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Expectations for AP Courses

We’re going to shift gears today and talk about high school AP courses. Taught by highly-qualified teachers according to guidelines set down by the College Board, the AP Program offers gifted and motivated high school students the opportunity to earn first-year college credit in a number of art, English, history, social science, STEM, and language courses. However, college-level credit also comes with college-level expectations. The AP Program pushes a traditional high school class setting about as far as it can go in replicating the academic experience of a freshmen college course. What follows are some of the expectations that students, as well as their parents, should be aware of before deciding to enroll in an AP-level class.


Time Commitment

Because they offer the opportunity to obtain college credit, AP classes are structured more like college courses than high school courses. This difference is most immediately apparent in how much is asked of AP students outside of the classroom. Students should be prepared to devote significantly more of their own time to an AP course than to its non-AP equivalent. Like an actual college class, an AP-level high school class expects students to have read the course material (textbook, handouts, etc.) ahead of time and to be prepared to discuss that material.


The classes themselves build on what students have already studied and emphasize student participation. Class is a time for students to review, discuss issues raised by the reading and homework, and ask questions about things they do not fully understand. Teachers generally still follow a traditional lecture structure, but they expect students to come to class equipped with at least a basic understanding of what the lecture will cover.


Homework assignments are more demanding and involve less hand-holding than high school students who have never taken an AP course may be accustomed to. Per college-level expectations, they tend to stress a student’s ability to engage with and think critically about the course material. Instead of requiring simple right/wrong answers, they often ask students to take and defend a particular position. An assignment could be as simple as completing a DBQ/FRQ (see below), or it could take a more elaborate form such as a group project on a broadly-defined topic. No matter the nature of the assignment, being able to articulate your opinion on an issue and back it up with solid evidence takes priority over rote memorization. Proving that you can apply what you have learned is more important than having an encyclopedic knowledge of the course material.


DBQs and FRQs

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