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Advanced Placement is a program that provides college level exams and curricula that helps students gain college credits for APs that they get high scores in. Advanced Placements show the college admission officials that students have learned material from introductory college courses.
There are several APs that students can choose from. Some APs have more weightage than the rest - for example, calculus. These tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5: a 3 is considered “qualified” and a 5 is considered the best. At first, there were only 10 APs, but now several APs are available. Some of them include English, Calculus, History, Art, Economics, Computer Science, Biology, and Psychology.
Colleges want students who have challenged themselves; taking a tough AP class will display this. Advanced Placements are the most challenging classes a student can take. Some APs are considered more rigorous because of their difficulty level and because of the content they cover, and some are considered less impressive to some colleges since they are not as relevant to the college experience. Some introductory courses do not cover APs like economics, environmental sciences, etc.
Therefore, it is important to select harder APs such as Calculus, Biology, and Physics. Colleges are more impressed with classes that are more college focused.
Although these exams are expensive to take, if you get a 5 on your APs, you can get course credits for these or your introductory courses can be waived off, which can save you up to 1 semester. Sometimes APs can help you take advance classes without having to wait to complete pre requisites.
In addition to (or sometimes instead of) offering credit for AP exams, if you earn a high enough score on certain exams, some colleges allow you to place out of some of the college’s core curriculum or general education requirements or place into higher level college classes in that subject without taking pre-requisite classes. Scores of 4 and 5 can earn you credits, but sometimes a score of 3 is also good enough (depending on the college).
While this policy may not help you graduate faster, it can give you the option of taking more higher-level classes and taking them sooner, which can allow you time to do internships and/or enhance graduate school applications.
The College Board has an AP credit policy search feature that allows you to find colleges by name and checking their policies on accepting AP scores for placement for credit.
Taking APs are not mandatory, but it can help your college applications. Although taking courses in college are free, taking these APs are not. Each time you take an AP, you must pay a certain fee and all this rides on scoring well. To make the most out of it, you must get a good score. So, if you decide to take an AP make sure to study well and get a score of at least 3.