Conversation about Advanced Placement or AP comes up often in the homeschool community. Passing an AP test allows homeschoolers to show college preparation and high school rigor. There are over 30 different tests that cover a wide variety of topics, not just the core courses. Homeschoolers who have a specific passion can use AP to explore topics such as art history, studio art, music theory, and computer science.
While AP is used as a general term, it is important to note that an AP course and an AP test are not the same.
- Are taught are a college level
- Have gone through a rigorous approval process by the College Board
- Are often weighted and can improve GPA.
- Are available to homeschoolers through several providers (see list below).
- Can be taken with or without an AP test.
- Do not count for college credit without a passing score on an AP test.
- Can be taken without an approved AP class.
- Are only offered once per year, in May.
- Result in a score between 1 and 5; a score of 3 or above is passing.
- Contain both a multiple choice and a free response (writing) section
- Are often are accepted for college credit.
AP tests vary in difficulty. The general opinion among students is that Human Geography, Psychology, and Environmental Science are the “easiest.” And although there is little consensus on which are the “hardest,” my son (who took 12 AP tests) says Chemistry, Foreign Language, and English. Because of these varying levels of difficulty, traditional schools often start advanced 9th grade students with Human Geography and save harder tests for juniors and seniors. Additionally, AP Tests vary in writing expectations. Human Geography and US Government, for example, require simple, short answers, while World History, US History, and English Literature require more advanced writing skills and students are expected to write full essays. Parents and students can look at released AP test questions on the College Board website to get an idea of each test’s difficulty.
Homeschool students can participate in the AP program. There are a number of AP providers that offer courses for homeschoolers or parents can create a rigorous course followed by an AP test. A parent created course cannot use the term AP on the transcript (that is a trademarked by the College Board and indicates an approved course), however, a course description combined with a passing score indicates that the course was at an AP level. Be aware, however, that AP test results come out in summer so admissions officials will only see AP tests that have been taken before senior year.
AP vs Dual Enrollment
Some colleges prefer AP over dual enrollment because AP tests are standardized, and community college classes vary in quality. Some colleges and universities will offer credit for an AP exam, but not offer credit for a dual enrollment course. A community college course in world history might not give a student college credit, while a passing AP score will. This happens more often at private colleges. The University of California and the California State University system typically take dual enrollment or AP but the number of credits may vary. A student should check to see if an AP test will give a student more credits than a dual enrollment course.
Like SAT subject tests, a passing AP test score can provide A-G credit for the University of California and the California State University systems, and in some cases can provide several years of A-G credit for a single AP test.
Pennsylvania Homeschoolers http://www.aphomeschoolers.com/
Center for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins University (CTY) http://cty.jhu.edu/ctyonline/
Blue Tent http://teacherweb.com/USA/BlueTent/Thompson/apt19.aspx
UC Scout http://www.ucscout.org/courses
APEX Learning http://www.apexlearningvs.com/courses/advanced-placement