AP Exams: The Word From Admissions

It’s March and high school students are selecting courses for next year. You may be wondering if you should consider taking an AP course?

Which AP course should I take?

Students can take an AP Exam without taking the course.

Students can take an AP Exam without taking the course.

Do you have a specific area of interest or have you performed well in honors courses? If yes, then consider taking the AP version of the same courses. At most high schools, the AP course covers more advanced material than the honors or college prep course, however, at some high schools it is an accelerated version that covers the same material. Be sure to discuss this with your teacher–you would not want to repeat a course that covered similar materials and used the same textbook.

Taking The AP Exam Without Taking The Course

Some high schools offer few or no AP courses. Or perhaps your school offers AP, but you decided against one last spring. Not to worry! You can still take an AP exam without having been enrolled in the course. This is commonly done with the AP English and AP US History exams when students have strengths in those subjects. Students in Newton South High School’s Globalization program take their own version of US History junior year. However, they are encouraged to sit for the AP US History exam, and many earn a high score of 4 or 5 (5 is the highest possible score).

Both the AP Literature and Composition and the AP Language and Composition exams emphasize writing clear, analytical essays. However, AP Literature focuses on analyzing literature and poetry while AP Language emphasizes mostly non-fiction works. In AP Literature, you will read fewer pieces but will be expected to analyze each one in great detail and to cohesively explain your analysis in writing. In AP Language, you will read a variety of materials and learn to make your writing effective and clear. Juniors who have strengths in English might consider taking one or both of these exams, even if they have not taken the AP course.

How Colleges View AP

Some colleges expect students to have multiple AP courses and strong exam results, where others put little emphasis on test scores of any kind. Some colleges view certain AP courses such as AP Calculus, Physics and Biology as more rigorous than APs in Statistics, Computer Science or Psychology. Christian West, senior admission counselor at the University of Virginia does not see one class as more rigorous or worthy than another.

“We consider all AP classes to carry the same weight and rigor in our evaluation process, “said West. “One AP course within the same core area is not necessarily preferred more than another with the exception of AP Physics for prospective Engineers.”

Mr. West emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced curriculum.

“We prefer to see that students have taken a top-level, rigorous AP course in all the core areas of English, Math, Social Studies, Foreign Language, and Science,” said West. “A student with a curriculum of 3 AP courses in English, Science, and Math would look more competitive to us than a student who has taken 3 AP courses all in Social Studies.”

On the other hand, Clark University is a test optional school and while they too care about your transcript and the rigor of your courses, Admissions Counselor Jeremy Levine said, “We don’t even look at an applicant’s AP exam scores.”

The exams are scheduled in May of each spring. Talk to your guidance counselor or the AP coordinator at your school by the middle of March to register for exams.

Preparation materials are available online from the College Board as well via other sources. See the full list of College Board AP offerings here.

If you want to speak with someone in person to help plan your college admissions journey, Educational Advocates is here to help.

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