Taking AP classes has its pros and cons, but it all depends on your outlook. Photo illustration by Bethany Pham.
Fountain Valley High School

Why take an AP exam?

February marks the beginning of Advanced Placement (AP) test registrations, but will taking the tests really benefit you?

With a few weeks left to decide which tests to take, students at Fountain Valley High School (FVHS) must make the decision of whether or not the hefty price tag of $102 is a good investment to make towards their future. Many teachers highly recommend taking the test because it has many benefits, but are these tests really valuable? Do they even us in completing college faster?

Here is the opinion of an AP student who has taken an AP test:

My first experience with an AP class was great. I got an A both semesters of AP European History and I loved the challenge that the class offered. When it came time for the AP test, I thought that there was no choice but to take it because of all the hard work that I had put in throughout the year. I studied for the test a month in advance, bought a review book from Amazon and watched countless videos from other teachers. The end result of my hard work was scoring a 5 on the exam.

Looking back at all the hours I spent studying and prepping for the exam, I questioned whether it was actually worth it. Then, I started to do some research about what a 5 actually did for me, and I was quite surprised with the results. I found out that in my dream colleges, the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Santa Barbara, a five on the exam only counted as credit towards one semester of a history class. This is a class that you don’t have to take if you aren’t going to be a history major. I, wanting nothing to do with history in my future, was disappointed that my hard work did nothing.

This is the key thing that most teachers don’t tell you why they want you to take the AP test. Most AP tests only count towards classes in specific majors such as art, history and economics, with the exception of math and English AP tests. This means that the $100 test you took probably won’t give you college credit that you can use efficiently. Taking AP tests that are within your preferred major are, however, more beneficial because they will help you get through college quicker and avoid having to take basic level classes.

On top of this, many colleges, especially private ones such as Dartmouth, have stopped accepting AP credit all together. A Dartmouth spokesman said it is because they “want a Dartmouth education to take place at Dartmouth.” There has been a trending decline in colleges willing to accept AP scores because they would rather teach you there and, in all honesty, take more of your money.

Classes at Orange Coast Community College are only $46 per unit, which is guaranteed college credit. This appears way more beneficial than AP classes, but it does have its downsides. One, it is a college class, so it will eat up much more time than a high school class because it doesn’t fulfill high school credit. If our school gave credit for taking college courses, it would cause a great number of future-minded students to take those instead of AP courses. Unfortunately, this is not the case, so AP courses are your best bet.

Despite all the negative aspects AP tests, there is real value in the class itself. The classes are very rigorous and teach valuable college lessons on how to have educational endurance and grit, which is the most important quality to have if you want to stay in college. In my eyes, AP tests are a training exercise in which you learn how to cram like a college student. It is proven that students that are enrolled in AP classes tend to do better in college because of these skills learned during AP classes. It is a shame that some colleges don’t acknowledge the effort and tears that go into taking an AP test, but sometimes it isn’t all about the end result. It’s how you get there that matters. AP classes teach you real-world skills and whether they give you credit or not, they are worth it for the journey and experience you will get.

–Benjamin Minch