Advanced Placement, or AP, courses are designed specifically for high school students who want to earn college credit or simply take a more difficult course. Classes are offered in a variety of subjects, and the year usually concludes with a rigorous examination. Some universities may grant college credit or admission to advanced classes to students who pass AP exams.
The College Board, a non-profit organization, oversees the Advanced Placement program. The College Board, in addition to running the AP program, also offers SAT and other test preparation classes. The College Board also assists students with college applications and selection. The AP program is popular in both the United States and Canada, with over one million students taking the exam each year.
AP courses are available in over 30 subjects, though not all classes are offered in every location. The classes are generally considered to be on par with college-level requirements, and the curriculum is extremely demanding. Calculus, chemistry, studio art, US and world history, and a variety of language and culture classes are among the subjects covered the AP courses. Unfortunately, at least four classes were dropped from the course list in 2009 due to recent funding cuts.
AP credit is typically awarded based on exam scores, allowing students who are homeschooled or attend schools that do not offer AP courses to participate in the program. Although attendance in class is strongly encouraged, independent study can also help students prepare for the difficult AP exam. Contact your local school district and ask to speak with an AP coordinator to learn more about how to sign up for AP exams even if you are unable to take the courses.
Exams for AP courses are only offered once a year, in May. Tests can take several hours to complete, and strict adherence to all test rules is required to avoid disqualification. Because grades are not released until July, high school seniors will not know their AP scores until they have decided on a college and the amount of college credit they will receive. Experts recommend starting AP classes in your sophomore or junior year of high school to ensure that you have passing grades to submit to colleges and that you have a second chance to retake exams if you fail.
The AP tests are graded on a curve, with five being the highest possible score and one being the lowest. A score of three or higher is considered a passing grade most colleges. Your results are sent to you, your high school, and any university you specify. Students who excel on multiple exams may be awarded AP Scholar Awards, an academic honor that recognizes their accomplishments.
The amount of college credit awarded for AP courses varies school. You can get up to a year of credit for your AP course work in the most beneficial programs. This means you can actually start college as a sophomore, saving a year of tuition and time. Make sure to look into what AP credit each college you’re considering offers.
AP classes are a challenging but rewarding way to get a head start on your college education. While the classes may be more challenging than typical high school courses, advanced students may find them more engaging and rewarding. An AP course’s curriculum can help students prepare for the level of work expected of them at a university, as well as give them the opportunity to explore subjects they enjoy in greater depth and focus before even setting foot on a college campus.