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What are AP Classes?

August 25, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Group of students taking ap classes in a classroom.

What are AP classes?

What are AP classes? The Advanced Placement (AP) program is a set of coursework designed by the College Board. The program allows high school students to not only get a taste of what it’s like to study at the college level but also earn college credit before they’ve even finished their time in high school. These classes are more challenging than the typical high school class, and students must also pass an Advanced Placement exam at the end of the school year in order to earn college credit. Students must also pass the exam with a score that is high enough to satisfy the requirements of their chosen college.

Female student holding her books while smiling for the camera.

The Advanced Placement (AP) program has been operating since the 1950s, but it has experienced significant expansion in recent decades. Many students choose to take numerous Advanced Placement (AP) classes throughout their time in high school because the College Board now offers AP instruction in 38 distinct academic areas.

There is a wide variety of classes available through the Advanced Placement (AP) program, despite the fact that the courses that are made available through the program vary from school to school and that not all AP programs are made available in every school.

Those interested in STEM can enroll in classes such as

Students who are more interested in the humanities and social sciences can try their hand at the following:

There are also Advanced Placement classes that are specifically devoted to foreign languages like Spanish, Japanese, and even Latin.

It is crucial to check in with the AP coordinator at your school to determine which AP courses are offered at your school and to plan your schedule in accordance with that information.

What are AP Exams?

The Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum is designed to prepare students for the AP examinations in May of each year. Students’ understanding of the subject at hand is evaluated in these classes; most AP examinations consist of multiple-choice, short-answer, and essay questions.

To further elaborate on how AP classes are graded, we’ll now discuss the scoring scale of the AP exams. The Advanced Placement (AP) tests use a scale that ranges from 1 to 5, and a passing result is defined as anything higher than a 3. Although most authorized colleges and universities in the United States issue credit to students who have passed their Advanced Placement (AP) tests, the specific policies about how this credit is granted vary from institution to institution.

Students lounging in the stairs of a building.

For instance, students who pass the Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition exam with a score of 4 or 5 are entitled to gain credit for four-semester elective study units. Students can investigate the many credit options offered by various AP courses and colleges by using the extensive AP Credit Policy Search tool that the College Board provides.

For students to earn credit on their AP exam, they need to request the College Board to have their score report sent to the college they intend to attend. After that, the school will inform students of any credits or course exemptions they are entitled to based on the results of their Advanced Placement examinations.

It is possible to take an Advanced Placement exam without enrolling in the course that corresponds to it, but doing so is generally not recommended. Since AP classes are meant to prepare students for these exams specifically, students have a better chance of achieving their desired score when they receive the appropriate level of preparation.

What are the Benefits of AP Classes?

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes is beneficial not only when you are in high school but also when you are in college for a variety of reasons.

Taking Advanced Placement courses in high school can provide you with a competitive academic edge. The curriculum of Advanced Placement (AP) programs is more difficult, and students are expected to perform at a higher level. Consequently, because AP students are more well-prepared for the rigors of higher education, college admissions counselors prefer accepting them.

The development of individuals, both academically and personally, is enhanced by the completion of AP courses. You will not only be able to bring the abilities of time management and critical thinking with you to college or university, but you will also be able to employ these talents in your personal life and in the workplace if you take these classes.

Group of students walking while holding her books.

Even after you have received your final exam result, the Advanced Placement (AP) classes you took will continue to benefit you as you go forward in your academic career. The Advanced Placement (AP) exam is a test that, if passed, can help families save money on college courses. Students have the possibility to graduate from college early if they take these classes during their time at the high school level.

Usually, these classes are equivalent to the beginning programs offered at colleges and universities. It also implies that students will have a head start on their classmates who did not take any Advanced Placement (AP) classes when it comes to enrolling in specialized classes on subjects that interest them.

Factors to Consider Before Taking an AP Class

It is necessary to carefully consider the various aspects of your performance in an Advanced Placement class before enrolling in one. These aspects include the following:

Your Subject Strengths

Students should seriously consider enrolling in an Advanced Placement course in a field in which they already have some prior experience or in which they have been successful in the past. Taking a course that is centered on a brand-new topic might bring several problems, as you may be required to begin from the very beginning while also working at a significantly accelerated speed.

For instance, if you’ve done well in your past scientific classes, the next obvious step for you would be to enroll in either Advanced Placement Chemistry or Advanced Placement Biology.

Your Schedule

When determining how many Advanced Placement classes to enroll in, it is important to consider the total number of classes you are taking each semester. Taking on too much academic pressure at once can leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated, which can have a detrimental impact not only on your grade point average but also on your mental health.

A professor talking to a group of students.

As they prepare to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes, students should also consider the time commitments required by their other commitments, such as extracurricular activities, honors courses, part-time employment, and other duties.

AP Course Difficulty

Compared to the usual course taken during high school, the difficulty level of AP classes is significantly higher. As a result, you should make it a point to read the descriptions of each class to evaluate whether or not you feel prepared to tackle the material.

Your grade point average (GPA) could take a hit if you don’t do well in advanced placement (AP) classes, which would do more harm than good when it comes time to apply to colleges.

