Why Take AP Courses?

AP Courses

More than 90 percent of colleges offer college credit, advanced placement, or both for AP exam scores that meet specific qualifications. In addition to these benefits, high school AP classes can be a glimpse into what college will be like.

AP (advanced placement) instruction involves examinations that measure what students have learned over a year-long class. AP courses are not your typical high school subjects, though, as advanced placement classes employ a hands-on learning approach where students open a dialogue and debate about specific concepts and subjects. For a high school student, it’s probably the closest thing to experiencing a college class before graduating. At the end of the course, the right exam score can earn a student college credit at a prospective college, though qualifying scores depend on the institution.

Advanced Placement Subjects

More than 30 AP courses exist in the following subject areas: Arts, English, History & Social Science, Math & Computer Science, Sciences, and World Languages & Cultures. The purpose of AP courses is two-fold: They give you practice for college, and they also can actually help you with college credit and placement. So not only do they simulate what college might be like for students, but they also help students get a leg up, credit-wise.

Differences Between AP Classes and Regular Classes

AP Classes
Regular Classes
Tackle concepts through dialogue and debate (in addition to facts and figures)Promote memorization of facts and figures
Independent learningMore structured learning
Big exam that can help students earn college credit or skip introductory college classesNot worth college credit
Hands-on approaches to learningTextbook approaches to learning
Signal to admissions officers the most rigorous classes available at a high schoolDo not necessarily signal to admissions officers the most rigorous classes available at a high school

Advanced Placement Registration

AP courses are typically offered through high schools, so those students wishing to register for an advanced placement test or course should contact the AP coordinator at their school. If students are home-schooled or attend a school that does not offer AP courses or exams, they should contact AP services before the beginning of March to get contacts of local AP coordinators.

The general AP contact number is (888) CALL-4-AP or (212) 632-1780. The email address is apexams@info.collegeboard.org.

Advanced Placement Examinations

Each year during the first two weeks of May,  students participate in the AP exams all over the world, typically in high schools that host AP courses and exams. The fee for each exam is $89, and you can take an AP exam even if you haven’t taken an AP course.

Most exams are between two and three hours long and consist of two sections.

Section I (Multiple Choice)

  • The first part of the exam has multiple-choice questions, where students choose one response from four or five possible answers. Only correct answers receive points; incorrect or unanswered questions do not receive points.

Section II (Free Response)

  • The second part is where students create their own responses, whether in the form of an essay, solution to a math problem, or spoken-word response for a language section.

For students taking an AP class, the teacher will most likely go over the AP exam process before administering the test.

Wondering what a sample question looks like? Click here to see some examples from each section.

What to Bring to an AP Exam

  • Valid government ID/school-issued ID
  • Six-digit code of the school you attend (even if you’re taking the exam at a different school)
  • If you’re home-schooled, use the state or international home-school/self-study code that can be acquired on the day of the exam.

Advanced Placement Scores

After students complete a class, they take an AP exam, where scores on a scale of 1 to 5 are reported to designated colleges or universities. Scores incorporate a combination of how well you did on the AP exam and how well you did in the course in general.

5 – extremely well qualified
4 – well qualified
3 – qualified
2 – possibly qualified
1 – no recommendation

The multiple-choice section of the test is scored by a computer. However, the free-response section is scored during the annual AP Reading which is held every June, where an advanced placement board of appointed professors and instructors come together to score sections of the exam.

Schools tend to give students college credit for scores 3 and above. However, every school is different, so students are advised to check a particular school’s website for AP credit requirements.

Benefits of AP Classes
Consequences of AP Classes
You can sometimes get college credit for an AP score.
It's a lot of work, and you may not get college credit for it.
It prepares you for what college classes will be like. You have to have good time management skills or you could be overwhelmed.

The Bottom Line

AP classes are perfect for students looking for that extra challenge or an idea of what college might be like when it comes to academics. To find out if their high school offers AP classes, students are advised to talk with their school counselor.