Are AP exams worth the steep price and year of stress?


As the school year winds down and the pleasing thought of summer increases, many students begin to relax and prepare themselves to simply “ride the wave” until they’ve successfully coasted through the remainder of the year.

However, a select group of high schoolers is unable to partake in this leisurely end to the year until they have lived through May, for May is the lucky month in which the long parade of AP exams take place.

For those unaware, all students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes have the option of taking a test, provided by the College Board, and if they pass, it will earn them college credit.

Junior Rachel Cooper took advantage of this opportunity offered last year by taking and passing the AP United States History exam. Hoping to emulate that same path of success, she signed up for three more AP classes.

“I think if you’re looking for a challenge, taking an AP class is better, [as opposed to a regular class],” Rachel, who is currently enrolled in AP Chemistry, AP World History, and AP Language and Composition, said.  “You have to work hard, but it is fun and rewarding.”

Exams are scored on a scale of one to five, and most colleges will accept a three or above as credit for certain courses. So for many, taking and passing AP exams can be an efficient way to ease the burden that is the overwhelming cost of college.

“It’s a good way to get college credit without spending thousands of dollars,” Rachel said.

Rachel is currently signed up to take the AP exam for all three classes she’s in, which to many would seem like a no-brainer. However, in Rachel’s words, “sometimes, it depends on the situation.”

Junior Harry Hill is also currently taking three AP classes, but unlike Rachel, he won’t find himself taking any College Board tests in May.

“For AP Computer Science Principles, no college really accepts it [as a credit] because I think it’s only on its third year as an AP class,” Harry said. “For AP World History, I didn’t really know if in college there will be a path where I take a history class, and I already have taken APUSH and passed that exam, so it didn’t really make sense for me to take another history exam. In AP Environmental Science, I just don’t see myself going into that.”

Even though Harry isn’t taking any of his potential three exams, he still agrees with Rachel that there is a myriad of benefits to taking the class in the first place, reasons other than taking the exam.

“I think you learn more [in an AP class], and there definitely is room for them if you’re interested in the subject,” Harry said. “You’ll definitely get more material, and it looks better for colleges. I definitely still think you get all those benefits without taking the exam. You don’t need to take the exam to have it on your transcript that you took the class and passed it with an A. That still looks good to colleges.”

One of the major aversions to taking an AP exam, other than fear of not passing, is how costly they are. Each exam costs just under a hundred dollars, which is pricey in itself, but when stacked upon many other exams, it can become almost an unreasonable price.

“I definitely think that the exams are too expensive,” Harry said. “That’s part of the reason also [why I’m not taking the exams]. I would have taken them if they were like thirty dollars, just to have [the credit] in case I go into those subjects. But when they’re that expensive, it’s just too much of a gamble.”

Rachel disagrees with this statement. In her eyes, the prize is greater than the risk.

“A hundred dollars for an exam [is worth it] if you pass because you will get college credit,” Rachel said. “College courses are way more expensive than that, so I think, in the long run, it’s worth it.”

Additionally, Rachel feels that the staff at FHC helps to prepare the students enough to pass each specific exam.

“I think that all the AP teachers are [preparing us enough for the exam],” Rachel said. “They try to review with us and give us [practice exams].”

All in all, AP classes offer enough benefits that, provided students are passionate about the subject, they’re definitely worth taking.

“If I could go back and redo junior year,” Harry said. “I definitely still think I’d take all these AP classes.”