Should I Take AP Classes in High School?

Going to college requires more than high school honors, high school counselors, foreign language credits, and 4.0 / 5.0 GPAs - college preparation means AP.

Thinking about taking Advanced Placement Classes? Check out these benefits!

Higher Grade Point Average (GPA)

Unlike college preparation courses which grade students on a 4 point scale, AP classes grade on a 5 point scale. In most schools an A will earn a 5.0, a B a 4.0, and a C a 3.0. AP courses greatly raise both high school and college admission GPA.

Accelerated Skill Development Curve

College breaks down into two main academic skills, mathematics and language, which spread into almost all other disciplines. AP classes will improve and fine-tune these abilities at a faster rate than college preparation or honors courses by sheer quantity of information and higher expectations.

Real College Conditioning - Students Prepared for College

AP classes will mold students into college survivors by setting a higher pace and standard, especially when taken over several years. For example, sophomore year a student taking AP European History might be expected to read a 30-40 page chapter every week to week and a half. The same student taking AP United States History junior year must read a chapter every three days to a week. By senior year in AP Political Science / World History the student reads a chapter every one to two days. By the end of the student's high school experience, he can now live through a college history course which would require him to read 150 pages each week.

Advanced Placement Exams also train students in taking high level tests, preparing them for the difficult midterm and final examinations that await them in academia.

College Credit

Depending on which college / university students attend, most AP classes will earn them a full college course of credit if they score decently on the corresponding AP test. Some AP classes count as two college courses. As long as students pass the test, they will most likely earn at least elective credit. This could translate into taking less of a work load in college, graduating a semester / quarter early, or if one takes enough AP classes, graduating a year early from college! That could save someone a ton of money among other ways to earn college credit!

Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) & SAT Subject Test Preparation

Taking AP classes can improve a student's score on the SAT, especially if students focus on AP classes for mathematics and English subjects. If a college requires the SAT Subject Test, then taking an AP class that matches the material for that specific test (for example: taking AP Spanish to prepare for the SAT Spanish test) will enhance a student's chance of doing better on that particular test. This same logic can apply to other standardized tests as well.

Extra College Points

Like community service, participating in sports and clubs, or playing in band - submitting AP courses on a college application will usually earn Advanced Placement students further consideration by admission reviewers and increase their chances of being accepted to the college of their choice.

Career Searching

AP classes can be used to try out different career options and see what subjects a student might want to study in college. Such areas as Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, and even Environmental Science can be taken through AP courses.

College Placement Exemption

Many colleges require students to take course level placement tests from mathematics and English. Earning a passing score on an AP Calculus or AP English test can exempt students from taking placement tests.

But don't let this list of AP benefits throw you off guard, there can definitely be negative consequences of taking Advanced Placement Exams and classes.

High School AP Classes - The Ugly Truth

If you do not plan on going to college, then you should definitely consider the factors below before taking AP.

Less Time

Like high school football practice or band, high school AP classes require students to give up much more of their time than other courses. Some AP instructors, especially in AP History and AP English, will even give course work over summer and holiday breaks.

School Stress

Because of the elevated high school work load, more frequent testing, greater number of school assignments, and needing to study for the AP tests, AP classes can cause a student to become overwhelmingly stressed out. Beware of taking multiple high school AP classes at a time.

AP College Cap

Most colleges and universities will only take a certain number of high school classes on a 5.0 scale for their admissions GPA. So if a college only accepts eight weighted courses, than all high school AP courses after the eight will not give a bonus to a student's college submitted GPA.

High School AP Tests

Some colleges and universities will not give college AP credit for AP courses if students do not score high on the corresponding high school AP test. Some colleges even require a score of 5, or a perfect score. Not all colleges grant elective credit to students who earn the minimum passing score.

