Advanced Placement (AP): Courses and Exams

Article by Razel Suansing

For many of the students in ISM, the end-of-year exams and the IB exams have been clouding their schedules with endless hours of preparation. However, a type of exam that many students may not know about is the AP exam. Advanced Placement (AP) is a program widely undertaken in the United States and Canada created by the College Board which offers college-level courses and examinations to high school students. Over the years, many American universities have granted placement and course credit to students who obtain required score on the final AP exam for their courses.

In recent years, ISM has given students the option of taking AP classes to either complement their studies or challenge themselves in preparation for the rigor in the IB curriculum. For the past few years, daring sophomores and upperclassmen have confronted the challenge of taking Advanced Placement courses. ISM offers a variety of courses such as the AP US History course, AP Human Geography course, and the AP Literature and Composition course interwoven into the English Honors course. The AP US History course offers extensive knowledge in the content that faces freshman-level college survey classes. The three hours and fifteen minutes exam is split into four parts. This includes the multiple choice, short answer question, long essay question, and document based question. AP Human Geography offers a rigorous, college-level course that examines the relationship between the environment and humans. The seventy minute exam is split into a multiple choice section and a free response question. AP Literature and Composition challenges students to explore and analyze challenging classical and contemporary literature; and to analyze and interpret dominant literary genres and themes. The three hour exam is split into four parts such as multiple choice, free response to a given poem, free response to a given prose, and an analysis of a prompt using a work of literary merit selected by the students.

There are multiple reasons to take on the challenge of an AP course. Despite this, some students, who wish to go to colleges outside of North America, believe that there is little incentive to take the AP courses as some universities are hesitant to give college credit. However, AP teachers and students beg to differ. First and foremost, it helps many students transition to future course in IB.

Mr. Berg, who teaches both AP US History and AP Human Geography, states that “the AP holds students to high standards much like the IB. The AP [requires] a lot more analytical skills, reading skills, and writing skills that we dive really deeply into”.

Ms. Gough, who teaches AP Literature and Composition, states that “if you’re going into IB, it is a really good experience because the free response for the poetry and prose are very similar to Paper 1 in the IB Literature exam, so the idea of close reading and commentaries is a very good way for you to practice those skills.”

In addition, teachers believe that the skills learned in AP in such an early stage in a student’s high school career are indispensable.

Mr, Berg says that the “analytical skills, thinking skills, and writing skills will be heavily tested, and I think taking a challenging course will only positively impact you for future classes that you will take”.

Ms. Gough says that the AP literature course “gives more writing practice that because of the timing forces you to be concise which is helpful in future college courses”

For students who are afraid of taking this challenging course, Mr. Berg advises that “the beauty of this course, though it is a university level course, we try our hardest to make it approachable for all age groups. I also say that they’re missing out on truly going in depth in one subject; and working really hard in writing, analyzing, and understanding the difficult concepts. They are missing out on a wonderful challenge.”

Other students have also attested to the sentiments of these teachers. Kaye O. (10) states that “I prefer the knowledge based nature of the course”. Nadya A. (10) says that “Though it may be stressful, I have truly learned so much through working independently.” Woosuk K. (10), who takes AP US History, says that “I have developed the necessary skills that I can apply to other subjects and become a better social studies learner.”

Overall, though the rigor of the AP courses in ISM seem to be daunting, the courses force one to develop the way they learn. Hopefully, more ISM students will take on the challenge of an AP course and holistically improve themselves as students.