The Problem with A.P.

Joshua Bredel, Staff Writer

AP, also known as Advanced Placement, is a type of course commonly found in high school. They offer a so-called “advanced” level of many subjects, basically trying to imitate the complexity of college courses. These classes are often taken for the end of the year AP exam which condenses all the information from that class into one (typically 2-3 hour) exam. 

The nonprofit organization behind these AP courses is called College Board, also known for running the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). The College Board advertises these classes as a way to experience college-level courses, raise unweighted GPA, and get college credit if the AP exam was taken and passed. On the outside, this all sounds great – a nonprofit organization doing its civil duty to support and prepare high school students for college success. But all of this is used to hide the undisputed fact that AP courses aren’t truly helping students succeed in college, despite the fact that they are holding a price tag to these exams saying the exact opposite.

The College Board prices these exams at $96 in the U.S, charging students a large amount of money, especially when taking more than two AP exams. They are charging a large amount of money for not only tests but the cancellation of these tests ($40), the sending of these tests to colleges ($15), and the hiding of these tests from colleges ($10). The exchange between The College Board and the student is that the College Board gets more money to increase its influence in the education industry, while the student gets college credit.

What I’m trying to get at is that The College Board tricks students into buying these tests, making it look like they’ll save money in college, even though the reality is that students will most likely not take a class that some of their $96 fees cover (for example a high school student who buys tests for history classes and never majors in anything related to history). Also, keep in mind that this college credit only allows the introductory course of a major to be skipped; This to many future college students sounds like a bad idea, skipping the basics of your major since you passed a high school test which commonly has a lofty passing rate margin.

Moving on past the unfair transaction between the student and The College Board, the claim that the AP courses help students prepare for college is nothing but a blatant lie. John Tierney, writer of The Atlantic and former college professor remarks that “The high-school AP course didn’t begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. My colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.” 

I asked a San Pasqual High School student about her opinion on the topic. “No, I don’t believe that the difficulty of AP courses will reflect the difficulty of college courses,” said Sherlyn Garzon. It’s clear to see that what The College Board advertises for the base AP class (for non-test takers), isn’t true at all; AP courses don’t even closely resemble a college course in difficulty.

At this point, you’re probably wondering, why take an AP class or AP exam if it’s shown to be a lie? The sad truth is that the College Board has a complete monopoly over high school success and college acceptance. I’m personally taking AP classes and planning to take them throughout high school; The truth is that academic high school success is measured in GPA and, academically, Colleges look at GPA and advanced classes taken to determine acceptance. The only way to raise GPA above a 4.00 in most high schools is with AP classes and the only advanced classes colleges look for are AP courses (aside from the small number of honor classes). The only way to academically put yourself at an advantage is to take AP courses.


Even though The College Board scams students out of money and isn’t honest about their words, the truth is that academic success is measured by the number of AP courses taken which shouldn’t be the case. If we discourage these classes, the College Board’s growing monopoly over education might diminish, lest we might one day see students taking all AP courses without knowing the lies behind their curriculum.