AP Classes: Are They Really Worth it?

By Pallavi Kawatra, Opinions Editor

“The goal of this class is to pass your AP exam, so focus on getting that 5!” This is often the message high school students worldwide hear when they begin their Advanced Placement courses in school. The course’s focus is almost solely on the exam, and the score released in July establishes the credibility of a student’s work and represents, what is perceived as, her most notable accomplishment. But is the possibility of getting the enviable “5” and earning a few college credits really worth the pressure found in AP classes?

The true essence of an Advanced Placement course appears to be the test, as many teachers focus so greatly on practicing and teaching to the test. Within these classes, the true meaning of the subject and joy of exploring is often lost, replaced with practice multiple choice quizzes and test-taking strategies. While learning those is not necessarily unfavorable at the time, in the long run it is not beneficial to the student. At Trinity Hall, teachers encourage AP students to focus more on the skills and content rather than just “teaching to the test,” but, for both students and teachers, that solitary exam that presumably measures our achievements is ever-present in our minds from even the summer before the school year starts.

AP courses are supposed to be more stimulating and challenging than other honors level or general high school courses. They have become greatly esteemed by college admissions boards, and many high schools require rigorous academic standards and commitment prior to being admitted to an AP class; however, some schools, like Trinity Hall, have open entrance to these college-level courses, inviting all students to take on the challenge of an AP class if they so desire. The courses should create deep understandings in the subjects and stronger analytical perspectives; however, seeing this result is much more difficult when there is a limit on time and a critical focal point established by the single exam.

This focus also puts a huge damper on student’s creativity within the classroom. Often in these classes, few projects, which encourage expanding a student’s knowledge and an outlet for creativity, are assigned, further hindering the opportunity for thorough understanding of the subjects. As The Atlantic puts it, “The AP classroom is where intellectual curiosity goes to die.” Although AP teachers at Trinity Hall manage to incorporate creativity and collaboration in their classes, it’s nearly impossible to fit in all of the curriculum required by the College Board while still allowing the time and space that real creativity and collaboration need.

Interestingly enough, some college professors and students have found that the AP classes in high school do not truly prepare students for the expectations of some college curriculum. Many studies have shown that if students pass the exam, they are simply bypassing the introductory level of that class and jumping into a higher level course that they may not be fully prepared for, which can lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety during the first semester of college. As such, some colleges are increasing the minimum score students need to achieve on the AP exam to earn credit, making the courses even less beneficial to students.

All in all, Advanced Placement courses are the wrong way to introduce students to a more rigorous college-based class. Their main purpose is to achieve the highest score on the exam that a student possibly can, but that is not what modern education is about. Rather than focusing on the number, students should be understanding the material and delving into it because they are genuinely interested.

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