Advanced Placement, or AP, classes are becoming more popular and more students are passing the exams, according to annual data released by the exam's publisher this week. Approximately 15.2 percent of the class of 2008 received a passing score on the AP exam, as compared to 14.4 percent of the class of 2007.
AP courses, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, allow students to take college-level classes in high school and potentially earn college credit. Each AP course ends with an exam, scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 considered to be "passing" and credit-worthy by most colleges. A few high schools also offer the option to take an AP course as dual-enrollment, where students pay to earn college credit for their work completed, rather than their test score. Students can potentially shave a semester or more off their college experience through AP coursework, or AP work can free students' time in college up for more exploration of a variety of courses. Either way, many students see AP courses as a way to work towards their college goals.
Despite the benefits of AP, there are some arguments against it, as with any standardized test. For students, AP exams cost money, often have relatively low pass rates, don't guarantee college credit, aren't offered in every subject at every school, and are likely to conflict with at least one event your senior year of high school. For teachers and college administrators, there's a concern about depth of coverage, quality of instruction, and students missing out on a key part of the college experience by coming in with so many AP credits.
Advocates of AP coursework say it can help students start college planning, get excited about the subject area, and save money by shaving off a few general educational requirements. As AP grows in popularity, high schools are continuing to add courses and improve their teaching of the subject. As long as you weigh the benefits and drawbacks, AP courses are definitely worth considering. AP credit can be a way to build your resume, explore a potential college major, and jumpstart your career.