AP Exams and Boarding Schools?

My BS, as with most, had dropped AP classes years back. But there is still an unspoken expectation for students take AP exams. Whats a good/expected amount for competitive students to take at your BS?

The expectation is zero. The reality is something more than zero depending upon the individual student’s desire to earn college credit or placement.

A couple of things to think about before you sornd money on exams and prep:

No college has an expectation that students take AP exams when the course us not offered.

Many BS students are targeting colleges that cap AP credit or give no AP credit.

A college counselor at our kids’ BS suggested only taking AP exams if our kids wanted to highlight a particular subject strength. That being said, she still did not recommend it, because the effort could be better spent elsewhere.

For example, my oldest’s only AP test has been Calc BC. I figure after his math course transcript/grades, SAT math score, ACT math score, and SAT Math II subject test score, that AP score should contribute about 0.00001% to his incremental chances of getting into his preferred college (where he will get no course credit).

@Altras Just a question on taking exams for expressing subject strength. At my BS, most history courses (my favorite subject) don’t match up directly with AP exams (while STEM classes usually do). Would you reckon, from an admissions standpoint, that it would ever be “worth it” to spend the time/money to express interest in this way? i guess every detail counts

No The only strength taking an AP exam without a course shows is the ability to cram for a 3 hour exam. Not something AOs are looking for.

The only time from an admissions POV that it makes sense to take an AP exam without a course to show interest is if the BS does not offer the course at all. And even that instance may be iffy. E.g… It may make sense if the BS does not offer European History. It makes no sense if the BS offers USH (which they al do) but the course does not align to the exam.

My son’s Calc BC curriculum completely covered the AP exam material, so the teacher for that course recommended that the students take that particular exam. I don’t think it was so much for the college course credit, as it provided a focal point and a little extra sense of accomplishment for her students (but I’m just theorizing).

He’s also taken honors physics and chemistry. Those courses did not cover the entire AP curriculum. Those teachers did not encourage taking the AP exam, but provided students information about gaps in the curriculum, if they chose to take the AP exams. My son did not take either AP exam, but he did take the Physics SAT II exam. While no US colleges require AP exam scores, many US colleges recommend up to two SAT II exams for those applying. Depending on your background (particularly financial), “recommend” can actually mean “required”.

All that considered, based mostly on the guidance of the experts, I’d personally only recommend to someone (including my own kids) to take an AP exam if it costs them nothing expect the exam fee. Meaning, if you would actually enjoy studying the additional material, than do so. But if it adds any additional strain or pain to the already demanding BS schedule, risks a lower grade in another class, or even sacrifices time with friends…don’t do it. However, there may be an opportunity to get an SAT II score out of the way and demonstrate your subject test strength that way.

Last and most important…reach out to a college counselor at your school to discuss this and set up a plan that is best for you.

None of my 3 boarding school kids have taken an AP exam. I checked with the head of college advising who confirmed that not having AP scores would make absolutely no difference with college admissions.

I’m quite familiar with the BS in my town (top 3 in the nation). There are some who take APs, but most of them are STEM related—the subjects that involve history are usually significantly different (a few years ago, a student from BS came to my public school to take the APUSH exam, and it was my APUSH teacher who received his score—he had gotten a 1. Not because he wasn’t smart, but because the curriculum is just different).

I am sure @skieurope can help with this question:

Kiddo is looking at a couple of college/universities in the UK. Perhaps, some other students on this thread may also be applying to schools in Europe. The two in the UK we have inquired about do ask for at least 3 AP tests and stated to us that even if your BS does not have an AP course, you are expected to have these tests. We are hoping that this may change with COVID. I know that the UK right now has their own issues with their A-Levels mess this year.

University requirements vary. Some allow alternatives including Subject Tests. But to use Cambridge (because their bar is set highest) as an example where the requirement is 5 5s on APs, the options are 5 5s on APs or eliminate Cambridge from consideration. There is no flexibility. The expectation is that the applicant will take the AP exams even if no class is offered.

Note that the AP requirements need nit be completed at times if applucation, but any offer will be conditional on successfully achieving the requisite number on the offer sheet. Failure to do so will resultingheoffer being withdrawn.

It is unlikely that any UK uni will change its procedures this year unless AP exams are cancelled -which is highly unlikely.

