All you need to know about Advance Placement® (AP®) Courses:

Benefits of studying in Canada as an international student

Advanced Placement® (AP®) programs offer college-level classes and exams to high school students. The goal is to connect students to college success through allowing them to take college classes while still in high school.  The AP program was developed by the College Board, in the United States, to help high school students prepare for college by taking advanced courses, with no set program of courses. Students could take just one or even a dozen AP classes, depending on their school, schedule, and goals. The course work in a given subject is generally equivalent to a first-year college course. As a result, a student who achieves a 4 or 5 is usually permitted to skip the corresponding course as a freshman in college.

Who is the College Board?

The College Board is a non-profit educational organization collaborates with thousands of schools across America to provide standardized tests (SATs and PSATs), college prep resources, and AP courses. Their Advanced Placement Program is a fee-based system that allows high school students to prepare for college, take AP classes and earn credits.

What is the background of AP courses?

The Advanced Placement program is an entirely U.S.-based program started in the 1950s, in response to Cold War concerns that American high schools and colleges were not adequately preparing students for the professional world.

It also began as a response to the concern that when graduates of elite private high schools enrolled in Ivy League colleges, their first few years of education were redundant.

At first the intention of the program was to keep the freshmen at elite colleges engaged through their first two years by accelerating them into more suitable coursework—nowadays, the core of AP is still about letting gifted students take more challenging courses.

How many AP courses are there?

AP or Advanced Placement Program consists of a three-year sequence of course work in a specific subject. It is available to serious students in Grades 10 to 12. The course work culminates in rigorous examinations held in May of the graduating year.

There are 38 AP courses available to high school students. Subjects offered include:

  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Calculus AB & BC
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science A
  • Economics
  • English
  • Environmental Science
  • European History
  • French
  • German Language
  • Government & Politics
  • Human Geography
  • International English Language (APIEL)
  • Latin
  • Music Theory
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Spanish
  • Statistics
  • Studio Art
  • US History
  • World History

How are AP courses scored?

AP exams are scored on a scale of one to five, as follows: 

  1. No recommendation
  2. Possibly qualified
  3. Qualified
  4. Well qualified
  5. Extremely well qualified

That is, one means failure and five means extremely well qualified. The computer scores the multiple-choice components of the exam, while the free-response and essay portion are scored by trained readers. In the next step, the scores are combined with raw materials. The College Board offers a series of 8 Scholar Awards which recognize outstanding scores in AP examinations.

Most colleges require the student to receive a score of at least three to four. When the high school registers with college, their AP test scores will be used to exempt them from taking applicable prerequisite classes. Finally, approximately 30 percent of college scholarships use AP course scores. All AP courses are created and offered through the College Board.

What are the advantages of taking AP courses?

Taking AP courses comes with multiple benefits, including:

  • Wide variety of subjects.
  • Chance to earn college credit.
  • Preparation for university workloads.
  • Increased interest in and knowledge of a given subject.
  • Flexibility to take courses only in areas students excel in.
  • AP courses are singular and not designed to be a part of an overlapping course of study between disciplines.
  • AP students can get high school credits and use them for their high school graduation and college application, even if they do not take the AP exams.
  • Students can also opt to take AP® courses at a different high school if their high school does not offer it.
  • Students can take AP exams without being enrolled in an AP class. They just have to find a school at which to write it. Students can prep on their own with AP prep books from the bookstore/library and web resources or take tutoring courses.
  • Colleges like to look at a high school student’s most challenging courses when considering their transcripts. With AP® courses on their transcript, students can stand out as candidates.

Are AP courses popular?

AP courses can be found in most U.S. high schools. Today, more than 2.7 million students take the exam each year across 38 different subjects.

What are the program goals?

The AP Program has two main objectives: 

  • It provides a more competent and challenging coursework to students.
  • It caters to the interests of ‘eager students’ by helping them secure college credits and skips the introductory lectures to dive straight into deeper waters once they graduate high-school.

The AP is a program focused on teaching students specific content and testing their knowledge via exams. There is more multiple choice on these tests and a bigger emphasis on meeting certain content goals than in the IB Program.

What is the cost of AP exams?

You can take AP exams without being enrolled in an AP class. AP tests cost $94 per exam for students at schools in the US, US territories, or Canada, and $124 per exam for all other students. Remember that these fees are much less than the cost of taking the equivalent course in college.

What colleges give credit for the AP exams?

Nearly all U.S. and Canadian colleges accept AP scores for placement or credit, as do many international universities. You can search the AP credit policy of various colleges at the AP college database.

Each college or university sets its own admissions requirements. Good scores in AP coursework indicate to admissions staff that a student has achieved a recognized standard in that subject area. Most schools will accept scores of 3 or above as the equivalent of their introductory or first-year courses in the same subject area. Consult university websites for details.

What is the Advanced Placement International Diploma?

The APID is the College Board’s answer to the IB’s international cachet and acceptance. It is aimed at students studying abroad and American students who wish to attend university in a foreign country. It is important to note, however, this is not a replacement for a high school diploma, it is only a certificate.

In order to earn the Advanced Placement International Diploma (APID) students must earn a grade of 3 or higher in five specified subjects. One of these subjects must be chosen from the AP global course offerings: AP World History, AP Human Geography, or AP Government and Politics: Comparative.

Are AP courses the right choice for me?

Studies show that AP students are generally more successful at college compared with other students. In fact, AP courses are the best way to encourage a high school student to enter college. Students report that AP classes are typically more interesting and beneficial than other classes. These classes increase a students’ academic competency while offering challenges and rewards.

With the AP program’s flexibility, you could just pick subjects you are strong in. If you can, try to take AP classes in a broad range of subjects while digging deeper into subjects you are passionate about. However, you want to make sure that you are doing well in your classes and not overloading. There is no point in taking 10 AP classes if you get a low GPA and do not pass the exams.

If you would like to learn more about our AP program click here or contact us directly below.