AP Statistics Course and Exam Information

Learn What Score You'll Need and What Course Credit You'll Receive

Statistics Notes
Statistics Notes. Tom Hanger / Flickr

Statistics is a popular Advanced Placement course with over 200,000 students taking the exam annually. Students who have other options and interests, however, should be aware that AP Statistics is accepted for course credit and placement by fewer colleges than many other AP subjects. 

About the AP Statistics Course and Exam

The Advanced Placement Statistics course is a non-calculus-based course that is the equivalent of many one-semester, introductory college statistics classes. The exam covers exploring data, sampling and experimentation, anticipating patterns, and statistical inference. Each of these topics encompasses several subtopics:

  • Exploring Data. Students learn to analyze different types of graphs and data displays. Key topics include spread, outliers, median, mean, standard deviation, quartiles, percentages, and more. Students also learn to compare different data sets to find patterns and draw conclusions. This section encompasses 20 to 30 percent of the exam questions.
  • Sampling and Experimentation. Students learn about proper and effective methods of data collection and data analysis. Students learn about the characteristics of well-conducted surveys, and they learn about the issues attached to different types of populations and selection methods. Important topics include random sampling, control groups, placebo effect, and replication. This section accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the exam.
  • Anticipating Patterns. This section focuses on probabilities and simulation, and students learn what data should look like for a given model. Topics covered include the addition rule, multiplication rule, conditional probability, normal distribution, random variables, t-distribution, and chi-square distribution. 20 to 30 percent of the AP exam covers these topics.
  • Statistical Inference. In this section, students learn how to select appropriate models for a given task. Students study how to estimate population parameters and test hypotheses. Important topics include margins of error, confidence levels, p-values, types of errors, and more. This is the largest area of course content and accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the exam.

AP Statistics Score Information

In 2017, 215,840 students took the exam. The mean score was a 2.72, and roughly 54 percent of students (117,224 of them) scored a 3 or higher. According to AP score guidelines, a 3 is necessary to demonstrate a level of competency adequate for earning college credit.

The distribution of scores for the AP Statistics exam is as follows (2017 data):

  • 5 - 13.6 percent
  • 4 - 15.9 percent
  • 3 - 24.8 percent
  • 2 - 20.2 percent
  • 1 - 25.5 percent

If your exam score is on the lower end of the scale, keep in mind that colleges often do not require you to report AP exam scores. They are typically self-reported and can be omitted if you choose.

AP Statistics Course Placement Information:

As the table below reveals, AP Statistics is not accepted by many colleges. There are a few reasons for this: the course is non-calculus-based, but many college statistics courses require calculus; many colleges teach statistics in field-specific ways in courses such as Business Statistics and Psychological Statistics and Methods; finally, statistics is a topic that relies heavily upon computers and spreadsheet programs, but the AP exam is not set up to allow students to use computers. 

The table below presents some representative data from a variety of colleges and universities. This information is meant to provide a general overview of the scoring and placement practices related to the AP Statistics exam. For a specific college or university, you'll need to search the school's website or contact the appropriate Registrar's office to get AP placement information. Even for the schools I list below, check with the institution to get the most recent placement guidelines. 

AP Statistics Scores and Placement
College Score Needed Placement Credit
Georgia Tech - no credit or placement
Grinnell College 4 or 5 4 semester credits; MAT/SST 115
MIT - no credit or placement
Notre Dame 5 Mathematics 10140 (3 credits)
Reed College 4 or 5 1 credit
Stanford University - no credit or placement for AP Statistics
Truman State University 3, 4 or 5 STAT 190 Basic Statistics (3 credits)
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3, 4 or 5 4 credits; quantitative reasoning requirement fulfilled
Yale University - no credits or placement

A Final Word About AP Statistics

You can learn more about the AP Statistics course and exam on the official College Board website.

Keep in mind that AP Statistics has value even if you don't receive college credit for the course. At some point in your college career, you are likely going to need to conduct a survey, work with spreadsheets, and/or process data. Have some knowledge of statistics will be invaluable at these times. Also, when you apply to colleges, the most important part of your application will be your academic record. Colleges want to see that you have done well in challenging courses. Success in Advanced Placement courses such as AP Statistics is one significant way you can demonstrate your college readiness.