AP Classes and Exams, Part 1 [30min]

From a high schooler’s viewpoint, AP Exams are a Good Thing.

Often when I’m in a social situation with parents of high schoolers and they find out I’m a math professor, they ask my opinion on AP classes and exams, especially for  their children. Basically, I say that they are good for students, and here are my reasons (and doubts):

  1. AP courses are potentially more in depth and more challenging, although they can be so narrowly focused on the test that these positives are not realized.
  2. AP courses are mostly considered a good course to teach in high school and so they attract at least the more experienced teachers, and likely teachers that are better than average. I’ve heard that at some schools there is compensation ($) for students passing the exam, so there may be more politics involved in selecting the teachers than for other courses.
  3. If you believe in the idea that a student performs at the average of his or her peers, then since AP courses draw from the top students, it usually puts a student in with a more studious group of students.
  4. When applying for college, most forms ask the school counselor whether or not the applicant took the ‘most demanding courses’ available, and for most  schools that means honors and AP.
  5. More on college applications: AP courses can help earn scholarships by both the boost to the GPA (some schools give +1 grade point for AP courses), and by the number of courses taken.
  6. AP credit can help in college by opening room for more electives, minor(s), 2nd major(s), etc. These opportunities can also allow a student to focus on in depth studies earlier in his or her career.
  7. AP courses give some exposure to the demands of college, but shouldn’t be thought of as exactly equivalent. Success in AP courses is encouraging, but doesn’t necessarily indicate future similar success in college.
  8. AP courses are not always comparable to college courses in structure or necessarily fully in content, especially if there is a lab component. So it is probably better to take the AP credit in courses that are part of the general education requirements versus those within the requirements for the major.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I discuss the view of AP from the college side.


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