Should You Take AP Classes? Part 1

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    AP LogoAs students across the country get ready to select their courses for the upcoming school year, many are contemplating whether to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes and how many to take.  For some students, next year will be their first opportunity to take AP classes; others have been able to take these classes previously but only now are seriously considering doing so; and still others have taken these classes before and are trying to decide if they want to continue taking them.

    In this blog post, I will present arguments in favor of taking AP courses.  In a subsequent post, I will offer arguments against taking these classes.

    Pros of taking AP classes:

    • AP courses can help students develop the skills needed to succeed in college.  The rigors of AP classes are designed to be very similar to those of college courses, so AP helps students prepare for the demands of college by teaching them study, organizational, and time management skills.
    • AP classes lead to better outcomes in college.  Students who take AP classes and pass AP exams go to college at higher rates, get better grades in college, and are more likely to graduate from college in four years.  Students who score a 3 or higher on an AP exam are three times more likely to earn a college degree than students who score below a 3.  African American and Hispanic students who earn a 3 or higher are four times more likely to earn a college degree.  Even students who score a 2 on AP exams are more likely to graduate than students who don’t take the exams.
    • AP courses are sometimes better than college courses. A 2007 study found that students who earned at least a 3 on AP exams in most subjects get higher grades in the next-level college course than students who took the college’s own introductory course.  This study examined data from colleges across the country, including 27 highly selective schools.
    • AP classes can earn students college credits.  Students who receive a high enough score on an AP exam may be given college credits and/or be able to “opt out” of an introductory college course and take a more advanced course.  The required score depends on the college, but no college accepts less than a 3.  Students who earn a large number of AP credits may even be able to finish college early.  A friend of mine graduated in three years because she had so many AP credits!
    • AP classes are much cheaper than college classes.  The cost for an AP exam this year is $89.  That’s far less than you’ll pay for a college course, even at the least expensive college.  And if you’re able to graduate a semester or year early, you/your parents will save big time!

    Stay tuned for another blog post that examines the cons of taking AP courses.

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      About the Author

      Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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