Advanced Placement (AP) classes are college-level classes for high school students. Typically, AP students register to take a standardized test at the end to prove their mastery of the content. Scores are revealed on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the best grade available. Most colleges and universities will give college credit for AP scores they deem acceptable.
Advantages of Taking AP Classes
Most college classes meet twice a week for 3-4 months. Most high school classes meet 5 days a week for 9-10 months. Because of this, high school classes can cover less material per class. Homework is more focused and teachers have more opportunities to realize which concepts students have trouble with.
Fewer Placement Exams
Many colleges require freshmen to take math, English and possibly foreign-language placement exams. To reduce the amounts of students to test, students with high AP scores in certain AP math, English and foreign language tests are often given automatic evaluations based on their scores.
Faster Graduation and Lower Tuition
Since AP classes count as college credit, they can count toward graduation. Depending on the major, this might be a pre-requisite, major or elective course. Unless a student takes an AP test completely unrelated to both his or her major and the school’s general education requirements, that AP test is guaranteed to count for some credit. For every AP test taken, it is one less class to take in college. This allows students to graduate faster, thus spending less money on tuition. Considering the price of an AP exam is currently $87, a student with five AP exams would spend $435 rather than an entire semester’s tuition. Some students might take advantage of having fewer classes to take and decide to enroll in a double major.
Disadvantages of Taking AP Classes
Credit received for AP courses do not bear any GPA. For students who did well in these classes, it means they lost out on a possible A or B grade that could help offset future harder classes.
AP Classes are Not College Classes
AP teachers are still high school teachers and may still treat the class as such. However, college professors can be very different. They may not point out to students their trouble areas; they may not grade assigned homework; they may not offer as much time outside of class to help students. Students taking AP exams and thinking they are college-ready may be shocked when they realize how different university professors are from an AP teacher.
Not All Scores or Classes Transfer
Different universities have different policies for AP courses. Typically speaking, the more elite universities require higher AP courses and only allow select exams to qualify for credit. It is possible that an AP class will end up untransferred if a student has not taken the time to research whether all of the college he or she applied to accept it. Even if it is accepted, getting a 5 is much more difficult than getting a 3 on the AP test. Students who do not score high marks, even if they officially passed with a 3, might not receive credit at elite universities.
Overall, AP classes can be powerful tools to a faster – and cheaper – graduation. Students need to carefully choose which AP classes to take and find out which scores they need to transfer the credits over to the colleges and universities they are interested in.