Advanced Placement (AP) Classes

Advanced Placement classes give students an opportunity to take college-level courses and exams while still in high school. There are 33 courses in 19 subject areas, offered by 13,000 secondary schools around the world. See the College Board's website for more info

Archived Responses: 

Does it make sense to take ALL the AP tests?

Sept 2015

I've been following the recent thread about AP classes and have a related question. My high school junior is taking many AP classes and just assumes that he should take the exam for each of them. I gather that they help if one goes to a UC in terms of passing out of classes (I have other issues/concerns with this and appreciate what a recent respondent said about liking honors classes more than AP), but he's not looking at UCs (too big) so I wonder if it really makes sense to take ALL the tests (assuming good grades in the classes)? He's already taken two last year on which he got 5s.

trying to remain chill about this process

How many AP tests to take is in part a personal decision. I encouraged my kids to *not* take all of them, but to take tests in subjects they wanted to place out of in college. Someone studying math, chemistry, or physics should plan to take these subjects over again in college anyway IMO. Other students can test out of them and take something else. So again, it depends on your student's stress level and overall strategy. Pat

Technically speaking taking an AP Class can offer a few benefits. 1. Demonstrating an ability to learn at a college course type difficulty level. 2. Offering a chance to earn an additional grade point ( A=5pts, B=4pts, C=3pts) at some high schools. 3. Providing a foundation/class work to prepare for the AP Exam.

Taking the exams has a separate list of potential benefits. 1. A ''good'' score (see your colleges guidelines) may be equivalent to college credit for the exam topic. This may or may not give your student priority in registration over the freshman who do not have any college level coursework. Some colleges will accept the credits but may encourage students to retake their version of the class. Hope this helps! Emily

AP Biology exam - resources?

Nov 2008

My sophomore daughter has taken Honor Biology in her freshman year. She would like to take AP Biology exam on May. Does anybody know any resource, such as on-line course, tutorials or tutors for AP Biology? Or does any college provide AP Biology course? Thanks Julia

I believe you can go on line to the AP website and find former questions. I had my Honors Bio. Students practice writing one essay per week and then we critiqued it. They want to concisely give factual information, in an organized way, without the fluff. kl


AP Chemistry


Strategies to pass the AP Chemistry Test (Jan 2010)

I need some strategies, advice on how to pass AP Chem test in May. How do kids manage to study for this? I have one of those AP CHEM preparation books and there is so much content I just don't know how a kid can absorb it all (while they are actively taking classes in high school) How have other kids managed to study all this material to the point of passing the exam? Do you think a kid should study every night from now until May? I think this may be the only way. What resources are available that don't require excess amounts of $$? Thanks Need help

I asked my daughter who took AP Chemistry a few years ago at BHS, and did very well on the Exam, whether she had any wisdom to pass on -- this is what she said: ''The point of an AP class is that it covers the material on an AP exam. To the extent that the student tries hard and learns the material as it is covered in the class (i.e. does what is expected in any class), and reviews the material some for about 2 weeks before the exam then they will more than pass it. Therefore the student really just needs to make sure he or she is really understanding each unit as the teacher covers it. If that happens, it will only take a little bit of review right before the test so everything is fresh.'' anon

I took three AP classes my first semester senior year of high school. No tutors- I'm not sure how they would help since the volume of the material, not its difficulty, is the issue. You're worried about the sheer amount of stuff he needs to absorb. Well, it's only February first. He has plenty of time to start memorizing, using quiz lists, flash cards perhaps, and some review books. Your question implies that some amount of money will solve this problem. Tutors and Kaplan inc have an interest in making you believe this, but your kid can do it on his own. Grad school isn't going to be any easier ! PhD Mom.

AP Chemistry for HS Sophomore? (Feb 2008)

Our daughter is a freshman at a small private high school in the EB. She is considering taking an AP Chemistry class in her sophomore year. Her teachers have encouraged her to go for the challenge. She doesn't intend at this point in her school career to be a science major down the line. Her academic grades & study habits are excellent, but she is equally interested in art, music, dance, photography and wants to pursuit these interests along with her school work. She says she doesn't want the AP class to ''take over'' her life, but I think it will for the duration. Anyone have experience in these waters? Is AP Chem too stressful for a HS sophomore? Will we need to hire a tutor (Chem teacher will not be be tutoring AP students)? Do students get in depth knowledge in AP courses or is it a stressful speed through? Do colleges really pay attention to these classes? I'm trying to figure out what's in it for her. Am proud she's been offered this opportunity, but not sure that the stress and possible meltdowns are worth it. Grateful for any advice. Mom

My son is trying to figure out whether to sign up for chemistry or AP chemistry for next year,when he will be in 10th grade at Berkeley High. Has anyone had recent experience with these courses? Do you have any advice? Class selection for next year is happening next week so, unfortunately, time is of the essence. Thanks, Mom who doesn't know what to advise

