By: Uma Attreya
Have you ever taken a class and thought, if only someone had warned me against taking it? Or, the opposite, where you wish you had taken a class? I am here to hopefully aid you. AP Classes are great for college because they prepare you for the coursework and some of the content you will experience in college. However, because there is a strict curriculum, how “easy” a class is depends on a couple of things such as personal opinion, strengths, and weaknesses. These classes can be enjoyable and enlightening if you work hard and have a basic understanding of what to expect beforehand. I hope to share some of my experience that may guide you in picking classes. These reviews are based on the curriculum, course load, and how I fared (or am faring) in the class; this is not a rate my professor type of article. Also, these are just my sophomore and junior year classes!
I’ll start off with APUSH, a two year course about American history. The first year focuses on when people came to the Americas (I’m talking PaleoIndians, which is before the Native Americans, Vikings, or Columbus) to right after the Civil War (Reconstruction). The second year picks up where APUSH 1 left off and goes until Ronald Reagan. I personally enjoyed this class. The coursework was a lot, especially since I had half of APUSH 1 and all of APUSH 2 remotely. However, I did not think any of the homework was busy work. When I took the class, homework was usually reading and annotating passages, sometimes answering questions. In class, we went over the reading, so you almost always had to do the homework. In APUSH 2, there were pop, “lovable” (read: surprise, stressful) reading quizzes that tested our understanding of the reading and if we read. APUSH 2 also had assessments testing material learned in APUSH 1, since both years’ content would be on the AP Exam.
The APUSH 2 quizzes were not bad if you read, and they really did help me retain the APUSH 1 information. The actual tests in the classes consisted of multiple choice questions and some open ended. The multiple choice is challenging because you need to get used to reading the types of questions (looking for key words like “except”) and answer choices (absolute choices that say “never” or “always” are probably wrong). We learned strategies in class, but online resources (Adam Norris saved my grade, but Princeton Review Practice Books and AP Classroom) were also extremely helpful. The open-ended questions also never really grew on me, but I learned to do it. There are short answer questions where we learn formats to answer them. The essay, known as a document based question (DBQ), takes some getting used to. There are aspects similar to an essay for English class, like having a thesis and quoting, but how you present your information, organize it, and explain it are slightly different. We do go over this in the class.
Overall, I would say do not take APUSH if you find American history boring, do not like to read or write, and have a bad memory (because often you are connecting ideas from historical events rather than memorizing specific dates or names). This class aided me in writing in a time crunch as well as strengthened my comprehension skills, but I will say, as a first AP class for sophomore students, it certainly is daunting at first.
AP Language and Composition (more commonly known as AP Lang) is by far the most challenging English course I have taken because I was not ready for it, especially remotely. Class discussions over Zoom took some getting used to. However, it did prepare me for AP Literature because of one element: the timed writings. Those, safe to say, will never be something I am fond of, but I have grown to not dread them as much. The AP exam requires us to write 3 essays in about 2 hours, so in class, we practiced by getting 45 minutes to write an essay. These essays were opinion essays and essays where you had sources. The AP exam also had a multiple choice section, which we did some practice for in class. I don’t think AP Lang’s workload was too bad if you don’t procrastinate (yes, easier said than done). We did get a lot of work in terms of reading guides and annotating sources, but it does help to be prepared in class. The reading guides are split up to match when we read a section, and annotating is usually done in class and completed for homework. AP Lang had some enjoyable discussions, so if you like to share your ideas and aren’t afraid of speaking out, this class can be for you!
Further, to me, the analysis aspect of this class was tough. Lang focuses on rhetorical analysis, which is something students may not have been exposed to. Rhetorical analysis looks at aspects of a text and determines if those aspects help or hurt the argument. The most popular form of this is ethos (appeal to the reader’s sense of morality), pathos (appeal to the reader’s emotions), and logos (appeal to the reader’s sense of reason), but we learned to use elements like tone and diction. I feel as though this class teaches students a lot about comprehension and analysis, so it is beneficial, but slightly challenging if English is not your best subject.
AP Statistics is probably my favorite math class to date because it was all calculator and word based, but it also was the most challenging since the material was all new to me. To elaborate, there was little math in AP Stats, it was more about how students worded their answers. They needed to recall specific keywords to include in an answer, like “about” or “approximately.” Points were deducted for answers not worded correctly, even if the numerical value was right. Students could use a graphing calculator for the AP Exam and all tests, so it was a little challenging to recall all the fancy calculations to do as well. The coursework is not bad at all. It is just homework from the textbook, which just expands on notes and do-nows in class. The tests are based off the notes, which are based off of AP Classroom videos. For this class, I highly recommend watching the AP videos assigned as you learn material in class (because it matches up) to truly understand how to answer a question correctly. Overall, the memorization aspect of this class was certainly challenging (and there is a lot of writing), but if you’re looking for new math content or are thinking of going into a field relating to data analysis, I recommend this class.
AP Biology is freshman year biology with a lot of detail. The exam has multiple choice and free response questions. I felt the most prepared for this AP exam. The class’s course load is not busy work, but if it is not broken down, it can be overwhelming. Students watch Edpuzzles for homework, answering corresponding questions (these serve as the notes). There are also handouts with practice problems if the unit has math and the math is pretty straightforward. The labs are exciting and easy to follow as well. I recommend the Amoeba Sisters’ Youtube channel for any questions about the content (they provide simplified explanations for complex material). In class, students do labs or handouts. The tests are derived from the notes and College Board (notice a recurring theme?). There also are progress checks at the end of each unit (from AP Classroom) that give a general idea of how a student is doing with the units. The multiple choice has complex wording, which takes some getting used to. The free response questions were challenging to me, because it was a lot about application of ideas. I recommend this class if you plan to pursue studying science in college. Biology itself is interesting because it is the study of life, so it is real and evident in everyday life, and this class’s content is very in depth.
Overall, each AP class has its advantages and disadvantages. Everyone is better at different things, but just because you aren’t good at one subject does not mean you cannot take an AP class in it (for instance, I am not math / science geared yet I took AP classes in those subjects). If anything, AP classes give students a chance to explore a subject while learning to take tests. Mostly, students learn basic content and focus more on adhering to College Board guidelines for free responses or developing strategies for multiple choice questions. I feel like it is worth it to take any AP class, but don’t overwhelm yourself. If you struggle, talk to your teacher or check online for great resources. Play to your strengths, try new things, and take all my advice with a grain of salt!
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