What is in a Name: AP Classes

Mrs. Baxter told tales of last year — half her class dropped the class on account of its difficulty; Mr. West dissected the hours in the week, slicing apart any illusion of rest; the other teachers doled out textbooks and warned of the test in May. This start of school typical for AP classes; however this “hazing period” is not representative of the entirety of AP classes. The stigmas about AP courses unreasonably scares off students from the opportunity these classes provide.

AP classes are a set of 38 classes in every subject that range from Macroeconomics to Spanish Literature and Culture. These course offerings are college level courses and can offer college credit with certain scores on the AP tests. Because of the colligate level of these courses, both teachers and students can view them as an elite endeavor.  

They shouldn’t.

Since AP classes were first employed in the 1960’s, the college board began working to integrate them into high schools. In fact, the original intent of AP classes was to bridge the gap between high schools and universities, according to a statement from the College Board in 2003. As the program has developed, this dream has come to fruition.

Rose Williams and Chloe Leis pull a favorite quote from Shakespeare's  Othello  in AP Seminar.  Photo by author.

Rose Williams and Chloe Leis pull a favorite quote from Shakespeare's Othello in AP Seminar. Photo by author.

Currently, AP classes are commonplace: a part of many students typical progression. AP Human Geography is a required freshman class in Florida and Texas. Both AP Chemistry and AP Biology can be taken after only a year of high school science. AP English classes are incorporated into many Sophomore’s schedules. Nowadays, AP classes are a low hanging fruit.

So what makes these classes such a daunting prospect? The lack of familiarity. Students who have never taken an AP class are largely unfamiliar with the requirements of the classes. This disconnect leads to these classes to become a foreign concept that slowly snowballs to become more difficult to buy into.

Sure, there are many other aspects to consider aside from just difficulty. Many students blance jobs, extracurriculars, and family responsibilities as well as their classwork. For students with a plate this full, it’s wise to take caution against taking a large AP course load. However, I also wouldn’t advise students to immediately write off the prospect of AP classes.

Instead, students should take the most challenging version offerings in any subject that appeals to them. An unwarranted apprehension of the challenge posed by AP classes only limits students.

Many aspects of these classes make them less of a challenge than they appear to be in writing. AP classes have largely smaller class sizes. This small teacher to student ratio allows for more individualized instruction; with this individualized instruction students are better able to synthesize what they are learning.

Students also have the benefit of a weighted GPA. When a B still allows for students to have a 4.0, students don't have to put as much stress into getting an outstanding score on each exam. If students do get an A in the class, the weighted grade can make up for other stumbles that occurred throughout a student's high school career.

College credit is also an incentive. With an AP test score of 3 or higher, many Oregon public universities grant multiple credits. Even private schools will award credit for 4’s and 5’s in certain tests.

To put this number scale into perspective, one can look at the AP Language and Composition test as a case study. This test was the most widely taken classes with 390,754 students taking it, according to the Teachers College of Columbia. For this test, one only needs to score 75 points out of 150, according to AP Pass an AP test score calculator. For those who aren't in AP statistics (or even for those who are) that is equal to exactly 50 percent: a failing grade by most standards.

AP testers are aware of their offerings difficulty, so they accommodate. Because of this, it means a student can, in essence, fail a subject yet still receive credit for it. This steep curve opens the door to many students.

By making these college courses more manageable, the College Board actively is creating an opportunity for all students to partake in the AP system to some degree. Truly, the only hindering factor when it comes to succeeding in and taking AP classes is the mindset of the students. Ever if the extent of a student's experience is taking on AP course, it could be the gateway to new options in a student's future.