AP Course Confusion

A+stack+of+Advance+Placement+text+books.+Students+often+take+AP+classes+without+knowing+how+the+courses+will+benefit+them+in+college.+

Isabella Abalos

A stack of Advance Placement text books. Students often take AP classes without knowing how the courses will benefit them in college.

No one ever told me how, exactly, the nine Advanced Placement (AP) courses and tests I’ve taken over four years at BOHS will transfer over to my freshman year of college. 

And even though my family, friends, and counselors encouraged me to take AP tests (“It will look good on college applications,” they said), I was left to figure out, by myself, how the passed exams will count for college credit. What I did not realize during my ninth to eleventh-grade years was that I could have taken just three AP classes, since most all of them — like AP U.S. History and A.P. European History — count for the same general education requirement.

While some students might want to take an AP course or exam solely for the purpose of learning advanced content, all students should be informed, as early as freshman year (since AP Human Geography is available to ninth graders) how AP course credit will transfer to college.

Basically, when a student takes an AP test in high school, there is an opportunity for a passing score on the exam to satisfy some general education (GE) requirements in college. For example, if a student wants to satisfy a freshman English course at California State University, Fullerton, they can take AP English Literature and Composition here, as seniors, and take the AP exam. 

While some students might want to take an AP course or exam solely for the purpose of learning advanced content, all students should be informed, as early as freshman year (since AP Human Geography is available to ninth graders) how AP course credit will transfer to college.”

However, the catch is that some of the AP classes — again, like AP European History and AP U.S. History — cover the same history requirement in college; both courses cover Area C: Arts and Humanities, so there is no need to take both tests if a students’ goal is just to earn college credit for the course. 

Information like this should, in the future, be shared with freshmen during the Freshmen Focus seminars; on AP course syllabi; and by counselors during course selection in the spring. 

Kasia Alexander, freshman, said, “counselors never talked about the specifics of AP courses; they only said they can count for college credit.” Alexander was confused about how, exactly, AP classes — particularly APHUG and AP Euro, the only two AP classes available to ninth and tenth graders — can “benefit them” and “which classes transfer to what colleges.”

Another easy way to inform students about the value of AP course credit is for AP teachers to add the information on their syllabus at the beginning of the year.  Looking at seven current AP course syllabi — AP Calculus, AP Biology, AP Stats, AP Government, AP Literature, AP Language, and AP Euro —  none of them specifically mention what college GE requirements they satisfy. With this information, however, students will be able to better assess whether or not they want to spend money on yet another exam. (Each test costs $96, so a student taking nine exams over three years, like I did, pays $864 to College Board. Only half of these will earn me college credit next year.)

Hannah Livingston, junior, said she wishes she’d known “which AP classes transfer over in colleges so that [she] could have planned [her] future classes out better” after picking AP U.S. History her junior after already taking AP European History her sophomore year.

I, like many students, suffered through stressful (and expensive) AP courses and tests when, had I been better informed, I would have opted for non-AP courses like Literature and Composition 3 and U.S. History (and I would have avoided a fourth year of a foreign language altogether). If students are informed earlier about the value their AP classes will have in college (aside from the obvious benefit: learning), they will save time, stress, and money, and ultimately, have a better plan for their future.