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Crowley: Is taking an AP class really worth all the effort?

A student takes a sample SAT test during

A student takes a sample SAT test during prep class in Newton, Mass. (March 3, 2005) Credit: Getty Images

Students across the country found out what they received on their Advanced Placement tests on Friday. I’m one of them, and like so many of my contemporaries, I was eager to see all my hard work boiled down into one number grade. Everyone’s hoping to get that great feeling that comes from earning a 4 or 5 on an exam.

But is taking an AP class really worth all the time and effort?

Other than looking good on a transcript, AP classes come with few benefits. Colleges are becoming more stringent on what grades are worthy of their credit. A 3 or lower gets you credit virtually nowhere. Some schools, like Brown and Dartmouth, are no longer accepting AP credit at all., As a spokesman for Dartmouth explained, “We want a Dartmouth education to take place at Dartmouth.”

Some might view Dartmouth’s actions as extreme, but I see it as an insight into the quality of education high schoolers get from AP courses.

Dartmouth has a right to say it will not accept AP credit because AP courses don’t do what they should: help students prepare for college effectively.

Since the AP syllabus was established by The College Board in 1955, teachers’ focus has shifted from varied and creative methods of learning to a set, rigid curriculum in order to prepare students for one thing: an end-of-the-year exam. The AP exam looming at the end of the school year forces teachers to replace group projects, inventive assignments and field trips with textbooks and practice tests.

By sticking to The College Board AP curriculum, endless lectures and old Powerpoint presentations, teachers fail to engage their students. By signing up for only AP classes, students may never allow themselves the opportunity to learn how to write creatively or reseach effectively, skills needed for college.

The most valuable class I’ve taken was not an AP English Language and Composition class, but an expository writing class where the teacher forced us to think for ourselves. Instead of being given a topic, like most AP tests do, we designed our own prompts. This method sparked creativity by forcing us to try new methods of learning, and it also created interest among the class in what it is we were studying. 

So when you’re deciding what classes to take next fall, recognize that your choice is a double-edged sword. You can select an AP class, but unless you really enjoy the subject, you’ll sit and suffer for eight months on the slim hope of recieving college credit. Or you can pick a regular class, excel in it, and potentially have more fun and learn more in the process. 

Patrick Crowley is a Newsday Opinion intern and a high school student on Long Island.