High School

Should I Take AP or Honors Classes?

To answer this question, I asked a senior, who just finished her first AP exams and has taken honors classes, to comment on the positive and negative elements of taking advanced courses. The following response is written by Raquel Garshofsky:

During my junior-year, I enrolled in two APs: AP Psychology and AP European History, and both were definitely worth my while. Of course they were intense, tough, strenuous, challenging, and time-consuming, but every hour paid off. One of the best reasons to take an AP is that there are so many subjects offered, meaning that students can pick and choose topics based on personal preference. As I skimmed over the list of AP classes at the end of sophomore year, I was overwhelmed with excitement that I had the opportunity to select classes that genuinely interested me. I wasn’t being forced to suffer through boring, monotonous, uninteresting classes and because of this freedom, I selected classes whose topics greatly interested me, which encouraged me to listen and pay attention during class. Additionally, paying attention was no longer a strain; class thrilled me, and not only did I take in information during lectures, but I also often made “psych” references outside of school. I’d be at a baseball game, watching my brother play incredibly well, better than I remembered him ever playing at home, and all of a sudden I’d think of my psychology class and impeccably be able to explain why he was playing so well. The answer was social facilitation: the tendency to perform a known and practiced task better when in front of an audience.

The ability to select a class based on personal preference makes learning enjoyable and fun and the information becomes encoded for the long term. The classes I took stimulated my mind, as well as broadened and magnified my awareness and appreciation for the world around me. In addition to the personal benefits, AP classes also grant a boost to ones GPA (grade point average) and stand out when applying to college.

Even though AP classes are fabulously interesting, it takes a lot of work to succeed and pull of an admirable, gleaming “A.” Beginning at 7:50 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., my high school, which follows a dual-curriculum, is rigorous and exhausting. On top of that, I am enrolled in honors math and Judaic classes, which makes the thought of adding APs to my schedule, beyond frightening. Honors classes share many similarities with AP classes; they both require time, attention, hardwork, and commitment. Taking honors classes throughout elementary school and the beginning of high school greatly aids the transition into AP classes. The most apparent difference, though, is that AP classes teach for the AP test in May. Going off on an engrossing and fascinating tangent rarely occurs because of the strict, immutable AP exam deadline. The teacher cannot adjust the AP exam to just test the material taught like he or she can do for a regular mid-term or final. This characteristic of teaching for the test, in my opinion, reflects the downside of an AP class. Because the material is predetermined by the collegeboard, details and key components often disappear from the curriculum and class discussions. However, in order to deal with the time constraint, teachers often construct and distribute organized, helpful syllabuses that map out the daily schedule, assignment deadlines, and test dates, which ensures that all material is taught thoroughly and adequately by the time the exam arrives.

One of the best parts of the AP exam is that not only do you receive high school credit, but depending on how you score on the exam, certain colleges will give you college credits. Receiving this college credit allows students to get through required classes and start taking electives.

AP and honors classes encourage students to develop a solid work ethic, effective study skills, and a superb understanding of the studied topics.

To read more about the benefits of AP exams, go to: College Board