Advanced Placement (AP): Courses, Tests, and Benefits
In order to stand out to the admissions office, your coursework should be rigorous. This demonstrates your desire to prepare for college and your ability to succeed. One way to do this is by taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses throughout your high school career. In addition to giving you a competitive advantage when you begin applying to college, taking AP courses can also result in earning college credit during high school. Begin with Pre-AP courses, which will prepare you for the more rigorous AP courses when you can register for them.
Note to Parents: Encouraging your student to take challenging courses in high school will help them with the admissions process, scholarship applications and prepare them for success at their chosen post-secondary institution.
Note to Students: Don’t be scared to challenge yourself by taking rigorous courses in high school. Your future is worth it! Don’t leave room for wishing you put more effort into your academics. Take the plunge and work hard in more challenging courses!
What is Advanced Placement (AP)?
- AP Courses are rigorous, college-level courses created by College Board and taught by trained high school teachers.
- The content and knowledge outcomes are determined by a committee to reflect university/college coursework.
- Students have the opportunity to gain college credit by taking AP exams in May.
- There are over 30 courses and exams offered in Arts, English, History & Social Sciences, Math & Computer Science, Sciences, and World language & Cultures.
For a complete list of AP courses and tests, visit the College Board website.
Why should I take AP courses & exams?
- College credit is given to students with the required score based on their chosen university/college’s expectations.
- You will develop and apply college-level skills such as critical reading, analytical thinking and problem solving, writing, time management, discipline and strong study habits.
- Scholarship committees look at students’ coursework to determine if they challenged themselves.
- College admissions determines if students are preparing themselves for college through their coursework; advanced placement courses demonstrate the extra effort for college preparation.
- A’s in easy coursework are not impressive to scholarship committees or admissions offices.
- Scholarship committees and admissions offices will know the student has a high expectations of higher learning.
The Financial Benefit: Courses in college can be anywhere from $200-$1200 each. The AP Exam only costs $93 (without fee reductions and assistance offered to qualified students). Taking AP courses not only shows commitment to learning but can take a financial burden off your future college endeavors. Think about it…$93 per course or $200-$1200, depending on the post-secondary institution of your choice.
How does AP exam scoring work?
- Students complete a test with multiple choice, free response and essay portions.
- The multiple choice portion is graded by the computer while free response and essay are graded by trained readers in June each year.
- The portions are put together for a composite score determined by the chief reader.
- Students receive a 1-5 for their cumulative score.
- 1: No recommendation
- 2: Possibly Qualified
- 3: Qualified
- 4: Well Qualified
- 5: Extremely Well-Qualified
BONUS TIP: Studying for the exam isn’t like studying for a high school chapter/unit exam. Students must begin studying for the exam early (a couple months in advance) to be fully prepared to obtain the required score to gain college credit. Practice taking AP exams for free!
Planning ahead is key
Stay in touch with your guidance counselor and understand which AP courses are offered at your school. Some AP courses have prerequisites that need to be taken in your freshmen and sophomore years so you need to be clear on your course layout from your freshman year forward.
You’ll also want to look ahead to your list of potential colleges. Check out Big Future’s College Search to find universities that accept AP exam scores for course credit.
Other options for demonstrating academic rigor:
Not every school offers AP courses. Look into the advanced academic program options at your school. These could include Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, or dual credit courses. Make sure you understand the difference between these options before you decide if they are the right fit for you.
How to keep track of academics in your College Readiness Tracking System:
Keep a copy of your most recent transcripts in your storage container or scan it in and save it in your digital system.
Be prepared to also provide “official transcripts,” which may need to be sealed, or even provided directly by the school. An “official transcript” should include GPA, Class Rank, and Test Scores, but it is important to also track these statistics in your College Readiness Tracking System.
There are many academic honors, including valedictorian and salutatorian; these should be tracked in your honors and awards section.
- Look into the advanced academic program options at your school.
As always, share your questions or thoughts in the comments below.