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AP Classes: Worth It? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     You see them in the halls, in a daze, stumbling toward their classes. Their faces are ashen with fatigue; their spines are bent under the weight of a dozen textbooks. They are the ones struggling valiantly to stifle a yawn during class, the ones frantically rereading their notes before an exam on the nature of light photons during photosynthesis.

They are the few, the chosen. They are the AP students.

The truth is, honors students are no longer a select few. Over half of university-bound students take AP classes, and of these, most take at least two. The AP system drills into our brains that our college success hinges on taking as many advanced courses as possible, but is it really worth it? “On average, I spend three to four hours each day on homework,” says one senior, who is taking five AP classes. “With the number I’m taking, I really doubt that I will be confident going into each test.”

With increasing pressure to enroll in AP courses, not only for college credit but also for the weighted GPA, it is no wonder that students often find their grades suffering and their stress levels soaring. In reality, AP courses have become mere trophies, adding little more than volume and sparkle to a competitive college application.

One of the major flaws in the AP system is that every class is geared toward a standardized test. The result is that comprehensive learning is sacrificed for the sake of test preparation, with teachers spending the most time on topics likely to appear on the AP exam.

“It feels like sometimes we rush through material or ignore parts of the subject,” says one senior. “It would be nice to sit back and learn for the sake of learning, not just to get a five on the test in May.”

And just because a student receives a high grade on the AP test does not mean he or she will receive college credit. Many universities now don’t consider an AP class in high school to be synonymous with an actual undergraduate college-level class, which is usually a three-hour, lecture-based course with varying degrees of homework.

According to another AP student, “the sheer volume of learning” is what makes the workload so challenging. It is simply not feasible to absorb an entire college class in less than an hour a day, with all the other classes and responsibilities.

For those who wish to delve further into a particular subject, college-level classes may be a fantastic idea. But the current AP course system is flawed and too test-intensive to provide students with an optimum learning environment. Perhaps more high schools should consider offering their students the opportunity to take actual college courses through a local university.

Or maybe we should all just go to college.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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gpnukem said...
May 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm
I'd agree with most of what you said.  In my opinion, the biggest flaw in the AP system is that because students are so pressured to take AP classes, teachers end up dumbing down the material.  Lots of students just Dual-Enroll, so it doesn't matter if they can't perform on the AP test.  Ideally, this would be a good thing because it should allow the teacher to teach with the primary goal being learning rather than passing a test.  Instead, it means that as long as the teache... (more »)
SydnieMcC said...
May 27, 2011 at 7:11 am

Interesting piece. I know that my school adds a new scale for taking AP classes. Instead of a 4.0 you have a 5.0.

But the work isn't too hard. At my school, ten seionrs graduated valedictorian because of their perfect 5.0 GPA (which means they never took a single regular core class throughout high school) and all got free-rides to whatever school they wanted. The work can obviously be done, the question is just do you want to do all of it. In such a competetive world with colleges you ... (more »)

TheInnocentOne replied...
Jun. 19, 2011 at 12:03 am


And you say, "10 seniors graduated valedictorian."

Not all of us can take that amount of work and do it all year round. That takes an insane amount of skill.


TheInnocentOne replied...
Jun. 19, 2011 at 12:04 am

More like stamina.

Not skill

LissaBee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Word of advice: if you're a senior, and you KNOW your college doesn't take AP credits for anything other than admissions....don't do it. 

My college doesn't even look at the scores. Just the class grade. So while it probably helped my admissions chances a little bit, the fact that I still have to take the test kind of eliminates any worth they had.
Not to mention the fact that I probably would have gotten more out of another elective than another AP English class. Lit and Lan... (more »)

Irene said...
Apr. 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I agree with almost everything you've said, but AP classes aren't that bad if you've been doing "advanced" work your entire school life. This is more of a response to the comments of this article. I'm Asian (for people who aren't familiar with the stereotypes, I'm an "overachiever") and I've been in honors/advanced programs my whole life. I started taking AP classes the first chance I got (I started with one in sophomore year). For people like me, taking all AP's or a lot of AP classes i... (more »)

