By Sarah Wang
For many people around the world, May is a time of flowers, fresh spring, and possibly allergies; for many American high school students, May is a time of studying, stress, and anxiety: AP testing. The Advanced Placement (AP) program is an academically rigorous curriculum offered by non-profit standardized testing administrator College Board to students who wish to challenge themselves with college-level courses. Although the curriculum itself may be rewarding, the 3 to 4-hour AP exams can be expensive, emotionally and physically draining, and require months of intensive preparation. So why do nearly 3 million students take the AP exam each year?
First, the standardized nature of the AP exam allows students to demonstrate their proficiency in a subject in which the school-offered class was particularly difficult or unreasonable. Just ask Arcadia High School (AHS) junior Tiffany Liang, who encountered a notoriously difficult AP Biology teacher last year. “Even though I didn’t earn an A both semesters last year,” she explains, “I was able to prove my biology knowledge by earning a 4, or ‘well qualified’, on the AP exam.”
Second, depending on their college of choice, students can earn academic and elective credit for earning a passing score of a 3 (out of 5) or above. Although Arcadia High School charged $110 per exam this year ($25 more than College Board’s $85 rebated exam price), qualifying students are more than willing to pay what is now a small price in order to save thousands in college tuition fees. Plus, with AHS’ 60% AP participation rate and 88% AP pass rate, students can rest assured that they can lean on the experience of many teachers and peers for help and advice on taking the test successfully.
Finally, AP exams provide students with an opportunity to learn curriculum that is not offered by their school. Arcadia High School offers an impressive variety of AP classes, but for its high-achieving students, 20+ options are simply not enough. Arcadia High junior Ashley Lee is a prime example of AHS’ ambitious scholars. In addition to taking three APs during the school day, she is also planning to take two additional AP exams this May because “there simply isn’t enough room in my schedule to take all the classes I’m interested in” she laughs. She continues, “Taking five AP tests can be extremely difficult, but for me, it’s a way of trying new things and exploring subjects that I might like to pursue in the future.”
AP testing can undoubtedly be a daunting experience for any high school student, but with the right amount of persistence, diligence, and focus, earning a perfect 5 is most definitely within reach. As any experienced student knows, the trick lies not simply in test prep books and tutoring centers, but in working hard from the start, wise time management, and taking full advantage of the resources offered by one’s school, teachers, and peers. Happy studying and best of luck to this year’s AP exam-takers!