To AP or not to AP? That’s the question nearly every teen (and their parents) finds themselves asking at some point during the high school years. There are plenty of reasons to go the AP class route, and quite frankly, there are also plenty of reasons no to. But what are the real questions parents and students need to be asking before committing to enduring the Advanced Placement route?
Questions to Ask About AP Classes
1. How much is it?
Many families don’t realize that there may be a cost involved in taking an AP class. If you choose to take the AP exam at the end of the academic year (it may be optional to take the AP course exam through The College Board, so ask), find out if your school is footing the bill for the test, or if that financial obligation is on you. If you’re in the US, you’ll be paying $94 per exam, and if you’re outside the US it’s $124. That adds up quickly if you’ve got 4-5 AP classes on your schedule.
2. What are the AP teacher’s average scoring results?
Yes you can ask this, and yes you SHOULD be asking this. Either speak with the guidance counselor, and/or the potential AP teacher, and ask to see some of the previous year’s test results (student names withheld of course.) Year after year, do a majority of that particular AP teacher’s students pass with a score of 3, 4, or 5? What are the teacher’s scoring trend? If it’s a 3, maybe seek out a different teacher.
3. Does it transfer?
Perhaps the most important question you need to be asking, is will the student’s future college accept this AP class as college credit, and if they do, how much? For example, while one university may grant 3 credit hours for an AP exam score of 3 or higher, others will only give credit with a score of 4 or higher. Additionally, you’ll need to ask if a score of 4 or 5 garners more than 3 credit hours, i.e. will a 4 only earn you 3 hours? Will a 5 earn you 3 plus a 4th for a lab credit?
Finally, check with an advisor in your student’s major to see if AP credit will count towards that program’s requirement. For example, even though a biology major may have passed the AP Bio exam with a score of 5, they may still be required to take (or repeat so to speak) “General Bio” as a major requirement.
4. Exactly what will the workload be like, and what- if any, out of school requirements will there be?
Does this class require summer prep work? How much? Will student be able to do that prep work on their own, or will it be necessary to come into school over the summer? This is where asking the AP teacher to go into further detail on workload is hugely beneficial. Will it be a ton of work during their pivotal junior year? Or can it wait until senior year?
5. How is AP grade weight calculated?
Again, this is where it’s handy to know where your student may be applying for college. Each college calculates a high school GPA quite differently. Some may give a “bonus bump” for AP classes that is higher than the one they give for an honors class, while some may give them equal weight. It begs the question, is an “A” in AP the same weight as an “A” in honors? Find out.
6. Why not dual enroll (DE) instead?
If your high school offers a dual enrollment program through the local community college, look into it. School districts usually pay the class fee, and if it’s a public and state supported community college, all classes taken via DE will most likely be easily transferred to the same state’s public university. Also, check to see if a one semester DE class will grant you 3 credit hours.
For example, a student could take the entire one year AP English Composition course and end up with 3 credit hours. Alternatively, a student could DE English Comp I in the fall, and then English Comp II in the spring, and after the same “one year,” end up with 6 hours instead of 3. Again, it’s important and necessary to be asking the future college advisors and admissions reps what their DE and AP transfer policy is, and continue to do so (because they change!) as you go through this class selection process in high school.