Hi Everyone,

A question nearly all of our students ask us is ‘Should I take the Advanced Placement Examinations’. Given this, we recently interviewed Judith Hegedus, Executive Director, International Strategy and Business Management, The College Board, to get her perspective on the Advanced Placement Examinations and how international students can leverage them.

As you may know The College Board is the organization that runs both the SAT as well as the AP examinations. Judith, is a high accomplished professional, who prior to her involvement at The College Board, had extensive experience as a management consultant for major consultancy firms in both Europe and the United States; she is also a graduate of Stanford University and Columbia Business School. 

1. We really appreciate your time today. Let’s start with a basic but important question that most of our clients ask us “What exactly are the APs and how are they different to SAT subject tests?”

The AP program consists of first-year university level courses and exams taught in high-school. The courses are 1-year long. AP exams are given every May. Students do not have to take the AP courses in order to be able to take the exam – AP has a flexible, modular approach. AP exam scores are recognized in undergraduate admissions, credit and placement processes in more than 60 countries. SAT subject tests are high-school level subject achievement tests but they are not benchmarked at the first-year university level, this is a difference compared to AP. Also, universities tend to use SAT subject test results in admissions and placement processes, not so much in awarding undergraduate credit.

2.   How can taking the APs help a student in the application process? Is it only helpful when applying to the US or would it help me if I am applying to other countries such as the UK, Canada, Singapore or Hong Kong?

APs always make students stand out in the admissions process. Since APs test first-year university skills and content, AP exam scores send a strong signal to the admissions officers that the candidate is capable of doing university-level work. AP courses on a transcript are also seen as evidence of academic rigor. All US, UK and Canadian universities recognize AP, and AP exam scores are recognized by universities recruiting international students in Hong Kong and Singapore as well.

3.  If I have already applied, been admitted and am waiting to attend university in the fall would it still benefit me to take the APs? If so, how does it help me?

Yes! AP exam scores can be used for credit and placement. Students should check credit policies at the university they plan on attending. With the appropriate number and level of AP exam scores, some students can even skip their first year at a US university, enter as sophomores, and graduate in 3 years instead of 4. This is big financial help for individual students.

4. Do you have any advice for international students on how to prepare for the APs?

The best preparation for an AP exam is the AP course itself. If the student’s high school does not offer AP courses, equivalent curriculum can be used to prepare for the exams. AP online courses can also be an alternative, there are a number of providers offering College Board-certified online AP courses. The College Board itself does not offer AP online courses. The College Board website offers a lot of information on the exams themselves, including free practice exams, so that is a good preparation tool as well: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/index.html

5. Are any test preparation companies associated with College Board or College Board certified?

No, the College Board does not certify or work with test preparation companies. However we do offer our own preparation resources on our AP Central website mentioned above, free of charge. For SAT, we also have free resources on our website, I highly recommend utilizing these: this is the only place to get a full-length official SAT practice test from the test maker itself. Another resource, Question of the Day, is a fun way to prepare for the test. Students are emailed a real SAT question every day. Check out these resources here: http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice

6. On a more general note, how can I best utilize the College Board website during my college application process?

A great resource for students is our BigFuture website: the unparalleled College Search function offers information about thousands of universities, mostly from the US, for undergraduate study: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search.The website has a lot of information about the college application process itself as well as financial aid.

7. Lastly, on a more personal note, having studied at top universities yourself – Stanford University and Columbia Business School – do you have any advice for students who are looking to apply to top universities in the US?

I would emphasize the huge diversity of undergraduate options in the United States. There are so many different colleges – large, small, urban, rural, liberal-arts, research-focused, and countless combinations of these criteria – and students can get a great education everywhere! It is up to them individually to use the opportunities offered. The most important thing is to find the best fit for each individual student. Having gone through the process as an international student myself, I would recommend that students treat the college application process as an opportunity to get to know themselves better and increase their own self-awareness. During the process, they should think about what they want in life, what kind of environment they are happiest in, where they can develop best, and how they want to achieve their goals. It is a great learning process, enjoy it and do not stress!


I hope you enjoyed this interview! Do contact FutureWorks if you have any questions about the APs or the College Admissions Process.