What is an AP Course and are they Worth Taking?
If you have a high schooler, chances are you may have heard the term “AP class” a time or two. AP, or Advanced Placement, is a course offered by the College Board, the same organization that administers the SATs and Pre-SATs, that is essentially a high school class taught at the college level versus the standard coursework offered by high schools. At the end of the school year, every advanced placement class takes an end of course exam.
There are many advanced placement courses offered, but not every school may offer them all. A few examples of courses and exams include chemistry, environmental science, Latin, physics, psychology, statistics, U.S. history, and world history to name a few. The classes can be quite difficult for some students who aren’t ready for the rigorous studying required to do well in the classes. More recently, high schools have begun to phase out advanced placement classes as so many students have taken the courses over the years, they no longer are an adequate measurement to see if a student is ready for college.
A Different Kind of High School Class
What makes an advanced placement class different than a regular high school course is the style of teaching. While parents can hope each teacher in every high school class is a great teacher, it takes a teacher another level to teach an advanced placement course. This is because AP isn’t about just working on worksheets and taking notes.
When a student takes an AP course, they’re expected to be engaged in discussion. The goal of an AP class isn’t to teach students everything that’s going to be on the test, like some parents feel about regular high school classes. The goal is to prepare students for what an actual experience in college is like. Part of the experience is actively being involved in a back and forth discussion with the teacher and forming opinions. AP courses are one of the few courses where it’s encouraged to think outside the box and challenge an opinion. In fact, if a class is taught correctly, strong debate between peers is likely to happen on an almost frequent basis. It’s all a part of learning to for better reasoning skills and approach learning in a different way than would likely be experienced in a regular high school class.
Worth the Challenge?
There is an obvious benefit from taking a course that is taught at a higher level than a regular course. Not only does a student get to experience what a college course is like while still in high school, but it also gives them a chance to earn college hours.
Passing the end of course exam sufficiently at the end of the year will allow the student to earn college credit hours. Earning college hours in high school is a major benefit for college bound students as the more hours students acquire, the more money they save by not having to take courses in college. By passing the end of course exam, the student does not have to retake the class when they enroll in school.
Of course, there are additional benefits to taking an advanced course. Taking AP courses in high school also sets you apart from students who don’t when it comes to applying for colleges. AP courses on a college application look far better than someone who simply decides to take the regular level courses.
Furthermore, AP courses give a bit more extra credit weight when calculating GPA. For example, if a student takes an AP course and gets a “B” at the end of the year, it’s actually better than getting an “A” in a regular course.
Because there are over thirty AP courses offered by the College Board, there is a good chance a student might be able to take a course in something they actually enjoy doing or in something that comes easy to them. For example, if your son or daughter is fantastic when it comes to chemistry or American history, they can decide to take an AP course at the beginning of the year and score a few easy college hours at something they enjoy learning.
Overall, an advanced placement course is an early chance to experience what a college course is like. It’s a chance to see if a student needs to brush up on their study habits, read more, or discover if college is the right fit for them at all. With an AP course, a student can quickly discover if they enjoy learning at a much more advanced level, or if they prefer an easier route with a more traditional high school course. While there are significant benefits to taking an AP course, if a student simply can’t cut it in the classroom, it might be best to quit early instead of struggling all year long and not feeling confident about the final exam.
So what are your thoughts about advanced placement courses? Did you take them in high school or do you have a son or daughter currently taking a few? Let us know in the comments what they think of the challenge and the extra studying.