Should AP classes require final exams?

Should AP classes require final exams?

Photo credit: Sophia Dragich

By Sophia Dragich and Katie Madigan


Every year students spend the better part of their spring studying for final exams. However, many students take AP classes that have their own exams in May, and they often dread the idea of taking a final on top of their AP test. While having a final in an AP class may seem redundant and unnecessary to some, it can actually be beneficial.

For one, if the final is given before the AP test, it can serve as a review. Many students are motivated by grades to study and work hard. Since they know the final will impact their grade, unlike the AP test does, students are more motivated to study for it. While studying for the final, students inherently prepare for the AP exam as well. They can get used to the type of questions and timing of the exam before going in to take the actual AP test. This not only prepares them for what material may be on the AP test, but it also makes them feel comfortable and less nervous for the actual test day.

Not only does having a final promote preparation and better studying, it also gives students the chance to understand the content in a new way. In some classes, teachers assign a project at the end of the year instead of a test-formated final. Doing a project gives students a chance to be creative and apply their knowledge about the class in an alternative way. In addition, if it is a group project, students can collaborate with others and learn the importance of teamwork. These are valuable skills when it comes to working with others in the real world, so it is important that students learn them. 

Finally, having finals for AP classes ensures fairness in the classroom. For one, not all students sign up to take the AP test. This may be for financial or other reasons, but having a final makes sure every student can show what they know. It also provides teachers with feedback on all of their students’ performance, even those who do not choose to take the official AP test. To ensure fairness in the classroom and provide all students with the same education, having a final is important.

Overall, while taking a final after the AP exam is not ideal, there are some benefits in doing so. Students can review for their AP exam if the final is given before, and they can understand the content in a new way if the final is assigned as a project. Additionally, having a final allows the teacher to know how all of their students are doing, not just those who take the AP test. Instead of dreading finals this spring, students should try to see the benefits they offer.


After a year’s worth of rigorous studying, writing and engaging in class discussion in AP classes, many students are now tasked with not only one exam administered by the College Board to assess their eligibility for college credit, but also a final exam distributed by their teacher. While final exams help to demonstrate student understanding of class material, students enrolled in AP classes should not be required to take a final exam.  

Students enrolled in AP classes which mandate a final exam have to spend a substantial amount of time studying for two large assessments. When students are expected to take a high-stakes AP exam in early May, it is impractical to expect students to dedicate additional time reviewing for a similar exam in the middle of June. Not only is the information being assessed very similar on both exams, but the idle hours following the AP exam could potentially pose a problem with remembering specific information for a final.  

Additionally, it is important to consider the physiological impact of requiring a final after the demanding AP exam. While some students feel relieved after the AP test, students in classes that require a final exam could become unmotivated after the College Board exam concluded, further hindering their work ethic. Because of this, some students might not be inclined to learn additional information after the AP exam, as it would serve no practical purpose for students seeking college credit.

Aside from AP exams, these students are also likely required to take other assessments to demonstrate their knowledge on the subject matter throughout the course. Through these test taking opportunities, students showcase their knowledge on the topic, allowing their teacher to gauge their understanding in the class. With these assessments being weighted, many students are compelled to dedicate time to study for these shorter assessments in addition to their AP exam. Therefore, students spend time assessing on material throughout the year, they should not be required to take a final exam as it adds additional stress for students who have already demonstrated their knowledge in the subject. 

Collectively, it is evident that AP students spend a vast amount of time preparing for their College Board test in May, which serves as an outlet for students to illustrate their understanding in their class as a whole. Also, due to the timing of the AP exam, it is unnecessary for students to learn more or review class material if it is not included on the College Board assessment, leading to a lack of interest in the class. Finally, because students spend their entire year assessing on and reviewing concepts, they have already demonstrated their overall knowledge in the class. All of these factors help to indicate that AP students should not be required to take a second semester exam because the AP exam should serve as a final exam.