Are AP Classes Worth it?


By Erin Kaihara

To most people, there’s nothing unusual about the first couple weeks of May. To AP students, however, it’s two weeks of pain.

The idea of offering college-level courses to high school students began in the 1950s. Since then, the program has expanded to having 38 different courses with around 60 percent of high schools in the U.S. and 15,000 worldwide offering AP courses (College Foundation of North Carolina). Obviously, Niles West is one of those 15,000 schools.

Starting your freshman year, you can begin to take AP classes. While there is more than one AP class offered to freshman, the most common course that freshmen take is AP World History. I mean it is only AP World History, but it’s still an AP class. They’re instilling the idea that taking an AP class is considered to be normal. By your senior year, you feel obligated to take at least one AP class because there are some people who have been doing so since their freshman year.

Going into my freshman year, I was encouraged by my teachers and other counselors to take AP classes because of all the benefits it provides. If you get a high enough score on the AP test in May, you can earn college credit and possibly opt out of taking entry level college classes. If you have the chance to save thousands of dollars in the future, why wouldn’t more people take advantage of this?

The company that runs the AP testing, College Board, can be classified as a nonprofit organization. However, over half of the organization’s revenue comes from AP testing. With each test costing $93, it’s not difficult to see that the money adds up relatively quickly. Obviously College Board benefits when more people take the tests, but what about the student?

One of the main reasons why people are encouraged to take an AP course is to gain college credit. Most schools only accept scores of fours or fives, while few accept threes. With the way the tests are scored, earning a three is considered to be average. Essentially, you would need to be considered above average to reap the benefits of taking an AP class. In some courses, the most common score isn’t even a three. Last year, a little more than 60% of the student population that took the Physics 1 test scored either a 1 or a 2. That means around 60% of people won’t be able to use this for college credit. The actual score distributions vary with each test and can be found here.

Arguably, taking an AP class requires there to be more a more rigorous course load. Already, many students feel stressed out with trying to balance homework, sleep, friends, and any extracurricular activities they may be a part of. Taking an AP class only further stresses out the student. While it is the student’s decision as to how many AP classes they take, students shouldn’t feel obligated to take many AP classes because the payout may not be worth it.

In theory, AP classes are a good idea but the “AP” in “AP classes” really stands for absolute pain.