What is an Advanced Placement (AP) Class?

If you just started high school or have a student entering high school soon, you might have some questions about Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Some students and parents have heard from teachers, peers, and other parents that AP classes are a great way to get into and save money in the college admissions process

But what exactly are these classes, and how can you benefit from enrolling in one? In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about AP classes to get ahead and make the right decision for your future. 

What Are AP Classes?

AP courses are part of a program created by the College Board, best known for administering the SAT. The College Board designed the AP program to help high school students earn college credits while still in high school. 

The AP program features 38 different classes. The courses are more challenging than typical high school courses, giving students a chance to engage in college-level work during high school. A single AP class is equivalent to a semester worth of college material. But you might take the class for an entire year or a single semester, depending on which school you attend and how they schedule classes. Teachers of AP classes must complete training for each AP course they teach. 

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At the end of an AP class, students may take an official AP exam at a testing center (which is often their high school). The test is graded on a 5-point system. If you get a 3 or higher you pass the exam and can, depending on the college you end up attending, use your exam score toward college credits.   

Initially, AP classes were created to challenge students and prepare them for college. After the Cold War, the U.S. government was worried that our students were falling behind those of other world powers. AP courses were developed in the 1950s in part to help students get ready for their post-secondary education and in part to provide a national workforce that could compete with that of the Soviets. 

Should You Take An AP Class?

AP classes aren’t like your typical high school classes. They are more challenging and contain college-level material. So, you want to make sure that you are prepared for their more advanced curriculum. You don’t have to be a genius to pass an AP class, but,  if you plan to enroll in an AP course you should already have decent grades and enjoy learning.

If, for instance, you are interested in a certain subject and want to take a class that offers more challenge, depth, and rigor, then you should try out AP classes. Talk to your teachers or college counselor about taking AP courses to find out whether they’re a good fit for you. 

Usually, teachers will recommend students for Advanced Placement classes before they enter their junior year of high school. But the specific requirements you need to take an AP class will depend on your school and the course you want to take.

How Much Do AP Classes Cost?

AP classes don’t usually cost money. Students can take them for free if their school offers them as a part of their curriculum. However, if you take an AP class online or at a different school, it could cost some extra money. But be aware: the AP exam does have a price tag. 

Since you could earn college credit, and since the test is standardized and created by the College Board, there is a fee. You can expect to pay anywhere from $94 to $142 per test. The price is closer to $124 when you take the test out of the country. 

And your school could charge extra for proctoring and other fees. Additionally, if you are getting an AP Capstone Diploma, the test will be closer to $142. This could seem expensive, but remember that this is an investment in your future, and if you pass you can save a lot of money on college courses you won’t have to take. 

How Many AP Classes Should You Take?

You don’t want to load up too heavily on AP courses. While it’s a great idea to get a head start on your college classes and get some of your credits out of the way, these classes aren’t easy. We recommend pacing yourself and taking a few classes in subjects that are of interest to you. 

Taking a lot of AP classes can seem like a good idea at first, but your academic record could suffer if you take on more than you can handle. So, go at a pace that is right for you, and don’t take the maximum amount of AP classes right away. 

What Are The Benefits of Taking An AP Course?

AP classes can give you an advantage over other college applicants. When you take college-level classes in high school, you gain some major benefits over other students applying to the same schools as you. Not only will you show colleges that you are prepared for the material that will be covered in your post-secondary career, but you can also earn college credits ahead of time. 

Depending on the school, if you get a score of three or above, you can earn anywhere from 6-10 credits per exam passed. Students in AP classes also have the chance to earn academic awards by taking AP classes, which can further bolster their college applications. 

So, while it might seem like a hassle to take more challenging classes and pay for multiple exams, you will get a lot out of these courses. Advanced Placement classes are one of the best ways to grow academically before college and to have a more well-rounded high school experience.

Do you want to know your chances of getting accepted to your dream school? Schedule a consultation with our Founder, Kevin Krebs today!

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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