Most colleges don't use the scores at all. If they do, the 3 will probably be considered either a positive on your application, or it won't affect you at all. What is more important is the fact that you took an AP class, and hopefully, you earned a high grade in it.
I really don't see how a college can hold a student at fault for a bad AP score. Sometimes AP teachers can be so awful that the entire class ends up doing badly on the exam. Often times AP teacher don't even come close to covering all the material. That being said, I don't think the colleges should hold students at fault for a bad test score. After all, the college doesn't know what happened in the classroom.
Most good colleges will only accept 4s or 5s on APs for credit. I got a 3 on AP US History and my college did not give me credit for it. They do acknowledge that you took APs because most colleges love seeing students push themselves especially senior year.
I think that AP scores are more beneficial than harmful on college applications. AP courses and tests show that you have worked at a college level in high school. I think the fact that I had taken 12 AP courses prior to College made the difference in getting accepted to a very competitive private university. And only one of my AP scores was above a 3. That is just my experience though.
The scores you got on your AP's are irrelevant when you're applying to college. Colleges like to see that you took AP level classes, and got good grades in those classes, but your score on the actual exam is only important once you get into college and you want to get credit. Usually a 3 or above will count depending on the college.
Thankfully, the AP's are the one College Board score that colleges don't seem to care that much about. For most people, they take most of their AP's after they get into college (at the end of senior year). That said, there are a lot of good qualities that taking an AP can show. It shows you're willing to push yourself and take harder classes than you need to, which colleges like. Having taken one is better than taking none. It also depends what test you took. For example, a three on the AP Chemistry (which is a hell of a test) looks pretty good. A three will not hurt your chances at college.
Mostly your AP scores will come into play after you're in college. Many students (like me) use their AP scores to get credit for classes or test out of things. I came into college with 21 credits already done because of my AP scores, and then placed out of two classes because of my 3's. I reccomend that you take as many as possible, it makes your life easier when you get to college.
Good luck on your college search!
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