As a former AP teacher (although not chemistry), I would say that the general rule of thumb is that AP is for students who LOVE the subject matter and do not mind that it takes over their life. An AP class is supposed to generate 2 hours of homework per night, and many, if not most, students who take AP math and/or sciences end up with private tutors. The must-have-a-4.5-GPA-to-go-to-an- elite-private-school student might also surivive if that is his/her goal, but it will not be fun. IMHO, AP is over- rated and is neither the best teaching or learning method. It might save you some money in college fees and boost GPA's, but the workload is brutal, so weigh your options carefully. --love it or leave it

To Both Parents Who Asked About AP Chem, I am a current BHS senior who took AP Chemistry my junior year. I never thought the class to be very difficult. The general sense I got was that the sophomores in the class were very challenged, yet the juniors seemed to be hardly challenged. The class is heavily math based, and much of the work involves taking abstract concepts involving chemical reactions and converting them to and from mathematical equations. Anyone who is strong in math and science should have little trouble keeping up in the class. I personally required very little work to get an A in the class, and my lack of dedication shows in my score of 4 on the AP test. I was able to take 4 AP classes and still pursue other interests outside of school with a weighted GPA far above 4.0. I believe that students should make the most of their time in school, by taking the classes that interest and challenge them most, but should always keep in mind ''never to let school get in the way of your education''. Hope this helps. BHS Senior

My daughter took chemistry at Berkeley High as a freshman and constantly complained that she didn't learn much. Many of the students weren't all that interested in chemistry and the teacher spent a lot of time just managing the class. She's in AP Biology now and she is learning a lot. The AP classes, however, are really fast-moving survey courses where students have to absorb lots of material. It is a huge amount of work. Since my daughter is in the International High School, she is considering taking IB Chemistry next year since she didn't learn enough in her regular chemistry class. Frances

If you're talking about CPS and Jack Coakley, go for it. He may be the best teacher in the world. My daughter, who is not a scientist, loved his class.

Hello, Making these choices in high school can be stressful for both teen and parent and I empathize with you.

AP courses are definitely viewed highly by college admissions representatives. Colleges want to know that students have challenged themselves academically and taken all available avenues to achieve the best high school education they can. However, if a student doesn't do well in an AP course, that also will be given consideration by admission officers. So, although I would always encourage students to take AP courses, I recommend that students be selective, and take AP courses in areas which interest them and they believe they can be successful.

If you daughter currently has an aversion to taking this course, she may not be successful, and even worse; this may give her distaste for all AP courses. I would let it go and look at other AP courses that interest her more. Colleges really want to see an academic record that reflects steady progress in academic areas, in addition to a record that reflects the particular interests and talents of students.

Also, at the same time she continues following a strong academic curriculum, if your daughter feels there may be an interest in pursuing a career in the arts, I would encourage her to begin taking as many courses in these areas as possible. She will then be at the top of her game in getting admitted to a specialized higher education institution IF she decides to follow that path in a few years.

I hope this is helpful, and please feel free to contact me if I can help you further. Corbina

I noticed your posting and wanted to respond since your question is very often asked by our clients (I direct a college admission consulting company here in SF.) If you are interested in knowing how colleges view taking AP's it would surprise you--they would prefer only 11-12th graders to take them. AP's mean advanced and qualify for college credit. Parents like their students to take AP courses because they feel these ''arm'' their students in the fight for a space at college. Colleges on the other hand don't want students effectively ''testing'' out of their courses because they feel what they have to teach is much more valuable (and it may be). Wait until junior and senior year. If your student is really advanced in Chemistry, have them do a chemistry project with a teacher, attend an science summer program at CAL or compete in one of the many science fairs taking place around CA. It will be much more interesting for a college to see this type of ''proof'' of advanced ability because it is truly ''beyond the norm''. david

I taught AP Chemistry at BHS for many years. I think a lot of students want to take AP Chem for the prestige or because they think regular chem will be too easy for them.

My advice is to take regular chemistry unless you are bored in most science and math classes because they move too slowly for you.

AP Chem requires a lot of work because it covers a lot of material in a short time (the test is in May so the teacher must cover all the curriculum in that time). The course also requires the teacher to teach to the test. That may not be a bad thing since the test covers a comprehensive curriculum; but a lot depends on the teacher being able to present that curriculum in an interesting way and not skimming over the basics in order to get to the hard stuff which you must master for the test.

