A Primer on Advanced Placement Courses

By Alan Cate

A respected teacher, Alan Cate teaches Advanced Placement classes on American government, politics, and history at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio. In the following, Alan Cate offers an overview of Advanced Placement classes.

The competition for college admissions and scholarships can prove fierce, with students determined to win a coveted spot at the best private or public schools. They apply for scholarships so that the cost of tuition will prove less of a financial hardship for themselves and their families. High school students who wish to attend a particular college or university and hope to win scholarships need to take classes geared toward enhancing their transcripts, utilizing their writing skills, and providing with them an enhanced curriculum.

Many students take Advanced Placement courses throughout high school. The courses, which are sponsored in the United States by the College Board, offer a more in-depth syllabus and course of study than do regular classes. The College Board designed these courses, which are similar from high school to high school, to be relatively equivalent to college undergraduate classes. Each May, students on the Advanced Placement track take tests. A qualifying score will allow them to earn college credits that enable them to skip some of the more basic freshman and sometimes sophomore level courses.

Although students do not have to take Advanced Placement classes in order to qualify to take these tests, most academic advisors recommend that students do so because the classwork gives them all of the tools they need to do well on the tests. The Advanced Placement course catalogue published by the College Board in Advanced Placement incorporates a wide range of available tests, although not every high school will offer every possible AP class. Most school districts and private schools present at least basic options such as Advanced Placement courses in math, history, and English.

Advanced Placement courses focus on teaching the way that most college professors do. Rather than simply reading your textbook or toiling through workbooks, students take notes on lectures and engage in active discussions meant to stimulate reasoned and inspired thought processes. Writing plays a major role in Advanced Placement courses because college professors expect students to be able to present clear, persuasive arguments backed by pertinent and interesting facts. Teachers who work with students in Advanced Placement classes also emphasize problem-solving, time management, and discipline.

Studies show that students who take Advanced Placement classes are more likely to graduate from college in a timely manner. In addition, many colleges consider Advanced Placement classes in their decision to award scholarships.