A Parent’s Guide to AP®

Parent helping her child in preparing for AP exams.
In this AP® parent’s guide, discover the value of Advanced Placement and the answer to many commonly asked AP questions that parents have.
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Parent helping her child in preparing for AP exams.
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Parenting is never easy, and helping your children navigate the path to college is particularly challenging. Knowing how to prepare your kids for college is an important task for parents and one that can seem confusing at times. Lots of questions abound, particularly around the topic of Advanced Placement® courses and exams in high school. 

In this post, we’ll answer some of the commonly asked questions and discuss AP resources for parents. Consider this your AP guide for parents as you do your best to help your children find success in the classroom and on their journey to higher education.

What Is AP?

AP stands for Advanced Placement. An AP program consists of both courses that students take in school and exams that cover the course content. The courses are college-level courses taught by high school teachers.

How Many AP Courses Are There?

There are 38 total AP courses and corresponding exams:

Research, Seminar, Art and Design: 2-D Design, Art and Design: 3-D Design, Art and Design: Drawing, Art History, Biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science A, Computer Science Principles, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Environmental Science, European History, French Language and Culture, German Language and Culture, Comparative Government and Politics, U.S. Government and Politics, Human Geography, Italian Language and Culture, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Music Theory, Physics 1: Algebra-Based, Physics 2: Algebra-Based, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics, Psychology, Spanish Language and Culture, Spanish Literature and Culture, Statistics, U.S. History, and World History: Modern.

Note: Not every high school offers AP or every AP course. Schools decide which AP courses they wish to offer. The AP courses offered vary from school to school, district to district.

Why Should Kids Take AP Classes?

Taking AP courses is a strategic decision made by students, their school, and their guardians. AP may not be right for every student. However, it does come with benefits if the student has the capacity and ability to succeed in a class that is more academically challenging.

Taking AP courses elevates your high school transcript, and because AP grades are often weighted, taking AP courses benefits your GPA. 

Having AP courses on your transcript shows you are ready for college-level coursework. Students who take AP are generally more prepared for the rigors of college than non-AP students. 

Should My Child Take the AP Exam?

No AP guide for parents would be complete without discussing the AP exam that accompanies each AP course. Students are not required to take the end-of-the-year AP exam but most do because of the potential benefits regarding their future college education.

AP exams are graded on a scale of 1–5 and a 3 is considered “passing.” The primary reason for taking an AP exam is to earn a 3, 4, or 5 and possibly get either college credit or advanced placement in a college course. Earning college credits while in high school means fewer classes in college and less tuition.

Note: Individual colleges and universities set their own standards for what AP scores may earn college credit. Students should check with the schools they are interested in attending to see their policy.

How Many AP Courses Should My Child Take? 

The number of courses that your child should take throughout their years in high school really depends on your child and what you feel is best for him or her. There are several factors that should be taken into consideration, including academic capacity, available free time, school/life balance, college aspirations, etc. 

It’s a good idea for high-performing students to challenge themselves with AP coursework without going so far as to burn themselves out. Remember, taking AP courses and preparing for AP exams is hard work, so you have to be careful not to overextend your child when signing up for AP classes. 

It’s also important for students to have available time after school for extracurricular activities like high school clubs, sports, charitable involvement, fun with friends, part-time jobs, etc. If a student is spending all of their spare time studying because they signed up for too many AP classes, that can have a detrimental effect. So, talk with your child and come up with a plan that challenges them without exhausting them when it comes to your approach to AP coursework.

Can My Child Take an AP Exam Without Taking the Corresponding AP Course?

Students are not required to take an AP course in order to take the exam in May — they can self-study. Resources for parents to offer their children, such as UWorld’s online practice for AP Courses and Exams, are extremely helpful for students who are self-studying for an AP exam.

My Kid’s School Doesn’t Offer That Many AP Options. What Can We Do?

If your high school doesn’t offer the AP courses you would like your child to take exams for, look into nearby schools that offer the exams and prepare your child to take those exams through self-study.

How Can I Best Support My Children Taking AP Courses?

An AP parent’s guide is more than just information about AP instruction, it’s also about the academic and emotional support that is necessary in the home. AP courses and AP exams are challenging and can come with a sense of pressure for students. If your child is taking AP courses, be mindful of the rigors of the class, and do what you can to alleviate any stress. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Help your child see the value and opportunities that come with AP coursework
  • Teach your child how to build a study plan well before exam day
  • Make sure your child has adequate time for relaxation and extracurricular activities
  • Be a source of support and encouragement for your child
  • Provide your child with a quality study resource that will boost their GPA and prepare them for the exam

Do you have a child taking an AP course or beginning to prepare for an AP exam? Are they aiming for a 4 or 5 on their exam? We can help them get there! UWorld offers an innovative AP resource that helps students master the concepts and gain the confidence needed for AP exam success. With perfectly modeled College Board®-level questions, concise answer explanations, and easy-to-access progress monitoring, our online practice for AP Courses and Exams will help students take their understanding of AP material to the next level and hit their dream score. Start a FREE trial today

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