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The misconceptions about Advanced Placement

Do the benefits of AP classes outweigh the hidden costs?

Keely Carolan and Chris Holland
Originally published June 15, 2017

Chris Holland

Chris Holland

Hundreds of students have packed into the auxiliary gym over the past few weeks to take a test that will determine whether or not they will get college credit for all of their hard work this year. That’s right, it’s May— and that means it’s AP testing season.

Ballard is one of the many schools in the district which offers AP (Advanced Placement) classes in multiple subjects to its students, with few prerequisites. All you need is an open mind, a good work ethic and maybe some caffeine, and you should be able to get through the course without damaging your GPA too much. Or at least, you’re bound to have at least learned something when you come out of it.

But in all seriousness, there are many benefits to taking AP courses. First of all, they allow you to get college credit for a particular course without paying thousands of dollars. Sure, there is the cost of the exam, but compared to the price of even the most preliminary college courses, along with textbooks and other fees, AP courses certainly look like a sweet deal to the average student.

Additionally, the rigorous curriculum is, in our experience, a fantastic way to delve deep into a subject and thoroughly learn the material. If you’re really interested in a particular subject, AP is a great way to fuel that curiosity and challenge yourself. Not to mention the intensity of the courses are supposed to help prepare students for college (AP classes are, after all, advertised as being college level).

Despite all the benefits that can come from taking AP classes, there are definite downfalls which have steered many away from these specialized courses. Scholars, teachers and students have questioned whether or not the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of the AP curriculum. This has created a nation-wide controversy that has left students stranded when it comes to signing up for classes.

One disadvantage of AP classes is that the curriculum is structured around the exam. Despite being a college level class, the program restricts student creativity and critical thinking skills. This “teaching to the test” mindset allows students to learn patterns and tricks for acing
the test, but after passing the class many students forget what they’ve learned throughout the year because they lack the real- world applications.

Another facade of the AP system is the mind behind the madness—the College Board. The College Board dogmatically praises themselves to be non-pro t organization, however behind the scenes they overcompensate their top executives and funnel money to government officials in order to gain in influence. According to Americans for Educational Testing Reform the College Board CEO, David Coleman, makes 444 percent more money than the industry average for CEOs. On top of that they spend over 1.4 million dollars on political lobby expenses.

Aside from the corporate greed that AP testing fuels, classes and exams also invoke unnecessary stress upon these adolescents. In the weeks leading up to exams, minor breakdowns and sleepless nights are not unheard of. A heavy homework load throughout the year creates a tendency in many students to neglect their work from other classes, while cutting into the precious few hours of free time we get outside of school, sports and extracurricular activities.

Sometimes it seems like a little much to be putting on students who are just trying to stand out from the crowd in a society where originality is so hard to come by. An intensely competitive environment surrounding college applications and the pursuit of success has been created by companies that are just looking to make a quick buck, rather than having the best interest of students in mind. By no means are we trying to discourage people from pushing themselves with a more rigorous curriculum, however we implore you to examine all of the facts before you dive right into something that may be considered the nation’s largest scam.

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The misconceptions about Advanced Placement