AP Self-Studying Issues

 I go to a smaller private school in which is generally excellent for an average pace of high school. My freshman year, however, was unchallenging for the most part. Taking all honors classes, I am on the most advanced math track my school offers, with Calculus AB normally taken the senior year. Because I know the question will come up, I am involved with the ECs of debate, media/tech for church and school, band, and various science/math competitions. All that to say, I'm not falling in my in school schedule and because of this I believe I have the responsibility to challenge myself externally to a greater extent.  

 To solve this issue I plan on self studying for a total of six AP exams this coming year: Calculus BC (already have at or a little below AB level of knowledge from self teaching and deriviation my freshman year), Physics C (already started on this as well with Sears and Zemansky's University Physics), Chemistry (I know little to nothing about chemistry, although I will be taking a chemistry class in school this year which should help), Computer Science (I taught myself Java in seventh grade, C++ in eigth), World History (took this course last year from an excellent teacher), and European History. I should add that my school offers none of the latter four courses, although they do offer Calculus AB and will soon offer Physics 1 and 2, both in the senior year. The reason I am not taking AP English or AP Biology is because I will be taking those with my school in my eleventh grade year combined with the fact that neither of those seen as interesting as my current selections.

Although I wish to learn all these subjects deeply, most likely past the AP level, the issue comes with the factor of what taking these exams will count for. Assuming I do well on all of them, let’s say a 4 or 5, my school may still not allow me to pass out of courses, especially mathematics. So the questions I have are:

-What other options would I have to get onto a faster track in mathematics in high school? (Hoping to take Multivariable Calc/Diff EQ at my community college in my junior year as they are one semester each)

-How do colleges look at AP Exam scores, and would they see that I self studied for six my sophomore year? In other words, will it make a difference in the admissions process?

-As a more general question, what do you all think of this? Any tips, advice, or otherwise?

This is a very bad idea. You do not have the background knowledge for most of those courses. In addition, colleges generally frown upon self-studying for AP exams. You will not learn the material well enough, especially if you are trying to do 6 at once on top of your in school classes which are already rigorous. Have you ever taken any AP exams? I think you greatly underestimate their difficulty.

What’s the rush to study them all in one year? Assuming you have seven classes, that is like taking 13 class periods! Seniors at my school complain about taking 5-7. You are going to burn out! Looks like you might do well in a few exams, but wouldn’t it be better to focus on a few and make 4’s and 5’s rather than straight 3’s. Physics C and Chemistry are often called the hardest AP’s. They are the exams you want to get a 4/5 on because you are almost always guaranteed credit for freshman prerequisites. I would focus on my in-school classes more and self study a maximum of three exams. AP Comp Sci, World, and Calc might be your best choices, since you are already familiar with the subjects. You can always go to the local community college for extra math classes. Colleges will not penalize you if there aren’t 13 AP classes on your transcript because of school policy or lack of AP funding.

Thanks for the advice so far. I have not taken any AP exams previously, which definitely contributes to my ignorance of this subject.

To anyone, what else would you suggest that I do to challenge myself seeing as the courses my school offers (as I said previously I’m taking the most challenging available) do not seem to push me as far as I would like to go?

guineagirl96, may I ask why I would not learn the material well enough by self studying? Additionally, what background knowledge are you saying would be required for these courses?

Hamlon, do AP courses normally take up more than one class period at your school, or are you including out of class work in your estimate? At my school they only take up one, but I’d be curious to know what the AP courses are like at yours. Why are Physics and Chem seen as the hardest APs? Is this a general rule or because some people prefer qualitative to quantitative material?

At my school a very academically motivated senior might take 5. I would recommend just taking a few and really focusing on them your first time around. I believe physics and chem are considered the hardest job at because if the material, although I have taken neither. AP classes take up one block at my school. I know this is not what you want to here, but maybe you could use some of your free time for your ECs in addition to maybe self studying a few APs. There are plenty of people with 15 AP exams and 2400/1600 SATs for top colleges to chose from, yet they still reject some of these people in favor of some people with slightly lower scores but stellar ECs.

@NameIsGood I just added your six self studies with (what I am assuming at your school would be) seven class periods. I counted each exam as one class. 7+6=13 classes.

Physics C and Chemistry pretty much require previous knowledge of the subject to succeed on the exams. Also, Physics C requires knowledge of calculus. Note that Physics C is actually two separate courses with separate exams (E&M and Mechanics). The history APs are going to be difficult because of the essay aspects of the exams. A sophomore will not have the writing maturity to be able to succeed in this part of the exam without help from an instructor. Generally, the understanding one receives from self-studying is the bare minimum to possibly pass the exam. However, this does not equate to truly understanding the subject and the nuances of it. This is why colleges not not condone self-studying.

I believe the only APs you are possibly prepared for would be AP CS and AP Chem. You’ll have to learn grid-world for the CS exam, but other than that, it is fairly straight forward if you know Java. AP Chem may be possible since you will also be taking honors chem, however, your teacher will have to help you. Self studying a lab science is not an easy task.

And I believe Hamlon was referring to the fact that you’d be taking 7 classes in school and 7 classes out of school (the self-studies). That is 14 classes; it’s simply not doable.

What math level are you taking in school? It is not a good idea to accelerate to calculus without a strong foundation in algebra, geometry, and trig.

@Hamlon now I see what you meant by that, thanks.

@guineagirl96 I will be taking Algebra II. With that said, I already know Calculus at or around the AB level from self-studying (MIT OCW, Khan Academy, and various textbooks) the subject in the spring semester of my freshman year. I know enough calculus to have worked through Mechanics in Sears and Zemansky’s University Physics. This text is a typical university level treatment of calculus-based physics. With this noted, do you think I might be able to succeed in either Calculus BC or Physics C? Thanks for your advice.

@guineagirl96 They actually got rid of grid-world last year. So, if you already know Java you pretty much know the whole test. :slight_smile: