I do not intend to dispute the merit of what other AP students like me have been through. My intention is to dispute a point of view that seems somewhat popular among those who find the AP courses especially challenging. Many, if not most, of us have been told that the Advanced Placement program was meant to accurately simulate a college level course. Because of this view, I believe that many of us have been led to believe that our situation is much worse than it actually is. While the AP courses our school offers are indeed challenging, they cannot truly compare to a full-fledged college course.
The reason for this is that if a high school class was made as difficult as a college course, there would be very few, if any, students who could keep up. The average college student is enrolled in much fewer courses than a high school student per semester. And these classes often do not meet every day. As a result, the college student has much more time outside of school to devote to homework and studies. A professor can afford to cover much more material in every lecture, and assign considerably more homework and assignments. For a high school student, a college-style system of lectures and assignments would simply be incompatible with our six to seven classes, sports, and other extracurriculars.
In addition, grades themselves are often determined differently in AP and college courses. The average advanced placement course at Mesa consists of at least half “free” points, in the form of assigned work for which students get credit for completion. The most difficult part of the course, the tests, is often a relatively small part of the overall grade, so there is generally a good amount of room for mistakes. A well-known example of this is Mesa’s AP U.S. History course, in which more than half of the chapter quizzes count for extra credit points, and homework assignments and tests are weighted equally.
In contrast, a college course can often be much narrower in its point distribution. More than half of a course grade can be determined by scores on a small handful of tests, the rest by several hours of assignments every week, which are graded for accuracy, not just completion. Combine this with supplementary reading and what you get is a time commitment that far outweighs any high school course, even an advanced one. A student who can’t or won’t put in the time and effort simply will not do well.
Despite this however, the Advanced Placement program does serve its purpose very well, despite not entirely living up to its claims. While it may not be at the same level as college courses, it does do an excellent job of preparing students for the challenges of a future in a four-year university. With AP courses, we are taught the value of responsibility and hard work, both of which are directly applicable to all areas of life.