My own daughter took regular chem at El Cerrito High School and went on to major in sciences at UC Santa Cruz and to become a doctor. I think she may have foundered in AP Chem had she taken it. She didn't even do very well in regular Chem. But she did very well in Science Fair and learned how to study in college. Perhaps she would have learned to hate sciences had she taken AP Chem. I don't think it's out of the question since she was involved in lots of activities and probably wouldn't have taken the time to study that's required in that course. Steve B

Your daughter should take AP chemistry if she is interested in the topic and wants to dig a little deeper into it. One AP course won't necessarily overwhelm her life if it's something she wants to do and has the ability to absorb the topic. Taking an AP course for its status or to get college credits isn't necessarily a good idea, and neither is taking it because a teacher or a parent want her to. Our high school offers AP chemistry the 2nd half of the year, once students have had a chance to decide if they are interested enough in the regular topic to want to get a deeper education. My son is a sophomore at a private HS and loves AP chemistry--it's a little more work, but not overwhelming. He is also an avid musician and has other interests as well. Most high schools recommend against taking more than 1 AP course in the sophomore year, but that also varies according to the child's abilities and wishes. Good luck. AP chemistry mom

I noticed your posting and wanted to respond since your question is very often asked by our clients (I direct a college admission consulting company here in SF.) If you are interested in knowing how colleges view taking AP's it would surprise you--they would prefer only 11-12th graders to take them. AP's mean advanced and qualify for college credit; parents like them because they feel these ''arm'' their students in the fight for a space at college. Colleges on the other hand don't want students effectively ''testing'' out of their courses because they feel what they have to teach is much more valuable (and it may be). Wait until junior and senior year. If your student is really advanced in Chemistry, have them do a chemistry project with a teacher, attend an science summer program at CAL or compete in one of the many science fairs taking place around CA. It will be much more interesting for a college to see this type of ''proof'' of advanced ability because it is truly ''beyond the norm''. david

I have a different take on AP classes. I found them valuable because my kids got to make friends with other academically inclined students. I thought Latin at Berkeley High was great for the same reason. It was work for them to take AP classes, but it was not overwhelming. They continued to have time for extra-curriculars and goofing off. anon

My daughter is taking AP chem this year as a sophomore at O'Dowd and my son took it as a junior. Both have enjoyed it and felt though it was not easy it was nothing they could not handle. Both do well in school in general. They felt regular chemistry ''is a joke'' Jenny

Re: ''Our child thought that regular chemistry was a joke'' - - I think your kid is right, and that's the problem. Our kid has signed up to take AP English, AP History and AP art as a junior. This means she pretty much has to take regular chemistry next year. (Somehow we were convinced to have her take that intro science class freshman year -- another ''joke,'' ha ha.) It's not really practical for every kid to take AP classes in every single subject, but the problem is that the non-AP classes ARE jokes. Why they can't have a reasonable regular curriculum paralleling the AP curriculum I do not know. Your choice should not be between time-intensive AP classes and glorified study halls, but that does seem to be the choice offered. Anonymous

If you are thinking of having your student take the AP Chemistry class I would ask, are you considering AP Chemistry to arm your student for college? Or, is your student truly advanced beyond the normal sophomore science curriculum to the point where he/she needs this type of challenge? If the first answer is more accurate, I wouldn\x92t bother taking the AP Chemistry class as a sophomore.

There is a misperception about AP courses that exists among parents: AP\x92s are not the silver bullet that most parents imagine. While AP\x92s can give parent\x92s piece of mind, the colleges don\x92t really respect AP\ fact, they don\x92t really consider most high school courses to be rigorous or advanced enough. This is why there is such an emphasis on supporting evidence in the way of extra-curriculars and contents to \x93prove\x94 a student\x92s superiority to colleges before the admission process begins. Finally, as I mentioned before on BPN, colleges dislike students taking AP tests because it means that a student will spend less time paying fees at the college; a fact that negatively effects the college\x92s financial situation.

If a student is showing advanced work, private colleges would rather see that student enter college than continue at a normal high school and take AP\ fact, they would simply rather educate the student through early admission to college. Simon's Rock of Bard College for example, feeds advanced high school students into college two years early. ''collegematcher''

I'd like to disagree with something another BPNer said about how colleges view AP classes. While it's true that some colleges may prefer that students not use them to get out of basic classes and graduate early, those colleges just don't offer credit for AP classes/tests. This varies widely by college. As to whether taking AP classes is seen as a plus by college admissions people, I've always heard that an AP class is only a plus on your record if you do well in the class. In other words, don't take AP classes in subject areas that you're not good at and truly interested in. Having just spent the past year going to campus tours with my college-bound daughter, I can tell you that the most selective schools will tell you that if your school offers more advanced courses (honors and AP) and you don't take them, you won't be considered for admission. That doesn't mean you have to take them all, but you have to take some. Mom of a BHS senior

Editor Note: also see a similar discussion specific to Berkeley High School here: AP Chemistry or regular chemistry in 10th grade at BHS?


How to find out about AP classes?

Jan 2004


How can I find out what AP classes are offered at Berkeley High School?

A good place to check for AP and honors courses (at BHS and any other school) is on the UC website Since I would guess that all honors and AP classes are recognized by UC (at least I can't think of any that aren't) you can find the lists here for the schools you want to check. --Sally


What's on the reading list for AP English classes?

Can anyone tell me what is on the reading list for the senior AP English classes - used to be British Literature and something like Modern World Lit. - don't know if it's still the same. Thanks. Miriam


English Literature Reading List