Extra School Costs

Some high schools require students to pay for their own high school AP textbooks and other required supplies. Students must also pay for the costs of taking the high school AP test. If a high school does not offer fee waivers or other forms of reimbursement, taking AP courses can become an expensive endeavor. Fortunately, the benefit when factoring in the college costs for the same course at a college or university usually weighs in the student's favor.

Making the Grade - 5.0 and 4.0

Depending on the high school, AP instructors might require students to earn at least an A or a B (5.0 or 4.0) to stay in an AP class. Others mandate students to take the high school AP test to be able to earn grades on a 5.0 scale. Other high schools place incoming requirements, freshman and sophomore restrictions, and other stipulations on AP bound students. Such expectations and competitiveness could make taking high school AP classes a risk and unappealing.

High School Schedules

Due to the volume of information that must be covered in high school AP classes, some schools create abnormal schedules. For example, on a quarter or block schedule, a high school AP class may go two thirds of the year instead of half (one and a half years of class time), leaving students with an extra quarter to try to work a half class into. Other classes may take up two periods on a semester schedule, or a full year (two years of class time) on a quarter schedule. Students should be aware of the particular adjustments for AP courses at their high school.

College Bound / Not College Bound

High school AP courses can be a tough hurdle to cross, so high school students should evaluate the costs and benefits before jumping in. Student's not going directly into college might find it more productive to seek out electives that focus on industry skills like auto shop, media design, or carpentry. High school students can even enroll in community college and junior college courses more relevant to their career goals.

Take Your Time to Decide

Going to a university or taking high school AP does not determine whether you will be successful in life.

Take the time to review all your options. Discuss your goals and possible academic routes with your parents, your teachers, and your counselors. Do not feel pressured into taking an enormous AP course load just because your guidance counselor thinks you can handle it or your parents say you must. A huge part of succeeding in school is surviving is balancing your schedule.

If you do decide to take AP, take the courses you enjoy the most or will help you further reach your academic and professional goals.


Please Provide Feedback :)

I appreciate any comments, insights, and debates you may be conjuring while reading this topic. Please feel free to post here and to request additional information!

© 2007 Warren Samu

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Comments 35 comments

TomG 8 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

I think the benefits far outweight the listed negatives. In many cases, students can handle full AP loads and continue with their extracurricular activities. And not all schools weight AP classes higher (as in an A is a 5.0). Some schools weight AP classes as any normal class, just for clarification!

Great points!


Aaron 7 years ago

Hello everyone I took 8 AP classes which include AP Bilogy, AP calculus, AP chemistry, Ap physics, AP u.s history, AP English lang/comp, AP French, AP Art studio, AP statistics and trust me i was fustrating I always went to bed around 2 or 3am everyday but at the end it pay off because i scored all 4s and a 5 in art studio


Caleb Anderson profile image

Caleb Anderson 7 years ago

Those AP tests are really hard though, if you can pass those then college should be a snap. Interesting hub.


rkary3839 profile image

rkary3839 6 years ago

Thanks for your insight. I am happy that you are making people aware of the positive and negatives regarding AP classes. I say challenge yourself, take AP classes in areas that you have a true interest, not to boost your transcript.


Grace 6 years ago

IB is 100x better


Rachel 6 years ago

AP classes are hard, but the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives. If you can dual-enroll an AP course (as I'm doing with four of my courses), you can hold off on choosing whether to take the AP test until you see how well you can do in the class itself, and if you choose to not take the AP test, dual-enroll credit is still awarded for a grade of C or higher. If you take an AP course in high school (like my history class), taking the AP test is the only way to get college credit for the course.


Movies All Time 6 years ago

I wonder.. What are they AP tests you are talking about? I am from India and we do not have any such system in place. We have Pre-KG, LKG, UKG, 1st grade to 12th grade which we call as 12th Standard and then Bachelor degree for which we will go to Colleges.


pookie 6 years ago

I am going to be a junior in highschool and I've never taken an AP class before. I'm going to be taking 5 this year which include, AP Bio, AP Environmental Science, AP English Language, AP Psychology, and APUSH. Ive taken Bio I and II honors and intro to psychology but Im mostly scared for bio and apush. I hope I survive :|


thegecko profile image

thegecko 6 years ago from San Diego, CA Author

Hi pookie!

