Taking A.P. classes is a great way to experience a glimpse of the rigorous work expected from college students at an earlier age. A.P. classes are beneficial because they offer college credits, prepare students for college coursework, improve one’s weighted GPA, and make you a more competitive candidate when applying for college.
Why Are AP Classes Important?
A.P. classes are taken during the school year, just like your regular subjects are. The only difference is that towards the end of the school year, in the first two weeks of May, you will need to give an exam to possibly receive credit for the classes taken. On the A.P. Exam, you can get anywhere between a 1 (lowest score) and a 5 (highest score).
A score of 3 is a passing score, however, many private universities only accept 4s or 5s. If you plan on attending a public school, then it is likely that the school will grant you credit for a score of 3. No university will give credit for 1s or 2s, as those are considered not proficient.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by College Board’s extensive course offerings, as no one, not even Harvard, expects you to take all thirty-eight A.P. classes. Let’s discuss some commonly taken A.P. classes to help you understand which class will suit you.
A.P. Human Geography
If you’re interested in a less challenging A.P. class to ease your way into rigorous coursework, I highly suggest taking A.P. Human Geography in your first or second years. Not only is this class lighter on the course load, but it’s also fascinating and applicable to the real world.
In this course, you learn about how humans imprint on the planet; from culture, to language, to globalization, to economics, and even urban design, this course explores the complexity of our modern world. It explains how the world came to be the way it is today. My tip for success in this class would be purchasing the AMSCO book and practicing vocabulary frequently, as the test is cumbersome on terminology.
A.P. World History
This class requires a lot of reading and note-taking, so only choose it if you can commit time every day after school to do homework. The class spans more than 800 years, as it starts in 1200 C.E. and continues to the present day. Heavy on writing, this class requires strong writing skills.
You will write short-answer, document-based, and free-response questions throughout the year. In fact, on your A.P. exam, the writing portion is worth 60 percent of your score, while the multiple choice is worth 40 percent. My advice for taking this class is not to procrastinate on the notes, as a lot of content is covered rapidly. If you stay caught up, catching up will be easy.
AP US History
If you were successful in A.P. World, then I recommend taking AP US History because it is easier since less content is covered. Firstly, you are only studying one country instead of covering world history, which includes all the countries. Moreover, the course only has about 500 years of history, starting in 1491, one year before Columbus landed in America. Even if you haven’t taken A.P. World, I recommend taking this class, as most colleges require U.S. history as part of their general education requirement. Therefore, this class is worth the effort if you want to save time and money. Moreover, it is essential to know the history of the country you live in.
A.P. Language and Composition
In this course; usually taken in your junior year, you will learn how to write three types of essays: rhetorical, argumentative, and synthesis. First, the rhetorical analysis essay asks you to explain the author’s choices and why they made them. You will be given a text, after your first read-through, you will thoroughly analyze the reader to look for rhetorical choices and devices. Second, in a thorough paragraph, you will establish the author’s choices significance, impact, and meaning.
Third, for the argumentative essay, you will be given a prompt and will be asked to argue a side. Unlike the rhetorical essay, you will not be provided with any text for this prompt. Thus, the evidence must come from prior knowledge. Therefore, I encourage you to frequently read to develop a toolbox of knowledge that you can utilize. The last essay will give you six to seven sources, so must synthesize the sources to create an argument.
A.P. Literature and Composition
While A.P. Language and Composition is focused on writing, A.P. Literature is focused on reading. Seniors usually take this class, which focuses on analyzing texts such as poetry, short stories, novels, and plays.
The text is mostly composed of complex fiction, requiring multiple reads and excellent reading comprehension skills. The format for both english courses is the same, as both have a multiple-choice section and three free-response essays.
A.P. Calculus AB
Two Calculus exams are offered – A.B. and B.C. You may take B.C. without taking A.B. Think of them as different difficulty levels rather than a sequence. A.B. calculus explores one semester of introductory college calculus in two semesters.
On the other hand, B.C. calculus teaches two semesters of introductory college calculus in one school year. I recommend A.P. Calculus AB for students who like to take more time to process information or want lighter coursework, as A.B. goes slower than B.C. does.
A.P. Calculus BC
For students who excel at math and have earned As and high Bs in previous mathematics classes such as trigonometry, pre-calculus, geometry, algebra 2, and algebra 1. Or for those students willing to try to keep up with the rigorous nature and fast pace of this advanced math course.
This course is more of a writing than a mathematics class. This course is suitable for those good at memorization and following a format. It is less heavy on math and more heavy on the application of it.
A.P. Physics 1
I recommend to those good at Algebra 1 and 2 to take A.P. Physics 1, as it requires mathematical skills. I recommend using Khan Academy for success in this course, as their curriculum is easy to understand and aligns with College Board’s standards.
While many people say it’s a challenging class, you can succeed in any course if you pay attention and do your homework on time. You will mainly focus on 1D motion, kinematics, rotational dynamics, angular motion, work, and energy.
A.P. Bio is the study of organisms, evolution, and scientific principles and theories that govern how living organisms function. While you have been learning about living things since elementary school, this course is challenging because it teaches these processes in depth. Thus, this course requires a lot of reading and memorization. You can also expect to spend time at home taking notes.
A.P. Environmental Science
This course has a reputation for being one of the easier A.P. classes, and is also the most accessible advanced science class since it’s easier for most people to understand than chemistry, physics, and biology are.
Environmental Science focuses mainly on our ecosystem, biodiversity, human impacts on the earth, and how to prevent man-made environmental problems. It also has a lab component, so you can expect to conduct experiments throughout the year.