All Your AP Chinese Questions, Answered

April 21, 2022

Advanced Placement (AP) exams are among the standardized tests designed and offered by The College Board® (the educational body which also administers the SAT exams). Offered mainly in the U.S. and Canada, AP exams test students’ knowledge of college-level curricula.

The AP Chinese Language and Culture Exam is a standardized way to confirm students’ mastery of communication skills in Mandarin Chinese, with the aim the students will be able to express themselves and understand others in written and spoken Chinese. In this blog, we will answer some of the most common questions regarding the AP Chinese exam.

If you want to sign your child up for YCT prep classes, read about our pricing for online private Chinese classes.

When is the AP Chinese exam?

AP exams take place in May each year. For exact dates, check the College Board website.

AP exam scores

What is on the AP Chinese exam?

The AP Chinese exam has four sections:

1. Multiple choice listening.
This section is 20 minutes long and consists of 25-35 questions about audio prompts.

This section is divided into two subsections: rejoinders and selections. In the rejoinders section, you will listen to conversations and then select the most natural response in the conversation from the choices. The rejoinders section is 10% of your exam score. In the selections section, you will listen to audio and respond to questions about it; the selections section is worth 15% of your exam score.

2. Multiple choice reading.
This section is 60 minutes long and consists of 30-40 questions. This is worth 25% of your exam score.

3. Written free response.
This section is 30 minutes long and is divided into two subsections: presentational writing (writing a story based on a series of images), worth 15% of your exam score, and interpersonal writing (writing an email), worth 10% of your exam score.

4. Spoken free response.
This section is 11 minutes long and is divided into two subsections: interpersonal speaking and presentational speaking. Interpersonal speaking is 4 minutes long and requires students to respond to conversational questions (10% of your exam score). Presentational speaking requires students to give an oral presentation on Chinese culture; students will have 1 minute to read the prompt, 4 minutes to prepare, and 2 minutes to present (7 minutes in total, worth 15% of your exam score).

Is AP Chinese easy?

You may have heard that the AP Chinese exam has the most scores of 5 out of all the AP exams, but this is because most students who take the AP Chinese exam are heritage speakers (meaning they speak Chinese at home with family).

The average score for non-heritage speakers (people who don’t speak Chinese at home) is 3. If you are curious, you can check out College Board’s AP Chinese exam statistics for 2018.

A survey of AP Chinese exam takers found that most students felt the speaking section was the most challenging, while writing was the easiest. Unlike most AP exam, the AP Chinese exam is taken on the computer, which allows for typing the characters, rather than handwriting them. Students can choose between Traditional and Simplified characters as well as Pinyin and Zhuyin (Bopomofo) input.

Is AP Chinese worth taking?

AP Chinese can be beneficial for high school students since high AP scores on a student’s transcript can demonstrate to university admission boards that a student is academically prepared for college courses. Additionally, high AP exam scores often count as college credit, depending on the university.

How do I prepare for the AP Chinese exam?

There are a few ways you can prepare for the AP Chinese exam. Feel free to combine these methods to give yourself the best chance at a 5:

Take the AP Chinese course at your high school

Thousands of high schools across North America (and even in some international schools abroad) offer the AP Chinese course. Check if your school is one of them.

Do practice AP exam exercises

The College Board website offers practice exams—take advantage of them as a resource. Get to know the format and material on the practice tests and time yourself while you take them.

Practice using Chinese in your daily life as much as possible

Besides test taking skills, the AP Chinese exam will obviously test your familiarity with the Chinese language and culture so practice as much as you can. Listen to Chinese music, watch Chinese TV and movies, read Chinese graded readers, etc. If you have a language buddy you can chat with in Chinese, even better!

Take a Chinese course to practice Chinese language and test-taking skills

If you need more than just practicing on your own, sign up for Chinese classes! You can work with a teacher to prepare for the AP Chinese exam by practicing your listening, writing mock stories and emails, and polishing your presentation skills. Culture Yard offers personalized private 1on1 online lessons that can help you prepare for the AP exam.

High school student studying Chinese

Can I take an AP Chinese course online?

Definitely! There are plenty of homeschooling and distance-learning platforms out there that offer the AP Chinese course online.

If you want to take the exam without taking the full AP Chinese course, you can also prepare with a private tutor.

What HSK level is AP Chinese?

AP Chinese is approximately equivalent to HSK 4 (as in, you would be able to pass the HSK 4 exam).

If you are not familiar with the HSK exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to the HSK exam

Will I get college credit for AP Chinese?

This depends on which college you plan to attend. If you would like to check which colleges and universities will grant credit or placement based on your AP exam scores, check College Board’s AP Credit Policy Search tool.

If I get a 5 on my AP Chinese exam, what level of Chinese can I expect to take in college?

AP Chinese is roughly equivalent to a fourth-semester college course in Chinese. If you get a 5 on your exam, you can expect to be placed in an upper intermediate Chinese course (approximately equivalent to a college junior level course).

You may also be interested in studying Chinese for fun in high school.

About the Author

Eden has been learning Chinese since 2008. She fell in love with the language, food, and culture and never looked back! Eden lived in China for six years, including in Harbin, Beijing, and Dali.

Eden- Author