If things get to the point where you feel your grades are falling because of the overwhelming workload, don't be afraid to ask your teachers or counselors to drop or transfer out of classes. AP courses are optional, not mandatory. It's always your choice :)


thegecko profile image

thegecko 6 years ago from San Diego, CA Author

To Movies All Time:

AP tests are exams for high school courses that cover college level material.


CollegePrepU profile image

CollegePrepU 6 years ago

AP courses are difficult, yes. But I agree with everyone about it being WORTH the effort. Currently AP courses cost $86 per test. Compare that to what it would cost you per credit hour for a 3 credit hour college course and you're talking about over $1000 saved depending on your college's cost-per-credit hour.


Jordan 5 years ago

Hi, I'm in 10th grade and i'm taking ap us history andd i have a few things to say.

First, I've always gotten straight A's, the worst grade a report card has ever seen was an A-. Ive also done well in high performance classes such as english and biology. You could say I'm a top notch student.

Second... I HATE THIS AP CLASS!!!! I truly believe it is the worst decision i've ever made to take this class, I'm up late, I'm Always reading this stupid textbook and I'm getting C's to F's on the tests.

Do NOT take an ap class if you plan on wanting ANY time to yourself.


Jonathon 5 years ago

In California, it's far cheaper to take a community

college course than an AP class in high school.

You get a qualified professor, quality instruction

and REAL credit.


jan:D 5 years ago

Yeah this web page article about AP classes is way off. It describes AP classes as a total nightmare that takes over one's life. But I don't think it is that overwhelming. Sure AP classes are a bit more work and require determination and willingness to comit oneself to the class but overall it is definitely worth it. Afterall one has to do the work to get what they want from life. Therefore taking AP classes throughout high school years is what many of you guys should consider, it pays off! and the AP tests aren't really that hard.


Justin 5 years ago

I am about to start my junior year in high school and one of my classes I'm taking is AP U.S. History. I've always been placed in advanced classes and been totally fine getting straight A's in every class. I'm just scared because History isn't my favorite subject. Also, I've never taken an AP class either because this is the only one my school offers. I just need an insight from someone who is like me. I don't want to go into this class being unsure if I want to take it then try to back out and my counselors won't let me. Plus, I don't know how much this is going to benefit me. I'm going into the nursing field and don't intend on taking a history class in college anyway. I'm not going to spend a year taking a really overwhelming class and busting my butt to have this class end up being pointless.

Any advice?


Michael 5 years ago

I think AP classes are the best way to prepare for college. No matter what field you're going into, taking any AP course and doing well in them shows colleges that you're prepared for the rigorous academic environment there.

I'm aiming to be a musician, but I'm still planning on ending up with nine AP's when I graduate--none of them music related.


Jacob 4 years ago

I believe it truly depends on the type of student that you are and especially whether or not you can handle a difficult schedule. I personally have taken 10 AP classes (4 junior year and 6 senior year) and 2 extra tests. I personally have not found the classes to be as difficult as everyone describes. I actually find myself having more free time than usual because my teachers teach it as a college course (as i believe they should) and that rids me of all of the excess busy work that I would find in lower level classes. Personally, AP classes are a godsend that allow me to be in intelligent classes where I am challenged and can learn new things.


Tanne 4 years ago

Personally, I have taken ap courses, and I think I'm not really in need of them, nor will they help me later on. This is because I am not going to go to a normal college or university. I will be going to a Technical College where n90-95% of my work, are actually hands-on. Unfortunately none of the articles I've looked in say if they count in technical colleges, which I doubt they would.


thegecko profile image

thegecko 4 years ago from San Diego, CA Author

Tanne - actually, not all traditional colleges or universities accept all AP credits either. Best advice I can give - contact the academic department at the school(s) you plan to attend and see which AP courses, if any, they will count as units toward their program. Plus, there's always community college courses you can take while still in high school.


