The Beacon
RSS Feed

AP classes, despite reputation, are not college level


One of the first things we hear when we walk into an AP class the first week of school is the ever-so interesting schpiel that reminds us, in some form or another, that this class is at the same level as that of a college course. However, having taken seven AP classes so far, I question this statement. Do AP classes actually mirror college level courses?

AP classes require students to memorize many facts and obscure details, necessary for them to succeed on the final culminating exam. In contrast, college classes encourage students to develop critical thinking skills. Recent Wilson alumnus, Jennifer Li, says that her college classes are more about synthesis than memorization. “In high school, I got homework in almost all of my [AP] classes every day and had to turn in those assignments, while in college, I have more readings and almost no homework that is collected,” says Li.

AP Biology teacher Jessie Poole thinks that the main difference between college classes and AP classes is how the content is taught. She says “In my class, we do a lot of group work, posters, skits, etc to help master content. In college, you can expect mostly lectures and less hands on projects.”

I have seen firsthand that AP classes are not very similar to a standard intro-level college course. While AP teachers pile on loads and loads of work, professors in college will give only a few assessments. In the Cultural Anthropology class I am taking this year at Georgetown University through the High School College Internship Program, HiSCIP, for the entire semester, I only have two quizzes, two essays, and one group project. While we do have readings for each class, there is no homework to turn in or any worksheets to complete in class. AP Biology teacher says “At Wilson, we have class work, homework, participation, lab and assessment grades but in a biology 101 class, you would normally only have 3 or 4 tests that would make up 100% of the grade.”

Senior Ben Topa takes at a class at American University through HiSCIP as well. He says “the biggest difference [he has] noted between Wilson’s APs and college courses is the diversity of perspective and quality of engagement put forth by students”.

I’ve come to learn that AP classes really are not at the same level as college courses. However that is not to say that they don’t have merit. While AP classes don’t fulfill the prophecy of being college level, they do prepare students for academic life in college by teaching students the work ethic needed to succeed in an academically rigorous environment. •