While AP exams are unlikely to move the needle much in college admissions, if you end up at a school with distribution requirements, AP scores can allow you to skip those. This can be more valuable for subjects of little interest (by allowing you to check the box for that requirement) than for an area of interest, where it could make sense to do the foundation course to ensure full mastery of the basics as the college sees them.

I wouldn’t invest a lot of time studying for the exam if the course doesn’t cover the material. But if it’s a matter of review, it could be worthwhile.

It is also as likely, if not more likely, that AP credits cannot be used to satisfy gen ed requirements (except foreign language). So even if the college grants credit, it is only elective credit. Since few students know what school they will be attending prior to senior year, they are gambling time and money that these APs taken prior to senior year will have a positive ROI

A few schools also require students to have a basic level of math regardless of major. So if you are a student planning to major in psych and do not want to waste a term or 2 on FL and do not want to take math, those 2 AP exams can allow you to take 2-3 classes you’d like to take rather than those required classes. If the normal course load is 4, that can be quite liberating, especially when presented with all the options in colleges. (And at $35,000 per semester, those “repeats” are expensive. ) It isn’t a matter of getting credit. It’s opening up the schedule for something else.

My kid was one who regretted his decision to not take the FL AP at the end of his junior year when he’d completed the course that corresponded with it because he had to take it in college. And he didn’t really enjoy it.

As a BS student, there’s no reason to load up on these but they can be useful.

I stated that FL was an exception. And I agree with you on calc.

In general, what level of FL is covered in the AP exam, if a kid is not in a course formally designated AP? 3 years? 4 years? Honors? Or even regular?

And how likely will a 4 or 5 on the FL AP exam allow a kid out of FL classes at most colleges? I must say, I’ve looked at various colleges’ requirements on FL and ways of getting credit, but I remain unclear on the issue.

Curricula varies by school. In general, AP would be a 4th year course. But in some schools would be a 5th year course. For the European languages, all grammar should be taught prior to AP.

In terns of credit/placement/exemption, colleges set their own rules. But with rare exceptions (Yale comes to mind because all students need at least one FL class at Yale) a high enough score would satisfy the college FL requirement even if no credit is granted. Check the college site for specifics.

Dartmouth also waives FL requirements for 5’s on APs, not sure about lower scores. Other APs allow you to bypass certain prerequisites but I’m pretty sure you don’t get any credit.

To be clear, few of the selective schools offer credit for AP. But many allow you to consider it as satisfying a prerequisite. You can usually find this information by going to the college’s website and searching for AP credit. You can also look at distribution requirements as well as the requirements in any department.

It’s not always easy to interpret.

Crucify me now, but in my opinion, if you are going to a selective boarding school it is not worth the time and angst to take AP exams. The colleges already know your school is rigorous. You will not get credit (almost certainly) for the exam. The exam will have absolutely no bearing on the admissions decision.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it will allow you to satisfy some prereq. But, for example, a foreign language prereq can also be satisfied by taking the college’s placement test.

I think kids are under enough stress, and have enough, probably too much, academic work already, so I believe in really thinking about whether something like this is necessary and will add benefit. For some, absolutely it does. But for most boarding schools it absolutely does not.

JMHO :slight_smile:

I think this is an individual choice. But let me add that if a student needs FA and attends a school that offers credit for AP exams, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to pay for the AP exam than the college credits. I know a young woman who is starting med school this year, after completing her BS in 3 years at her state flagship, who used her credits exactly this way.

Again, not what everyone would do (nor what I would have wanted my kid to do), but it’s an option, and for some, a necessary one.

To me, one of the major decision nodes on this is whether the class at BS adequately prepares the student for the test. This is simply a matter of whether the content “matches up”. For FL and calculus, it probably does. For other subjects, it may or may not. I do not advocate for taking exams that require “self-teaching”. That’s not the point.

@cinnamon1212 , you are absolutely right that most schools will have a placement test for FL. For a student who is not fond of FL and completes the AP level in their junior year, it may serve them better to take the exam then, when the material is fresh, than to take the placement exam 15 months later when they have forgotten a fair amount. (This was my kid, btw. Was on the cusp of placing out. But no, did not.) For a student taking FL senior year, it may not matter.

I will say it again. This is an individual choice.