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After tutoring high schoolers on various subjects for several years, I’ve found it hard to believe that many sophomores and sometimes even freshmen are already taking AP classes. Before I tell you about this tip, let me talk about AP subjects a little more.
Why Should I Take AP Classes
There are a few reasons for choosing the right AP classes and/or AP exams in May. First, we know AP’s look good, and it’s perhaps the main reason why you decided to skip classes like “World Civilizations II” and “American Studies in Literature,” and take AP World history and AP English. True, it seems like a legitimate way to show college admissions committees that you’re constantly challenging yourself by enrolling in college-level courses. However, an AP class is more than a grade on your transcripts. If you don’t do well throughout the year on that AP subject, you could be better off taking a regular/honors class instead.
In short, it’s only impressive when you choose a hard course AND get a decent grade. A “B” in AP World History maybe isn’t as helpful as an “A” in World Civilizations II.
Back to the exam (we’ll talk more about choosing classes later). Another, if not the most, important part of taking an AP class is the AP exam; you use the score for college credits and prove that you can handle college-level materials. Here’s the thing: AP exams are not as hard as it may sound. For many “popular” AP subjects, the cutoffs (the percentages of correct questions) for a “5” are as follows:
Human Geography: 61%
US History: 61%
Physics B: 62%
Calculus AB/BC: 63%
World History 64%
English Language and Composition: 75%
English Literature and Composition: 76%
Computer Science A: 77%
As you can see, the grading is rather lenient. You clearly don’t need to get every question correct to do well on the exams.
That being said: “Do the easy questions first, and do them correctly!”
I did an experiment in my recent AP Calculus AB class. I gave everyone a set of mock test, and asked them to only do the questions they are confident in. The result: everyone’s raw score was converted to a “3” or “4,” and we were still two months away from the exam.
What’s A Good AP Score
More importantly, in most cases, a score of 4 and a score of 5 are equivalent. And typically, a 4 will allow you to waive entry-level classes in college. Every school has different credit policy so be sure to look them up first.
Taking AP Classes as Seniors
As a reminder, many argue that sometimes it’s better to take a lot of AP classes in your senior year, and it’s true. While colleges won’t be able to see those AP exam scores before admissions decisions are released, they will be able to see what classes you are enrolled in when you submit your college app. Of course, if you’re capable of taking AP’s before senior year, go for it. Regardless, taking AP classes for your senior is a good strategy to show colleges that you continue to challenge and prepare yourself by taking hard classes before your departure from high school.