Alberto Mendoza @Fohi 4 years ago

Ap classes are a big deal!!! these classes are very rigourous but dont be fooled some are a breeze nd dont give hardly any homework however it is expected with that extra time to review for the ap tests in may! many do not study for it until last min usually spring break but its important to spend atlest 1hr for every ap class of EXTRA studying HARDEST AP's AP English Lang nd Lit and Calculus AB and BC be warned


College-Bound 4 years ago

AP isn't actually as hard as the article makes it to be! For the people I know who go to international schools, aps are considered a breeze (Since the curve for a five is HUGE). IB the real hard-hitter, I've never heard any AP student staying up until 2-3 AM but it's a common thing for IB students.


Bailey 4 years ago

I've always done really well in school. I've been in high level courses since middle school and been achieving straight A's forever. This year I took my first CREDITED AP class (AP Statistics), and while I did complain about the class all year, I am glad I took it. Yes the work was extremely overwhelming. Yes I was up all night finishing homework, but that's because I have a very busy schedule outside of school with extracurriculars. However, I say this as I study for my AP exam that is tomorrow, the class was worth it. I learned A LOT. I am not a math person. I like English and Science classes. Yet I took a math AP and thought I regretted it this whole year. And while I would recommend you only take an AP if you actually LIKE the subject (which would have made stats a whole lot more manageable in my case), I strongly believe in APs helping you when it comes to your future. Despite the hectic-esque manner I worked all this year, I will be taking two APs next year, English Language/Comp and AP Chem. If you are willing to put in the effort, APs are a good way to help you get extra credits, boost your GPA, and give you skills that will really help you in the long run. Note: My school has block scheduling, which has made it difficult when it came to scheduling classes for my Junior year. That is really the only bad thing about APs since they take up an entire 2 semesters in the block schedule.


thegecko profile image

thegecko 4 years ago from San Diego, CA Author

Thanks for sharing such a personal account of your AP experience this year! :)


ariaramz 4 years ago

Hello :) I'm going to be a senior this fall 2012, and I need some advice about APs. In my freshman and sophomore years, I had been always been in honors classes and the accelerated program at my school, and I had always gotten As. My lowest grade on my report card had been a B+. This past junior year, I took 3 APs. It was the first time I had ever taken AP classes because my school only allows juniors and seniors to take them. I took APUSH, AP Chem, and AP Statistics. I can honestly say that these were the most challenging classes I had ever taken. The thing is, my grades in my other classes dropped. I have very high standards for myself, and I never maintained them after sophomore year. My grades became solidly A-s to B+s, when before, I used to have all As, and maybe one A- or B+.

For next year, I signed up to take 3 APs again: AP European History, AP Literature, and AP Calc AB. AP Calc was a given for me because I've always taken higher level math classes. I'm taking Lit instead of Lang because I hear that the Lit teacher teaches better than the Lang teacher.

Now here is my problem (Sorry if this is really long!). I want to be a Premed major in college (or something health professional based). I wanted to take AP Bio and Honors Anatomy at first, but because I go to a Catholic school, one of my class slots is automatically taken by my theology course. Therefore, I only have 1 slot for science. Many of my friends this year took the Honors Anatomy course, and they absolutely loved it. They said that they learned a lot even though it was a lot of work, I had heard that the new AP Bio teacher doesn't teach very well (some of my friends said that she was like the AP Chem teacher), and there is a lot of work involved in the class. So, I went for Anatomy. I feel like both classes would give me a good background for college, but since all health professional majors require Bio, AP Bio would help me more, since Anatomy is one class. My friends say it's easy to learn, and my dad said it was easy in college (he was Premed).

