What Are AP Classes? 10 Things to Know

High school students hoping to impress college admission boards should take at least a few AP courses. Considered some of the most challenging high school courses, AP classes demand college-level work and are often used to earn college credit. High scores on AP tests look good on college applications and prove students can successfully complete introductory college courses.

If your student is interested in taking AP classes, talk to their high school guidance counselor to discover which AP courses are offered at their school. In the meantime, here are 10 things to know about the AP program.

1. What does AP stand for?

AP stands for advanced placement. The goal of the AP program is to offer students the opportunity to take college-level courses while still in high school. Doing so prepares students for college academics, increases their understanding of their chosen subject areas, and gives them a head start on their college education.

The AP program offers 38 different courses, ranging from core subject matter such as English and Physics to Psychology, Art and Design, Computer Science, and Languages and Cultures. Students can explore new interests through AP classes and ready themselves for their college majors.

2. Do AP classes count as college credit?

Many colleges count AP classes toward college credit if students score high enough on the final AP exam. Other schools might not offer credit, but they may allow students to skip introductory classes in their AP subject and take more advanced courses. Both options allow students to get a head start on their college education.

Be aware that individual schools have different policies concerning college credit, advanced placement, and AP classes. Others will not consider AP exam results for credit or placement, but they may still want to see AP classes on college applications. Contact your student’s chosen schools to ask for their AP policies.

3. How many AP classes should you take?

The number of AP classes your child should take depends on their abilities and college goals. For the best course of action, talk to your student’s high school guidance counselor. The correct number of AP classes will depend on which courses the school offers, your student’s study load, and how AP classes will affect their GPA. Typically, college admissions boards like to see evidence students challenged themselves in high school, so they are expected to take at least some AP courses.

4. How do you register for AP classes?

Your student’s high school may allow any student with the necessary prerequisites to enroll in AP courses, or they may require students to pass a placement test before enrolling. Contact your student’s school to find out their policy.

5. How much do AP classes cost?

Students can enroll in an AP class at no cost, but the price to take AP exams is $96 for students in the United States, U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity. AP Seminar and AP Research Exams cost $144 per exam.

International students can take AP exams for $126, except for Canadian students, who pay the $96 rate.

6. When are AP exams taken?

AP exams are held once per year in the first two weeks of May. An exam day is divided into two, four-hour testing slots. The first slot begins at 8:00 am and the second at noon. All exam times are local times.

7. How long are AP tests?

Most AP tests take between two and three hours to complete. While the format of each test differs, the first portion of the test is usually multiple choice. The second part of the exam typically consists of free-response questions that may be answered as essays, solutions to problems, or spoken responses, depending on the subject matter.

8. When do AP scores come out?

AP scores are typically available in the last two weeks of July. Students can check their test scores by logging into their College Board account.

9. Can you retake an AP exam?

It is possible to retake an AP exam the year after the first attempt at the test. High school students rarely retake AP tests in their senior year, as they are usually already enrolled in college when test time rolls around again.

If a student chooses to retake an AP exam, they must specify which test result they’d prefer to be sent to colleges. Otherwise, the College Board will send both results, which can complicate college applications.

10. How do you prepare for AP exams?

AP tests are college-level exams that require intensive preparation. The stakes are high, as scores of three or more on an AP exam may allow students to earn college credit. Typically, students should dedicate 200 hours of study time in the two to three month period before the exam date.

Working with a tutor helps your student prepare for AP tests more effectively. Revolution Prep tutors offer more than subject matter expertise. They have an in-depth understanding of the formatting of AP exams and teach students how to best approach exams, which test sections to tackle first, and how to make the most of the exam’s time limit. Contact Revolution Prep today, and we’ll connect you with the right tutor for your student.