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To ‘P or not to ‘P

Maddie Galvan, Advertisement/Budget Manager

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It’s that time of the year again: AP testing. If you’re an AP student, you know this means hours of studying, review sessions and taking practice tests over and over again, all for that final AP exam. While going through this long and sometimes mentally and emotionally draining studying process, you’ll find yourself asking yourself, “Is this even worth it?” The answer is “Yes.”

While it seems that a lot of work goes into AP exam preparation, it’s good to know that the disadvantages are definitely outweighed by its benefits. College Counsellor Mary Connolly encapsulates the list of benefits simply as she says, “You just worked very hard for a year or semester, and why wouldn’t you want to get credit for that? It could be a positive aspect in the college admissions process and it could result in college credit that could get you out of certain introductory level classes or provide you with credits towards graduation that would enable you to take additional classes of interest to you.”

The number one benefit of taking the AP course, as well as the exam, is to appear impressive to the college admissions offices. College admissions is an extremely competitive process, and every factor that can make you stand out from the rest of applicants is vital. By taking an AP Exam, you demonstrate a level of hard work in a tough, college-level course that can really set you apart. As for seniors who have already been admitted, colleges still want to see you are doing as well as when they admitted you. So doing well on AP Exams is a great way to show that you are still academically performing at a high level.

Along with helping you get admitted into college, AP Exams can also help you do better while you’re there. One of the best benefits of taking AP Exams is the opportunity to earn college credit and placement. CollegeBoard says, “Most four-year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of AP Exam scores. By entering college with AP credits, you can expand your college opportunities.”

These opportunities can really widen your path in college. By receiving college credits, you are able to take fewer introductory classes and choose more required classes for your major. After all, if you have a good grade in the AP course, it’s worth spending $85 a test to avoid spending $900 and a semester of precious college schedule time later on in a class that is required but not of any interest to you.

Also, because you have more room in your schedule for other classes, you can add a minor or second major much more easily. Adding a second major can provide future benefits because it could provide more flexibility and benefits when choosing a career.

All of these benefits only come to you if you do well on the exam. So one might say that if you fail the exam, then you have completely wasted your time, money and effort. However, there is no reason for this to happen.

In order to avoid failing the AP Exam, you can use your grade in the class as an indicator of your potential score on the AP test in order to see if you should take the test or not. If you have a poor grade in the class, then either your teacher will advise you not to take the test, or you should understand that your chances of getting a high score are slim.

Social Studies teacher Andrea Duwel says, “We typically recommend that a student have a B+ or better because those students tend to be more successful on the test.   I would want a student with a B- to understand that last year only 45% of student with lower
than an 85 passed the test, compared to the 80% pass rate overall and 100% pass rate for students with a 90 or above. Taking the test is
costly both in terms of money and time spent studying so I’d want her to think about what she hopes to get out of the test experience. She could certainly pass the test if she puts a lot of effort into studying but it will be a harder climb than for those students who mastered the material more easily during the semester. It would also depend on the specific circumstances of the student. If she did great on tests but her score was low due to her research paper then that would be a different story. But overall, past test performance tends to predict well future test performance.”

Another argument against taking an AP Exam is that, even if you did well, the college you are applying to might not accept the course for credit. However, you can easily avoid this by reviewing the requirements and accepted course list of the colleges you are considering or applying to before registering for the exam. Plus, even if you do not receive college credit for the exam, the course will still be impressive in the college admissions process.

Whether or not you ace or fail the exam, there are benefits that come along with taking an AP exam no matter what. For one, you expand your knowledge and cover material you never would have in a standard course. The studying and reviewing of college level material in preparation for an exam increases your academic skills because it challenges you to think in different ways.

Also, the format of AP Exams gets you more used to the format of standardized testing and will help you feel more comfortable in future test taking situations. After taking an AP exam, you gain a learning experience that could not have been provided through a standard course. And remember, trying your hardest and not doing very well is better than never trying in the first place.

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