My guidance counselor said that I still have time to change my schedule, so I'm still very confused. I don't know if 4 APs would hurt me or help me next year, especially since senior year is full of stress for college applications and stuff. And since I have high expectations of myself, I don't know if I can get my grades back up to how they were before with 4 this time. Help?


thegecko profile image

thegecko 4 years ago from San Diego, CA Author

Hi arairamz,

That is a dilemma! I can say that throughout high school, AP classes within their own subject usually become progressively more difficult. Not all schools or teachers are the same however, and that may not be true at your school.

When I was in high school, my AP workload ended up like this from less to more:

History

AP Euro (soph)

AP US (junior)

AP Poli Sci & Comparative Gov (senior)

English

AP Lang (junior)

AP Lit (senior)

Math

However, AP Stats (senior) was easier than AP Calc AB / BC (junior)

And AP Econ was kind of in a class of its own, probably most comparable to AP Stats.

I would go speak with your AP teachers and ask them about the workload.

-How many pages do you need to read per week?

-How many papers will you be expected to write?

-How often will there be quizzes and tests?

Now that you've taken AP classes, answers to the above will help you determine what you can and cannot handle so you keep earning A's.

If your heart is really set on entering a career in the healthcare industry, I really encourage you to try and take science subject AP courses over language and history. Especially in biology and anatomy.

Though the language and history APs might knock out a few lower division college GEs for you if you pass the tests, the science APs will allow you a taste of the science field before you jump in. You better love those first couple of AP science courses, because it's pretty much all you'll be studying in college! Plus, they will provide you with a head start when you begin college.

Besides, its nice to be able to take a few courses outside your major in college, just to give you something different to focus on and a break from your core workload. I majored in Sociology, and actually found my college math and logic courses more enjoyable because I rarely took them. It was nice focusing on solving equations over needing to read 100s of pages from research papers and then write a 10-15 page paper of my own.

My friend who majored in electrical engineering also enjoyed a few of the ethnic studies and history courses he took more because it was a welcome break from all his math and physics courses.

I took some performing arts and play writing/screenwriting courses to add some fun to my course load as well.

Variety and balance really helps reduce stress in college :)

Either way though, no matter which AP courses you take, they will all help you better prepare - whether content-wise or endurance-wise - for your college life.

And yes, compared to AP classes, some colleges courses seem so much easier!

Good luck!


4 years ago

I did NOT take any AP courses through out my 3 years of high school. Yes, I said 3. I also have 45 college credits to accompany those 3 years. Though I don't think the only reason people shouldn't take those courses are because of stress, I do agree with her/him. AP course statistics are incorrect. They calculate on how many students actually take the test and pass, not how many take the course and pass the test. Half the students who take AP courses may not take the test, therefore had no reason to take the class at all. In the town I live in- 13,000 students take an AP stats class (all paying the $80 it costs), Then only 6,000 students actually take the test, and only 3,000 pass in the end. The statistics for AP Stats (in my town) is that 50% pass the test- Which is completely wrong. If all the students who took the class, took the test, Then only 20% would pass the test. (Percents are not exact, I am rounding to save time)... Another point to make is that if these students are smart enough and have the determination to pass these "college courses", Then why not have them in actual 4 month collage courses- or even 4 week Summer courses at a COLLEGE- If they can pass those AP classes - then why can't they take those REAL college courses in high school? One thing that people don't tell you is that most colleges won't accept the credit if you did not get a 4 or 5 on the test. That probably cuts your "college credit" in half. I took real college courses in high school and have obviously passed the classes, but again - I DID NOT take a single AP course, and do not believe in them. They are a money maker for the school. Each kid they get in a seat gives the school more money from the government and from the students. All the kids who do not take the test ( But have paid for the course) are profit for the school. So, that means that the schools made $560,000 off of the students that did not take the test.

