Are AP Classes Worthy of Their Admiration?


Sheyla O'Donnell , Staff Writer

          Advanced placement or AP classes are known worldwide as some of the most complex and rigorous courses for students during their four years of high school. They are a tier above honors and intend to mirror college-level curriculums. High-achieving students scribble down AP classes on their schedule requests to bulk up their applications when applying to their dream institutions. Some impassioned students with a great love for that subject jot it down to be surrounded by fellow students who appreciate the class as much as they do. And then some scrawl it down with less vigor than the rest of their peers per the demand of their teachers and parents. Though it begs the question: what is genuinely the most demanding AP class to exist, and how much are they truly worth? 

            AP classes don’t seem to do the advertised job when it boils down to it. They are intended to be college-level classes for more determined students. Yet, in 2021, College Board reported that only 22.5% of students scored a three or higher on their end-of-year AP exam (AP Program Results). Is this the system’s fault, or did the teachers fall short of their duty to prepare these students? 

           According to the table created by Best Colleges, statistically, the most challenging exam to take is Physics 1, with a pass rate of 51.6% and only 8.8% of perfect scores. Yet, AP Statistics has a passing average of 60.0%, and 16.2% of people score a perfect 5. Sourcing the table, this is not the Advanced Placement exam with the highest passing rate, but it is the subject with the highest percentage of people achieving the gold standard of a perfect score of five. 

            AP classes are seen as the direct way of getting into a good college and the way to differentiate yourself from your peers or from people competing to get into the same college you aspire to attend. Collegiate institutions insist that taking AP classes may garner them a chance at their dream school. They dangle hope in front of bleary-eyed and overachieving students as a sort of Pandora’s box. The students latch on to the said box and yank things out. There flies out AP tutoring for the rent price for some apartments, late nights spent studying and sobbing over their coursework, and worst of all, the upcoming exam hurdles its way out of the box. 

          Imagine spending all four years of your high school career constantly taking classes that you assume will bolster your applications and give you a sense of college-level courses and the possibility of graduating early from college due to the copious amounts of AP classes. Yet, when students open up their scores and see the glaringly obvious two on their score, they realize that all that work was for naught. That is one of the most radical ways not to receive college credit. At many prestigious institutions, they will not always take the credits that you worked so tirelessly for. 

            One excellent point of AP is that the College Board, which is said to be a nonprofit organization to test, is actually for-profit. It does, in fact, make money off of the AP, SAT, ACT, and other tests. According to ProPublica, College Board reported their total net assets as 1.3 billion dollars in 2020, and the executive compensation was 8.5 million dollars. You should also know that colleges also try to make a profit. Tuition is an excellent way to do this. If they accept the college credits, there is a good chance that people may be able to graduate early, hindering the four-year tuition that would benefit the colleges. In an e-mail, Beth Linker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “So Penn does not accept many AP courses for credit because the administration argues that to earn a Penn degree, a student needs to be taking four years of Penn classes. This is both an intellectual argument and a financial one.” 

            College in the United States will always be obscenely overpriced. College should be far more accessible and affordable than it currently is. The College Board and their AP exams show this disparity between wealthy students who can afford the prep centers, tutoring, and pay for the AP tests and the less financially fortunate students who cannot reach the same opportunities. 

          AP classes don’t always prepare students for the collegiate level of education that they are promised. Instead, they teach a student how to be trained for the test. The teachers are constantly on a time crunch with the exam date creeping up. The constant pressure of the dreaded test could kill the love of learning that many of these students who chose AP once had. Education should always be about nurturing the passion for knowledge. Still, it should never just be a constant influx of information and a regular churning out of essays, tests, and practice exams. Beth Linker said, “It strikes me that AP teaches students how to memorize facts in order to excel on a standardized test. It does not teach the skills that I think are necessary for college-level history courses such as how to write clearly and cogently, how to think critically, how to engage with various source material—i.e. college-level secondary and tertiary sources.” 

         That’s not to say you should never take AP classes. Due to the collegiate admission process being headed by individuals who are not professors, they have a different thought process regarding what matters when accepting students. With students striving for an Ivy League education, taking between 8-12 AP classes would meet the requirement of being “eligible” for becoming a student in the fall. This article is only to make you ponder and dwell on the topic of advanced classes such as AP. It raises the question of whether they are worth the prestigious air around them. In the honest opinion of a professor of an Ivy League, it is shown that AP isn’t exactly the gold standard of education. Yet, professors aren’t the ones admitting students into college. So, when one decides to scribble down AP classes into their schedule requests, this article will hopefully show that AP classes aren’t exactly what they are glorified for. If you take AP classes, you do not automatically get accepted into your dream college. It is always essential to see all the good and bad of the things we glorify, for they may change our opinion on the most coveted in academia.


Linker, Beth. “Re: Interview.” Received by Sheyla O’Donnell, 20 Sept. 2022.