AP Exams

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    Are they worth taking? I plan to take 13-14 of them over this year and the next two years. I just read an article saying that they are not worth it, though. Any thoughts on this?


    Can you summarize the article`s reasoning please?


    1. AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. Before teaching in a high school, I taught for almost 25 years at the college level, and almost every one of those years my responsibilities included some equivalent of an introductory American government course. The high-school AP course didn’t begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. My colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.

    2. The traditional monetary argument for AP courses — that they can enable an ambitious and hardworking student to avoid a semester or even a year of college tuition through the early accumulation of credits — often no longer holds. Increasingly, students don’t receive college credit for high scores on AP courses; they simply are allowed to opt out of the introductory sequence in a major. And more and more students say that’s a bad idea, and that they’re better off taking their department’s courses.

    3. The scourge of AP courses has spread into more and more high schools across the country, and the number of students taking these courses is growing by leaps and bounds. Studies show that increasing numbers of the students who take them are marginal at best, resulting in growing failure rates on the exams. The school where I taught essentially had an open-admissions policy for almost all its AP courses. I would say that two thirds of the students taking my class each year did not belong there. And they dragged down the course for the students who did.

    4. The AP program imposes “substantial opportunity costs” on non-AP students in the form of what a school gives up in order to offer AP courses, which often enjoy smaller class sizes and some of the better teachers. Schools have to increase the sizes of their non-AP classes, shift strong teachers away from non-AP classes, and do away with non-AP course offerings, such as “honors” courses. These opportunity costs are real in every school, but they’re of special concern in low-income school districts.

    5. To me, the most serious count against Advanced Placement courses is that the AP curriculum leads to rigid stultification — a kind of mindless genuflection to a prescribed plan of study that squelches creativity and free inquiry. The courses cover too much material and do so too quickly and superficially. In short, AP courses are a forced march through a preordained subject, leaving no time for a high-school teacher to take her or his students down some path of mutual interest. The AP classroom is where intellectual curiosity goes to die.


    I hear. It definitely depends on what you plan to major in. What do you intend to achieve by taking AP? Money is still a significant plus, but it depends on what you’re planning on doing if it will make that much of a dent on your prereqs without compromising on the actual in depth aspect of learning.


    Saving money, intellectual knowledge


    Are you planning to use these credits or it’s just learning for the sake of?


    1. Remember they can only be taken in May. All but the best colleges give credit for them, and they are probably the equivalent of the typical freshman survey courses in all but the best colleges. Even when they don’t produce credits, they may allow you to place out of a class. Passing some will convince even the best universities that you are capable of doing college level work.

    2. If your goal is to pile up credits, consider the CLEP exams, which cover more subjects and are easier but are almost never accepted at the top colleges. Unlike the AP, they do not includes essays and can be taken at any time during the year.

    3. Both CLEP and AP can be taken regardless of whether you took a formal class to prepare, or simply worked your way through a basic textbook and learned on your own. As such, they are well suited to a yeshiva student who wants credits without having to go to college. They also allow one to skip introductory courses, which tend to be dull. Also having AP (or CLEP) credits can convince a school that you are qualified for college even if your transcript says otherwise.


    akuperma: CLEPs are not accepted by many colleges.


    OblateSpheroid: As I said, not all colleges accept CLEP or APs, and not for all exams. In general, the better the school, the fussier they are. At a place such as Johns Hopkins, only some APs are accepted, and only with very high grades. As you work down towards the better public schools, you’ll find most APs and most CLEPs are accepted. On the bottom rung, you’ll find general acceptance. Needless to say, most YWN users probably are more likely to find themselves going to Brooklyn College, a community college, or piecing together secular credits for a BTL – than they are to be seeking admission to an Ivy League type universitiy.

    If someone is from a school that doesn’t have a good academic reputation, e.g., a frum yeshiva that doesn’t usually send its graduates to universities, the AP and CLEP exams pose an addition role in proving the student can do college work – meaning it counts for admission rather than credits.


    I honestly don’t know which college I want to go to. I plan to apply to them all and see who gives me the biggest scholarship.

    avi e

    I took a number of AP exams that were accepted as more than a year and a half’s worth of credit at a highly regarded major public research university in the USA. That was a significant money savings. When researching different colleges, look up their AP credit acceptance policy; many provide credit, others allow you to skip prerequisites, and still others do both.


    So I figure I should be prepared for anything.


    Dear OblateSpheroid: There are approximately 3000 colleges and universities. For the cost of applying to them all, you could pay full tuition for four years at a public school in your home state.

    What do you want to do for a living? Studying for a CLEP or AP is a good way to test a subject to see if you like it? Do you have a high school diploma (if not, you need to do a GED, which is fairly easy)? What was your SAT score? Do you need to live at home? How affluent is your family? Are you interested in AP/CLEP as an alternative to high school, or in addition to high school.


    Um… there’s not much in that question that I would want to put online?


    But you need to consider each of those aspects in order to make a decision.

    Without that information, no one can properly advise you. If you are not comfortable answering, speak to a college counselor or someone who can be of the same assistance.


    13-14 APs over the next three years? Are you outta your tree?!?!

    I’m taking two this year and they’re not exactly cake.

    What 13-14? Is this like 4/5 every year? What kind of framework is letting you do that?

    In answer to your question, in case I’m getting too nosy, I think they are worth it- I’m taking AP Bio this year and I was told by a bio major (though I have no intention of becoming one) that it helped her get through college a lot faster than otherwise. Some may help more than others, but they can all potentially be useful. Besides, even if they’re not precisely college level, the classes are usually (mark the USUALLY) more intellectually stimulating and interesting, if potentially harder as well.


    13-14 is a lot, no?? I took three while in HS and that gave me 17 college credits, that’s more then a standard semester’s worth.

    placing out of the intro classes not only gives you more credits, but it also makes it easier and faster to move onto the classes in your major- ie you waste less time and money.


    Oblate: I don’t get it. Are you a teacher or a student?

    13-14 is a very large load, and almost impossible if you are in a school with a dual curriculum (i.e. Jewish subjects). I took 6 (some of it was self-study – I taught myself and just took the AP. I got credit for 5/6).

    If you take only one, take European History, it’s worth 4 credits in most colleges and places you out of really tedious coursework.

    IIRC they saved me at least 17 credits, but more importantly, they allowed me to place into higher level Humanities courses (English/History) so I had better professors and learned more.

    There is no penalty for doing poorly. What do you have to lose?


    Akuperma wrote:

    Needless to say, most YWN users probably are more likely to find themselves going to Brooklyn College, a community college, or piecing together secular credits for a BTL – than they are to be seeking admission to an Ivy League type universitiy.

    Just checking in to be offended. I don’t always go to university. But when I do, I prefer Harvard.

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