You may say that I grew up too fast and didn't have any fun - But, I actually didn't miss anything; I had the same opportunities as all the other students in any high school. You may also say my arguments are incorrect - But look where I am and look where you are (Assuming you are taking AP courses) Did AP courses help? Not one bit.


thegecko profile image

thegecko 4 years ago from San Diego, CA Author

Hi A :)

Yes, I do agree about the test scores. Most colleges only equate AP classes with college credit for graded units if the student scores a 4 or a 5 on the AP test. Many colleges will only give a pass/fail grade for students who score a 3. Any score below, and you're out of luck.

Taking college courses at a local college or community college is definitely another route to go. And as long as you pass those courses, there's more of a guarantee that the student will finish college sooner as well as be more prepared for college when they graduate high school.

Of course, someone could look at AP classes as practice for college, with the final grades or test scores not affecting their undergraduate GPA. However, students jumping into college in high school will be stuck with the initial grades they earn.


4 years ago

A done degree is the best degree. If you can have your associates before by the time you graduate high school, then why not do it? Since students are in the "school" mood, classes can get done, because it is just a little more homework from their high school courses. But, instead of having to worry about not getting a good job if you don't want to continue college after high school - you already have an associates and that's better than nothing.


enomissimone 4 years ago

So I am in the IB Program, which is a lot of work and very stressful, and I take AP classes for "fun" as my electives. IB classes are like twice the work and stress as AP classes. IB is a program where one should really consider, is it worth it. Because if you don't plan on attending one of the best schools in America and receiving excellent scholarhips to attend it, then you don't need IB. It's trully for the very ambitious people in life that can handle such rigerous work ... AP on the other hand is easier and very doable. Americas modern day education system is very weak compared to Europe and many other first class countries like us. On level and honors classes give mimimum knowledge. AP creates a true educated citizan and all intelligent people should take it.

Sincerely,

a high school Junior who will most likely attend in ivy league school and is in the top 10 rank at school. AND has hobbies and friends and a LIFE. it all can be done when you manage your time properly and work hard.


Jasper 4 years ago

I wish I knew this stuff before going into AP US History and AP English at the same time. I couldn't complete either Summer Works and the in-class work is overloading me and I'm not allowed to get out of the class. I'm going into media design or creative design, I was told these classes would help me. But it's the second month of school and I already have an F when my school starts everyone off with an A...


Nina 3 years ago

God I am so sick of AP classes, I feel like I spend all my time stuDYING


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ScarlaBlack 3 years ago from Georgia

AP classes really aren't that bad; you just have to put in about 45 minutes of studying every day. Also, a 5 is not a 'perfect' score. It's the highest you can get, yes, but there are a few AP exams where you can get about 70% of the questions right and still probably get a 5, like Calc BC or Physics B or C.

Also, the class is almost always harder than the exam. I know I would get low to mid B's on the tests and feel that I barely understood the concept - only to go to the exam and feel that it was a breeze. The AP teachers really work at pushing you more than is needed so that you are more than ready when the exam comes.

Even if the college you plan on attending doesn't accept AP credit, they still look at the rigor of your classes, your academic work ethic, and how well you do on standardized tests. I would still recommend taking the AP courses and taking at least one exam. Even if they don't count it to your GPA, they still can see it on your transcript.


tegan 3 years ago

People here are overreacting. Honestly, I'm a very lazy student, yet I have found all 10 ap classes to be moderately easy, not a huge time drain at all... like I never have more than an hour's homework unless I've hugely procrastinated something and even then... and I've gotten 3 fives, two fours, and an accidental two(I messed up something on the scantron or the formatting or something silly like that)!


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Katie Lineback 2 years ago

I took AP English as a senior in high school, and I hate to say this, but it was probably the easiest English class I have ever taken. I did not take the AP exam, because it was going to offer little use to me and was going to require me missing classes. My friends in AP classes were smart, well rounded individuals. Many played sports and music classes along with their multiple AP classes. AP classes are not for the average high school student, they are for those that can go above and beyond the normal standards.


Dude 2 years ago

taking 5 Ap classes, it is a alot of work. The

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