How Is the AP® Biology Exam Scored?

The AP® Biology exam has two sections. The first section has 60 multiple-choice questions, and the second contains four short-answer and two long-answer free-response questions. Each section makes up approximately 50% of the overall score.

Questions in the multiple-choice section are worth 1 point each. Your answers will be computer-graded for this section. The free-response questions section, however, is graded manually by AP Readers. The questions in this section are worth between 8 and 10 points for long-answer questions and 4 points for short-answer questions.

Now, it may not always be that the total score for each section equals an exact 50% of the total exam score itself. Sometimes, the multiple-choice section or the free-response section could add up to more than 50%. That’s why your scores are translated into a weighted combination. Let’s take a look at how that works.

Once your total score from each section is calculated, they are combined to make up a composite raw score. This raw score is then translated into a weighted combination and then equated to a number on the AP score scale, which ranges from 1 to 5. In other words, a predefined range of weighted combination scores will equate to a particular scaled score on the table.

You will not be able to see your weighted combination score on the final results or even the individual score for each section. You will only be able to see your scaled score or a score between 1 to 5.

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AP Biology Scoring Table

As we mentioned earlier, your total score on the exam is translated as a weighted combination into a final score of 1 to 5. Each score is equivalent to a certain level of performance. Based on these scores, colleges decide which candidates are eligible for free college credit and placement. Currently, students need to score 3 or above to qualify.

These scores are developed after a lot of research that the AP Program conducts. The main aim of AP Biology is to teach you foundational biology at the college level right in high school. Hence, the board ensures that a student’s performance, measured by their final score on the AP Biology exam, can be correlated to a college student’s performance in a college-level biology course.

The AP Biology score table shows the score conversion for each final grade. Let’s take a look!

Final AP Biology Score College Grade Equivalent
5 A+ or A
4 A-, B+, or B
3 B-, C+, or C
2 — 
1 — 

As you can see, scores below 3 do not equate to a good college grade. Here’s how each score translates to how well-qualified you might be for placement and free credit.

AP Biology Exam Score Qualification
5 Extremely well qualified
4 Very well qualified
3 Qualified
2 Possibly qualified
1 No recommendation

If you score a 4 or 5 on the AP Biology exam, that is considered an excellent score. As you saw in the table above, scores between 3 and 5 indicate that you are qualified to receive free credits during your college placement. However, you may want to check with the colleges you intend to apply to on their minimum requirements.

“Fun Fact: Only one student got a perfect score on the AP Biology exam in 2021”

AP Biology Score Distributions

Every year, thousands of students from around the world take the AP Biology exam. In May 2023, 239,470 students took the exam, and over 154,000 students scored 3 or above. That's almost 65% of test-takers. As you can see, the majority of students got a final score of 3 or above. Let's take a look at the AP Biology score distribution for May 2023.

Score No. of Students % of Students
5 34,244 14.3%
4 55,078 23%
3 65,136 27.2%
2 56,515 23.6%
1 28,736 12%
“Around 65% of students achieved a final score of 3 and above!”

However, a pass rate of 65% is still not as high as other AP courses and reflects the hard work required to earn college credit by taking up AP Biology.

Let’s also look at how students did on the exam over the last three years.

As you can see, it’s gotten a little more difficult to pass the exam, with more students scoring below 3 in 2021 when compared to 2019 and 2020. But don’t fret! With the right study plan, study materials and guides, and review tools, you’ll be well on your way to scoring a 5 in AP Biology. Most students pass, and so will you!

You can try UWorld’s online AP Bio practice tests to help you get better acquainted with the exam format and test your knowledge of the units and concepts you’ve studied. Taking practice tests regularly will help you track your progress. You can also make quick notes to refer back to when you’re reviewing for the exam.

Since the second section of the exam requires written answers, has varying total points for each question, and is graded by AP Readers, it can be a little more complex to score. However, you can rest assured that if you prepare well, you’ll be able to pass the course with the best results. Here are some stats on how AP Biology test-takers did in this section in 2021.

Free-Response Question Scoring Statistics for 2023:

Question Number Mean Total Number of Points
1 2.80 9
2 4.10 9
3 1.46 4
4 1.17 4
5 1.19 4
6 1.48 4

AP Biology Minimum Score Requirement for College Credits

As we mentioned earlier, most colleges require a minimum score of 3 to qualify for free credit and placement. However, you should also know that just taking AP Biology can also make your transcript look good to the college admissions committee, even though it would qualify you for free credits.

If you’re gunning for those free credits, here’s a list of some colleges and their minimum AP Biology score requirements.

University AP Biology Score Requirement
Harvard, Cambridge, MA 5
Duke University, Durham, NC 5
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 5
Brown University, Providence, RI 4
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 4
University of Texas, Brownsville, TX 3
University of Massachusetts, North Dartmouth, MA 3
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  1. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2020. (2020). Retrieved 2022, from 
  2. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2021. (2021). Retrieved 2022, from 
  3. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2022. (2022). Retrieved 2022, from 
  4. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2023. (2023). Retrieved 2024, from
  5. Scoring Statistics from the 2023 AP Exam Administration: AP Biology. (2023). Retrieved January 23, 2024, from

Frequently Asked Questions

Scoring a 5 is the absolute best score. However, scoring between 3 to 5 may also qualify you for placement and free credits in college.
In the exam conducted in May 2023, the average score was 3.04.
The scores are curved to ensure standardization and maintain consistency across AP Biology exams administered year to year. It also helps in ensuring the AP exam scoring properly translates into equivalent college grades.
Investing in the right study materials and chalking out an efficient study plan are the best ways to ensure a high score. Our study guide provides more tips on how to achieve a 5 on the AP Biology exam.
The scores will be released in July 2024. You can check your scores online through your College Board® account.
A perfect score or perfect 5 is when a student gets all answers on both exam sections correct. In the 2021 exam held in May, only one test-taker achieved a perfect 5 on the exam. This means that this student scored all 120 out of the possible 120 points in the exam.

Read More About AP Biology

Are you wondering if AP Biology is right for you? Learn from our AP Biology Course and Exam guide on what concepts are taught, prerequisites, difficulty levels, and why it may be beneficial to sit for the AP Biology exam.
Understanding the format of the exam gives you an advantage. So we’ve put together an easy-to-read guide that breaks down the exam format, types of questions on the exam, and more!
Read our guide to the AP Biology curriculum for more in-depth information on the units, topics, and key concepts you will study in the course.
A comprehensive guide for tips and guidance on how to study and ace AP Biology using the right course materials with different schedules.
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