Pro: AP Classes provide college credit and prepare students

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The proctor announces that all tests have been collected and that the students are free to go. A general noise of relief is heard from the students, which echoes throughout the gym along with general complaints of sore backs and the squeak of plastic chairs on the gym floor. Such was the end of the AP U.S. History College Board exam, colloquially known as “the AP test”.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college-level courses offered by some schools; at the end of the school year, students in these courses take an AP test to determine if they will receive college credit for taking the course. This opportunity is an important one and should be considered by students who do not feel challenged by regular College Prep courses or would like to save money later by skipping college classes.

Students who take AP courses are more likely to do well in college in other areas because they are introduced to the format of college courses early. A 2010 study conducted by the Journal of College Admission found that on average, students who took AP classes had higher college grade point averages than students who did not. AP classes prepare students for college by introducing them to a college-level workload. This allows them to more easily adapt to the amount of work they receive when they actually go into college.

This exposure to college rigor also applies generally. A 2006 study by the National Center for Educational Accountability found that students who perform well on AP exams are more likely to graduate from college. Performing well on an AP test indicates that the student has sufficiently retained taught material. This is an important skill to develop for college and life beyond it, and the structure of AP classes encourages retention by “building up” towards the class exam by, for example, holding review sessions outside of class.

While it is true that AP classes are sometimes unduly stressful, it is on the students and their parents to make sure that the AP class they are taking is something that they are comfortable being challenged in. A contributing factor to that stress may be that the student does not feel comfortable asking for help because of the rigor of the course, but that inevitably feeds into the stigmatization of mental health issues, which in and of itself is a larger societal problem not specific to AP classes. Students should feel free to reach out to their instructors when they need help in any class, including in AP classes.

AP classes can be thought of as a recommendation. They are not required, and students should not feel the pressure to act as if they are, but they show colleges that the students taking them are ready for the academic rigor of a college career and allow students to challenge themselves in ways they might not otherwise be able to.

“I think the best reason is to develop greater interest in skills and subject matter so that you’re not just doing it at a basic level for graduation,” AP U.S. History teacher Jennifer Harrington said. “You’re doing it for enrichment, and for college and career readiness.”