What Do I Need to Know About AP Classes?

Advanced Placement BC Calculus students work together to solve problems.   Photo Credit: Haseeb Khan

Advanced Placement BC Calculus students work together to solve problems.

Photo Credit: Haseeb Khan

By HILLARY MICHEL           

You want to take an AP course because you want to show how smart and hardworking you are to colleges, but do you really have what it takes? Why should you take them? Will it be too much work? What classes should you take? Are there any you should avoid?

Advanced placement classes are college level courses that are usually a year long. Each semester, you get the same AP teacher, period, and classmates. In May, there will be an AP Exam.

The highest score you can get on the test is a five. Generally, colleges will give you credit for the course if you get a four or five. However, different colleges have different standards, so it is best to get that information from the colleges you apply to. And no matter what, you still need to pass the Regents. 

AP exams cost $94 each, but there is a chance that you will not need to pay anything, or at least a discounted price, based on the information you put on your lunch form, so make sure you turn that in.

Each department has different criteria on how they accept students, guidance counselor Kendra Lane said, and the competitive seats are not guaranteed. This means you shouldn’t expect to get in just because you have a 90 or higher in your class. She recommends that students attend the interest meetings each class holds near the end of March for more information.

One reason students take AP courses is they like the challenge. Another reason is the effort and money you can save by getting a head start on college. Each AP exam you receive credits for means there is one less class you have to pay for in college.

“AP exams go deep into details versus the general things you learn in [regular classes],” Joey Chen ’19 said.

Enid Wang ’20 said, “Even if colleges don’t accept your scores, at least you got some experience out of it, and it makes it easier to relearn everything in college.”

The order in which you take AP classes can  be important. For example, if you plan to take AP US History junior year, you should also take AP World History in sophomore year, Idrees Llahi ’20 said. Not only is it a good way to get used to big work loads, but it is also good for background information. When writing an essay, he uses what he learned in AP World History as supporting evidence for his main idea.

Many AP classes are also helpful beyond their subject area. 

“In terms of practicality, AP Language would be the most helpful,” said Wang. “It’s supposed to improve your writing skills and comprehension, which can definitely help with the SAT.” 

Each class varies in difficulty. Mrs. Lane said that the hardest classes for students tend to be AP Biology and AP Chemistry, which are double periods. 

Wang said, “AP Bio is definitely the hardest AP for me. It requires us to know and understand multiple concepts and apply them during class. I’m taking AP Bio, but I’m still struggling to remember certain concepts that I took three years ago in Living Environment.”                

Mrs. Kimberly Lau, the AP Environmental Science teacher, describes her class as a “rigorous guilt trip.” The work load requires that students make some adjustments to their lifestyle, she said. Students need to be motivated and willing to work because AP classes “require dedication.”

It is also important to realize you shouldn’t try and take every AP.   

“For those who want to take AP classes, my advice is to know your limits,” said Wang. “It’s good to push yourself, but you need to know if taking too many APs will be too much. Taking on four APs still remains a struggle for me since I need to dedicate so much time to each class.”

Many students and teachers recommend taking no more than two APs as a junior and three AP classes as a senior.

“If you’re the type of person who constantly procrastinates, I suggest to you not take AP,” said Chen. “There will always be a pile of work waiting for you. The moment you are done with one project, another one just comes. You cannot take breaks. You’re constantly engaged in your work.” 

For more info on AP classes, talk to your guidance counselor or inquire in each subject’s department office.


NewsCasey Levinson