What are the Hardest AP Classes in High School?

To gauge which AP classes are the most demanding, consider the pass rate and the perfect score rate. The pass rate represents the portion of students who score three or above, and the perfect score rate indicates the fraction of students who score a full five. Both are presented as percentages, reflecting the highest achievable score.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

You should also take into consideration the academic strengths you possess as well as the instructor of the advanced placement course. These are two crucial aspects that may influence the level of difficulty of AP classes.

The table that follows provides a ranking of the most difficult Advanced Placement classes according to the percentage of students that pass each exam.

AP CLASS/EXAM PASS RATE (3+) PERFECT SCORE (5)
Physics 1 51.6% 8.8%
Environmental Science 53.4% 11.9%
Chemistry 56.1% 10.6%
U.S. Government and Politics 57.5% 15.5%
U.S. History 58.7% 13.0%
Human Geography 59.0% 11.8%
European History 59.3% 13.7%
Statistics 60.0% 16.2%
English Literature 60.1% 9.3%
World History 60.2% 9.2%

According to the College Board, Physics 1 tops the hardest AP class based on exam pass rate. This course includes not only algebra but also scientific inquiry and physics. The Advanced Placement (AP) Physics 1 course, which covers topics such as Newtonian physics and electrical charge and force, is often regarded as one of the most challenging AP courses. In addition, students devote around a quarter of their total class time to writing reports and doing college-level laboratory experiments.

Students will be asked to describe physical events, solve mathematical equations, evaluate conceptual models, and organize experiments over this Advanced Placement exam, which comprises five free-response questions and fifty multiple-choice questions (MCQs).

Other difficult AP classes include but are not limited to:

AP Environmental Science

Because Environmental Science is such a large subject, including not just biology and geology but also chemistry and mathematics, it is necessary for instructors to cover a significant amount of ground in their lessons. The AP Environmental Science course focuses, in part, on the investigation of the planet and its resources, the analysis of environmental issues, and the use of quantitative tools in the pursuit of potential solutions. Students also participate in both fieldwork and laboratory experiments.

The Advanced Placement exam in Environmental Science consists of 80 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and three free-response questions. These questions measure students’ ability to examine research, understand data, and problem-solve using mathematical equations. Participants also do an environmental problem analysis and suggest a possible remedy.

AP Chemistry

AP Chemistry calls for a strong foundation in chemistry as well as algebra. Students gain an understanding of complex chemical processes and the skills necessary to construct experiments to test theories and support evidence-based scientific assertions throughout their education. This class is infamous for requiring students to memorize material and complete extensive homework assignments.

There are 60 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and seven free-response items on the exam. It examines a student’s capacity to defend scientific assertions and evaluate conceptual representations of chemical characteristics. Participants in the examination will not only solve problems but will also develop experiments and employ mathematical relationships.

U.S. Government and Politics

The political system of the United States, national government institutions, the process of public policymaking, and civil rights are only some of the topics that are covered in this Advanced Placement class. Students use fundamental papers and decisions from the United States Supreme Court as a basis for making comparisons, interpreting facts, and writing evidence-based arguments.

The AP Examination in United States Government and Politics consists of 55 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and four free-response questions. These questions measure a student’s comprehension of political concepts as well as their ability to analyze documents and judicial decisions.

U.S. History

The year 1491 up until the present day is covered in depth throughout the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History course. Concerning the lengthy span of time this study covers, there is a wealth of knowledge to acquire. Students in this subject make connections between the outcomes of historical events and how individuals and policies built the foundation of the United States.

The test consists of 55 multiple-choice questions, three questions with short-answer options, one extended essay question, and one document-based question (DBQ). Students are tasked with formulating and defending an argument using seven different documents as part of the DBQ. In addition to this, students are evaluated on their knowledge of historical facts as well as their capacity to comprehend historical narratives.

How Do AP Classes Help You Get Into College?

Because they are more difficult than regular high school classes, Advanced Placement (AP) Courses demonstrate to colleges that you are interested in furthering your education. Not only do Advanced Placement programs produce a rich academic transcript, but high marks on AP tests can demonstrate to colleges that you are adept in a subject that is considered to be more difficult.

Several schools apply a unique methodology to evaluate AP coursework (GPA) when determining a student’s grade point average. In Advanced Placement (AP) courses, students are graded using a 5.0-point scale rather than the standard 4.0-point system. This means that an A in an AP course equals a score of 5.0 rather than 4.0, and a B in an AP course equals a score of 4.0 rather than 3.0.

Students who enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) classes have the potential to earn a grade point average that is greater than 4.0, which can provide them an advantage over other students when applying to institutions. It also ensures that students are not punished for pushing themselves to their academic limits; for instance, a student who receives a grade of B in AP Latin would still have a weighted GPA of 4.0.

Taking Advanced Placement courses is a fantastic method to demonstrate to colleges the subjects in which you have a deep interest. For instance, if you want to show universities that you have a serious interest in political science, economics, or law in the future, taking advanced placement courses in United States history, economics, or government is a good way to demonstrate your interest.

Want to learn more about taking advantage of AP Classes? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.

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