5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking an AP Course

Although summer is still new, certain students may already be thinking about more than their family vacations and trips to the pool. The summer represents an opportunity to form a study strategy that will lead to academic success in the coming year—and beyond. Here is some great information on how to identify your study style.

If your school is among the thousands worldwide that offer AP courses across a multitude of subject areas, you may be considering your course options. But is an AP course right for you?

1. What are my future academic goals?

AP courses prepare students to sit for AP exams, which often allow students to forego introductory college or university seminars, enter high-level classes, and fulfill general education requirements. By completing AP courses in high school, many students find time for more experiences (internships, study abroad, etc.) during their years of collegiate study.

But this path is not universal—certain schools offer credit for high AP scores, while others simply acknowledge them in the admissions process. 

Colleges and universities are not required to acknowledge AP courses by awarding placement or credit, so be sure to check the requirements for the schools you believe you may attend. The class and test are only worth your time and money if you understand how they will be acknowledged.

2. Do I have the necessary background to be successful in an AP course?

While AP coursework is beneficial for many students, it certainly is not for everyone. The goal of the class is to pass the exam, so it is helpful to have a history of success in the subject area you wish to pursue. Many courses offer suggestions for prerequisite classes, and school guidance counselors are often good resources for assessing your readiness.

If there is a subject you have excelled at, an AP course may extend your knowledge and enhance your passion for it. Alternately, a student who struggles in calculus may become frustrated in an AP Calculus class because of the overall difficulty and depth of study required.

Remember, college admissions officers often respect AP coursework—but rarely at the expense of a good GPA. Here is some great information on when you should start taking AP courses.

3. Will the class allow me to successfully pass the AP exam?

Before enrolling in an AP course, note that it is possible to sit for (and succeed on) an AP test without enrolling in the course. Assuming your exam score is strong, you will be afforded the same advantages as those students who took a class in preparation for the test.

If you are homeschooled, or you are a very successful independent learner, you may not need the AP course.

4. At what cost will passing the AP class/test come?

Passing an AP exam looks great on a college application, but it is not the only aspect that admissions committees consider. Schools take into account internships, work experience, extracurricular activities, grades, etc. If you are not good at balancing your academic life, an AP course may not be a wise decision. Here are 4 myths about AP prep that you may find interesting.

It is also important for you to be well rested, to take time to explore your passions, and to maintain all of your grades. AP courses involve a great deal of dedication, so carefully consider your learning style, testing ability, and schedule.

5. What other options are available to me?

You should understand that AP courses and assessments are only one route to academic success. Some students test out of courses once they have enrolled in a college or university, and others benefit from the introductory classes offered during the more traditional first year of higher education. Certain students find that dual credit courses (which offer credit through a community college) are more suited to their academic goals and needs.

AP courses are a wonderful fit for some students, while others find that the course and exam are not conducive to their particular learning style. Ultimately, the intelligent, successful students are those with a passion for learning, no matter how they achieve the knowledge.