TabbiJane This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 13, 2011 at 9:05 am
Right now I am in AP US History and AP Psychology, but I took the classes because I wanted to learn more about the topics covered. One of my friends on the other hand is taking all AP classes. Biology, Calculus, History, Psycology, and English. It is driving her insane. She is constantly willing herself to stay awake during each class and I think that because her older sister took five AP classes as well, her parents are kind of holding her up to her sisters standards. Seems kind of strange... (more »)
blues_are.still_blue said...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm
I agree with some aspects of this article. I know from currently taking AP world history, and AP english Comp.( and last year AP American History) that the work involved is generally a lot. Especially the english AP's. SO MANY ESSAYS. But i also know that the teachers at my school balance test prep and actual course info quite well. It's true taht to to competitive in top colleges, AP's are crucial, but it's a choice that people make. No one is forced. (except perhaps by their parents in so... (more »)
PaRaNoRmAl627 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm
I'm in honors english and history, but regular math and science. i thought that was pretty good until i got to high school and saw how competitive my school is. if youre not in AP, youre almost looked down upon. thanks for letting me know im not alone in seeing how ridiculous this is
SteFanii said...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm
I highly agree with this article I took APUSH (AP United States History) and just passed i'm for the most part a good student i study hard and do my best. but they are very fast paced
WerewolfWriting said...
Feb. 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Very decisive! I like how you focus on the topic perfectly, and giving examples and other opinions by high school seniors. This is a great article  of writing, and I think it would be a great read in a newspaper or TV piece!


cactusflower said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I agree the AP system is flawed. I'm fortunate to have teachers that absolutely hate the test and teach the AP class the way they want to [which means pretty much neglecting the fact that there is a test for 4/5 weekdays]

I'm a junior and I take 5 AP classes and I think they matter as the "strength of curriculum" that universities look for.


kathrine225 said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm
I agree with you completely. But the problem is, in order to get into most universities you have to take AP classes. That's the only thing I have a problem with- they are more than a cherry on top. Universities really do pay attention to the number of AP classes you took. Even if it is a higher workload and stress level, it's not for nothing.
D.Liu said...
Dec. 2, 2010 at 9:10 am
This is a really well-written essay. I completely agree that thr AP course system is flawed. I find myself stuck in a similar position when I am thinking about the positive and negative effects of AP classes. I would feel so much less stressed if AP classes would require you to only study for the test in May and not worry about finals and other homework. If this society was not tso based on a GPA scale, I believe kids would be much more susceptible to learning and lead a much more... (more »)
R.A.Masena said...
Oct. 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm
i agree. im a sophomore and i was in 3 AP classes but i had to drop out of one of them because the work load was too much and it was causing me to do badly in my other classes. its REALLY stressful and all i do is study and prepare for the test in may. not fun. being in a lot of AP classes but doing badly really isn't worth it!
ilovewriting95 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm
Great Job! This is well-written! I can't really say that I agree or disagree because I am not taking AP classes right now as a freshman. If the AP classes are that bad then just think how horrible it must be for the few that take I.B. classes.
Ashlee S. said...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm
Excellent article! But I can't believe that one senior only has 3 hours. I have 3 hours and I'm a junior and only in 2 AP classes. While I love taking AP because I love going more indepth than regular classes and I love both my AP teachers, I do sometimes feel that it's more testprep than actual learning, but that's every class. It's just even moreso with AP.
beautifuldisaster18 said...
Sept. 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I really enjoy this piece!

Although, I must say, pretty much any class you take in high school, AP or not, is going to be geared toward teaching for the standardized test. At least in my state it is. I'm lucky though to have teachers who would rather teach what they want rather than what the test wants. :) They still teach to the test, but only when it's closer to the test in May. Understand? I can be confusing. :/

I love the work involved with advanced classes. I know, that's w... (more »)

K9_Typical_Islander said...
Jul. 1, 2010 at 5:10 am
Quite an eye-openning piece here.
dragon replied...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm
i would have to agree with you
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