AP Exams: To Take or Not To Take?

High School and College Prep Testing Overview-lAs the calendar turns to March, many students are deciding whether to take an AP Exam or not. Advanced Placement classes are critical for entrance into selective universities. AP classes are also great preparation for university level studies. They help a student know how to study in college and what to expect academically. However, do you have to take the AP Exam at the end of the Advanced Placement class? Technically, the answer is “no”. Many high schools highly recommend it and many universities strongly encourage it, but technically the class and the test are two totally different things. No where does College Board state that an AP Exam is required at the end of an Advanced Placement Class.

So why would you take an AP Exam and why should you not? First, AP Exams can earn you college credit. The first thing you should do when deciding to test or not to test, is look at the colleges websites online that you are interested in attending. Look for their Advanced Placement Credit correlation chart. Check to see which scores on the test are required by that college to earn credit and how many hourly credits are possible to earn. Many students find that the AP Exam will not earn any credit, or only earn minimal, elective credit. Therefore that test would not be worth all of the preparation. Further, some credits are earned by a certain score on the SAT or ACT, and therefore the student would not need the possible credits earned through the AP Exam. There is no reason to take an AP Exam unless you can earn credit that would benefit you at the university level.

            The second consideration you should think about when deciding to AP test or not, is how well prepared you are by the AP class and teacher at your school. Some AP programs and teachers are very strong, and the students are well prepared by required outlining of chapters, practice tests, and study groups throughout the school year. However, some AP programs are not run as rigorously as others. The least rigorous may have a lot of students taking the classes, but not tackling the AP tests; simply, the students know they are not prepared. The AP Curriculum is the same in schools across the nation; however, teachers and teaching styles and methods can be completely different. If your teacher is not strong and you know in your gut you are not prepared for the test, then do not attempt the AP Exam.

The last consideration in deciding whether to take the test is how much preparation have you put into the Advanced Placement class, and how much preparation are you willing to put into the AP Exam? AP Exams cost money and whether you, your parents, or the school pays for the test, someone must pay the fee. So, have you really done or will you really do all that you can to do well on this test? Why spend money if your very best work is not put forward. Have you outlined each chapter all year? Have you reviewed previous chapters, before studying for the current chapter? Have you made or will you be making review cards or other study materials to use with friends? Are you a part of an AP Study group all year that truly studies and works together? These are all questions to ponder in your heart. Are you truly doing everything you can to prepare for the test? If the answer is no, do not pay for or take the Exam.

AP Exams are challenging and difficult. Many times they are over more material and may be more difficult than a semester exam in college. Therefore, take the time to consider: would the exam credit benefit you, have you been prepared by the class and teacher at your school, and lastly, have you put everything into the preparation yourself that you can?

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