The Advanced Placement (AP) Program offers college-level courses to high school students. These courses may be taken in conjunction with a regular high school curriculum, or they can be used as an independent study program.
There are over 1,700 AP courses available, covering a broad range of topics. The AP Exam is a challenging assessment that allows students to show their mastery of concepts learned in the course. Students who score well on the AP Exam may receive college credit and advanced placement designation on their transcripts.
If you are interested in taking an AP course, you should know a few things. First, most AP courses are offered in high schools across the U.S., and you don’t need any special qualifications to enroll.
The Advanced Placement Program
The Advanced Placement (AP) program is managed by the College Board, the same organization that administers the SAT exam. Because they are designed to build college-level skills, AP courses offer high school students a unique opportunity for college preparation.
After completing an AP course, students can take the associated AP exam. The exam is not required, but a high score – typically a four or a five on a 5-point scale – can lead to college credit. According to the College Board, 90% of colleges and universities award college credit, placement in advanced courses, or both after earning a qualifying score on the AP exam.
Again, you can check with your prospective college or university to learn about its AP credit policy. Because of the host of advantages, the AP program has become incredibly popular. In the 2011-12 school year, 18,647 high schools offered AP courses, and 2,099,948 students took AP exams.
Advanced Placement Courses
There are 34 courses and exams available through the AP program in arts, English, sciences, math and computer science, world language and cultures, and history and social science.
Although these courses are offered all over the country, the curricula are standardized to ensure that coursework is always at an advanced level. High school AP coordinators can provide students with detailed information about each class. Additionally, students may be able to take specific AP courses online through approved providers.
Most high schools require students to be juniors or seniors to take AP courses, although some institutions make exceptions for incredibly talented younger students. To find out how to enroll, contact the AP coordinator at your school. Be sure to discuss the course requirements and workload to ensure that you’re truly prepared for this undertaking. For students who have taken the PSAT/NMSQT, the College Board recommends using the results to help decide which class might be a good fit.
Taking AP Exams
As noted above, students are not required to take the AP exam after completing an AP course. Conversely, students don’t have to complete an AP course to take the exam, although it’s highly recommended if the course is available. The advantage to this rule is that home-schooled students and those whose schools don’t offer AP courses can still get college credit by taking an AP exam.
Students typically take the exams in their junior and senior years of high school. There is a fee to register, and tests are administered in the spring. Scores are reported to students and colleges the following summer. Students are allowed to retake an exam the next year. All scores are reported unless the student cancels the score or withholds the score from being reported to a specific college.