AP Exams Don't Prepare You For College
Student Life

5 Reasons The College Board’s AP Program Has No Place In High Schools

Lack of accessibility and depth pose major problems for many high school students worldwide.

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In recent years, the College Board has grown to become a staple in high schools across the globe, especially in America. From SAT testing to scholarship opportunities to college information services, the organization envelops most of the necessary aspects of college preparation for millions of students. The one program that the College Board has provided for years with diminishing returns, though, is the AP program. From a former AP student and avid participant in 10 exams, here are just a few of the many reasons that I believe AP no longer has a place in the average high school.

Exams are expensive.

At $92 for every test taken, it's difficult for many low-income schools to participate in the program. This puts students at these schools at a disadvantage when compared to their peers from other schools, regardless of individual intellect or academic competence. Even for students who can afford the cost of an exam, a failure on an exam means they are out nearly $100 without receiving any college credit.

Many exams do not accurately reflect college-level expectations.

Former high school teacher, college professor, and The Atlantic writer John Tierney has stated that AP courses "didn't hold a candle" to the corresponding college-level courses he taught. For a program that touts college preparation as its main goal, this is unacceptable and may leave AP students less prepared for college than they expected to be.

AP courses are costly to schools in terms of resources.

As AP classes are taught at a higher level than regular or honors classes, the most qualified teachers from each district are often sought out to teach them. This means that non-AP students are sometimes left exclusively with less experienced teachers. Additionally, many AP courses enjoy smaller class sizes due to limited student interest or qualifications, whereas non-AP students are stuck with large class sizes to accommodate everyone else.

AP exams encourage "teaching to the test."

AP standards are extremely rigid and rarely allow for any divergence from the standard material. Though this can be beneficial to students who seek studying resources, it discourages creative instruction and requires near-mechanical thought and studying habits. In contrast, college courses are often far less standardized and encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

AP courses set up students for failure.

AP courses do not have explicit prerequisites (unless set by the school), essentially meaning that any student can take any AP class even if they are not up to par academically. Though this is no problem for the College Board, which makes $92 per exam regardless of outcome, it can be a huge waste of time and money for an ambitious yet unprepared student. The resulting increased failure rate also leads many instructors to oversimplify the material for future classes, which is a disservice to prepared students who are seeking a challenge.

AP classes can prove beneficial to students who are seeking more challenging classes within their high school, but the bottom line is that they are not the be-all and end-all of college preparation. They do more harm than good, and major reforms are needed to ensure that aspiring college students have widespread access to courses that actually prepare them for their post-secondary education.

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