Test Prep

Should I take AP Courses? Is It Worth the Effort?

To know if you would be more successful in an AP class or a standard class, there are some important factors to consider.

Throughout my career as a high school college adviser and an Independent Educational Consultant, I have often been asked the same question: “Should I take Advanced Placement (AP) or standard classes?” My answer is always that you should take the class you’ll be the most successful in. To know if you would be more successful in an AP class or a standard class, there are some important factors to consider.


Grade Point Average (GPA) is a determining factor in the college admissions process. If you’re successful in an AP class, the extra GPA point received for taking that class can help escalate your GPA. On the other hand, if you take an AP class and do poorly, your GPA could take a serious hit.

Generally, for a standard class an A receives 4 quality points, a B receives 3, a C receives 2, a D receives 1, and an F receives 0.  Meaning if you made straight As in all standard classes, you would have a 4.0 GPA.  For an AP class, an A usually receives 5 quality points, a B receives 4, a C receives 3, a D receives 2, and an F receives 0.  Therefore, if you took all AP classes and made straight As, you would have a 5.0 GPA.

Course Rigor

Most universities do not evaluate your transcript- only your GPA. Selective colleges will evaluate the courses you chose to take.  Those colleges want to see that you chose to challenge yourself by taking substantive courses, but are also looking to see that you were successful in those courses. They are not impressed with a student who chose to take AP classes but made Ds or Cs in those classes. They are more likely to be impressed with someone who knew their own abilities and wisely chose to take a standard class, was successful, and made As and Bs.

AP Exams

AP exam scores do not factor  into  your high school GPA, nor are they determining factors in  the college admissions process. Instead, after you are accepted to the college of your choice,  you’ll submit your AP exam scores directly to the college to receive course credit.  One major  advantage of receiving credit is possibly being able to graduate early and save on expensive college tuition.

Stress and Life Balance

High school is stressful. If taking an AP class is going to substantially increase your stress level, it’s not worth the emotional toll.  Finding a balance between school and life is already difficult enough to navigate- if you are going to have to invest excessive study time to perform well in an AP class and have to forfeit other life balance necessities, it may not be in your best interest to take the AP class.

Bottom Line

Choosing to take standard classes is optimal for students who do not wish to overly increase their stress levels or forgo other activities and interests in order to invest time and energy in AP classes. For students who are high achievers, well organized, and extremely motivated, AP classes are advisable, but both the student and the parent must be well informed about the level of work required to be successful.


June Garzon is an associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).


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