. However, if you are currently in the progress of getting one, you may be out of luck unless the College Board changes its mind. So is this a good thing or not? In my opinion, I have mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, AP Scholar awards are a good incentive to do well on AP tests and also to encourage students to push themselves and taking more AP tests. On the other hand, there is an increased pressure to take too many AP tests, especially for National and State AP Scholars, with an increased atmosphere of needless competition. This competition is due to the fact that most students try to get these awards just for the sake of college applications and not because they want to learn the AP subject. Moreover, it seems that everyone wants to obtain these awards because other people that had them went to top schools, creating a sort of imposter syndrome. Students think that they aren't doing enough, so they overwork themselves even more.

This pressure saturates the field of awards. Since more students are earning the AP awards, the awards themselves are gradually starting to mean less. Colleges and universities can only admit so many people, but more and more students are getting these awards every year to the point that schools don't see these awards as important anymore. Admissions officers instead look at other factors, which means that all the hard work students have put in to earn AP Scholar awards mean less. What do you think about this change? Feel free to drop a comment below!

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