3 Reasons to Plan Ahead for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams
Aim Academy aligns its classes with Advanced Placement (AP) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. Both are a type of equivalency exam–they are an alternative method for earning college credit.
If your kids are collegebound, here’s why the AP exams, in particular, should be a part of your high school plan. (More on the CLEP exams later.)
AP and CLEP exams helped my four kids finish college on time (if not early) and earn merit scholarships. All then graduated with little or no debt and most with double degrees. Strategic use of AP and CLEP exams were a critical part of why that happened.
I founded Aim Academy more than a decade ago so your family could have the same opportunities.
Here are three compelling reasons to make AP exams during high school a goal for your collegebound kids:
1. AP exam scores are an objective measure of a homeschooled student’s academic achievement.
AP exams are developed with ongoing input from professors at a representative sample of U.S. colleges and universities–including private, public, religious, and elite. This team determines the standard content and skills students are expected to master in the college-level course represented by an AP exam. (This is why AP exams undergo periodic revision—this team continually surveys colleges to make sure they are testing the most common course content and skills.) AP exam scores provide objective evidence to back up the grades and coursework on a homeschool applicant’s transcript. Admissions offices and merit scholarship committees can be confident your child is ready for college success since AP exam scores show he or she has already completed college-level work.
2. Passing AP exam scores convert to college credit at no additional cost at most colleges and universities.
AP exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with a 3 considered a passing grade at most colleges. More competitive schools will require a 4 or 5 on some exams to earn credit. Each school sets their own AP and CLEP policies. Search on “AP exams” or “credit by exam” on a college’s website to pull up that school’s list of accepted exams and required scores.
Other methods, such as transfer credits or a portfolio review, may have fees attached–it’s not uncommon for a college to say, we will accept these credits but you will need to pay the cost per credit we charge–you save yourself the time of taking the class, but you don’t really save any money.
We accumulated college credit through multiple ways during high school and college, and the AP exam route netted us the most credits at the lowest cost (including the cost of the AP class and AP exam) of all other methods. The main reason I say this is because of benefit #3–the scholarship money AP scores can unlock.
Read Next: 5 Ways AP Exams Can Cut College Costs
3. AP exam scores heavily influence a homeschooled student’s merit scholarship consideration.
First a definition: merit scholarship is not based on financial need. It is solely based on the student’s high school achievements—academics, leadership, and extra-curriculars.
Put yourself in the shoes of a scholarship committee. They want to award scholarship funds to the worthiest candidates and to not be accused of favoritism or subjectivity, especially if they are passing out taxpayer-funded scholarships.
Homeschooled applicants often have non-traditional documentation and grades awarded by parents (not the most objective of measures). Please do not throw tomatoes at me—this is their perspective of our objectivity about our children. (Do you think your friends are objective about their children’s achievements and talent? You may be free from bias, but the rest of us often aren’t.)
AP exams are among the most standardized and objective of measures. Grade inflation runs rampant everywhere, so these are not reliable measures of academic achievement in most committee members’ minds. The SAT and ACT have cultural biases embedded in them and have been shown to favor students from privileged backgrounds.
As AP exams measure college-level achievement, they provide better evidence that your child is college-ready than grades or an SAT/ACT test, which measure high school level achievement only.
Most importantly, AP exams show your child is willing to challenge him- or herself and desires high academic achievement—a more reliable predictor of college graduation than high school grades or test scores.
Does this kid want to work hard and learn and advance in his or her studies? Then that is the kid we should give a helping hand to!
Here’s a tip to set your child up for success on AP exams:
Aligning coursework in middle school allows students more time, at a gentler pace, to achieve college-level mastery by the end of high school.
AP exams measure college-level achievement. To do well on AP exams, students must first master high school level course content and skills. Introducing more advanced coursework in middle school (for example, starting Algebra 1 in 7th grade) gives kids time to reach college level mastery in AP courses in 10th–12th grades.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I enrolled my sons in AP US History in 9th grade. They had never had a decent U.S. history course—we’d read all of Joy Hakim’s wonderful History of US series but leaping from that into college-level history was very stressful. They passed the exam, but it was not a pleasant experience for them or me. Without a solid background, they devoted so much time to AP US History that other coursework suffered. Nothing about this experience supported a love for learning–a primary reason I was homeschooling in the first place!
With my next child, Kayte, we anticipated all the AP exams she might want to take by the end of high school, and we started folding some of the content and skills on those exams into her middle school coursework.
How did we know what content and skills were covered on the AP Exams? We downloaded the course descriptions at AP Central on the College Board’s website.
Even if your kids never take an AP exam, Aim Academy’s alignment with AP and CLEP course content is gradually preparing your children for college-level work no matter where they attend–private, public, religious, or elite--we are here to help you make sure they are well prepared!
Read Next: 5 Ways AP Exams Can Cut College Costs