Do Prestigious Universities Care About AP's?

Mar 2024

9 Minute Read

Tagged as: Applying to Elite Universities, Ivy League, Building a Résumé, Advanced Placement

An overview of AP program, benefits of taking APs, AP exams and how they are scored

We talk a lot about Advanced Placement courses at Occam Education. The AP curriculum is very useful for students seeking admission to prestigious universities, summer programs and internships, and we believe it is important to help challenge students so they have the best chance of success.

Here are some frequently asked questions about what AP courses and exams are like:

What is an AP course? What is the AP system? Where is it used?

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are designed to give students a more in-depth understanding of a subject. These courses model a college-level curriculum, giving students an idea of what to encounter in a college-level seminar. Students in AP courses are evaluated at the end of the year with an AP exam. These exams test how much a student knows in comparison to a college-level seminar in the same topic. AP courses are offered in American and Canadian schools. The scores from these exams are also accepted at most American and Canadian universities for purposes of admissions and course credit.

Why should my student take an AP Course?

AP courses give students a unique opportunity to experience what a university education requires. While students are tasked with thoroughly understanding a subject, students also learn a significant amount about discipline and developing great study habits. Most universities prize applicants who challenge themselves personally and academically, and the AP curriculum is an excellent way to do this.

What AP Courses are there?

There are over thirty courses offered at the AP level. Examples of these courses are: Calculus, Art History,  Spanish Language and Literature, Music Theory, Physics, Chemistry, World History, Macro- and Microeconomics, English Literature, European History, and more. Some schools may not offer every AP course, most offer a select few.

What are the benefits of an AP Course?

Not every student takes an AP course, and for those who do, the AP exam is an opportunity to show prestigious universities how much a student knows about a subject. These exams award students a score on a scale between 1 and 5. Most universities in the US will award students college-level course credit for scores of 3 or higher. This means that US universities will exempt some students from certain introductory courses, allowing students to move onto more important courses faster.

Also, as mentioned briefly, AP courses will always improve a student’s application. Since not every student takes an AP course, adding one to an academic resume shows universities that a student is both serious about their education and is smart enough to succeed at the college level.

Where and how can you take these courses?

Most US and Canadian high schools offer AP courses. However, if a school does not offer an AP course, students are free to seek outside help in order to prepare for the AP exam at the end of the year. Many AP courses are offered online as well, and students around the world take them every year. Occam Education currently offers a number of them, and we are preparing to offer more in coming months.

What do AP Exams test? When do you take them?

AP exams test the extent and application of a student’s knowledge of a topic. For example, in the AP US History exam, students can be asked questions ranging from the formation of the United States to foreign relations in the 19th Century to the economic climate of the 1970s. The purpose of these exams is to see how much a student knows about the topic, but also how they can apply that in an essay (which most exams have) so students can show what they have learned beyond answering a multiple choice correctly.

AP exams are offered at the end of each academic year, in mid- to late May.

How are AP Exams scored?

AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A 3 means that the student has an average grasp on the subject, which is sufficient for the college level. A score of 4 means that a student is above average, would be a good student in a college-level course, and has a solid grasp on the topic. A 5 is a perfect score, meaning the student is able to handle complex concepts and theories with ease, recall important details, and put those details into application. Some universities will accept an AP score of 3 in lieu of an introductory course, but most universities will accept only a 4 or 5, depending upon the subject.

Advanced Placement courses are just one way for students to show prestigious universities that they are willing to challenge themselves. The curriculum is varied enough to accommodate many learning styles and career goals. Also, the opportunity to earn course credit before even setting foot on campus is attractive to a lot of people.

For more tips on applying to college and to explore our free résumé tool, download Occam's app, Wend, on the App Store!

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