HS Teacher asked AP Bio students - do you actually want to take the AP test

dd told me that her HS AP Bio teacher asked them to let her know whether they wanted to take the AP test or not. The teacher is experienced and oft-cited as a favorite among students. So I have no doubt that she will deliver a good class either way. Given the difficulties and limitations of an online school year I am wondering if it would in fact be better to skip the test this year if that means that the teacher will have more flexibility in planning what / how to teach.

I am wondering how much importance colleges place on APs this year due to the pandemic.
I think AP Bio is a pretty hard test that is hard to get a 5 in even in normal times. So it is a pretty big gamble on getting college credit.

Any opinions?

Importance of the exam? Same as every other year - not much unless using AP scores for the very few schools that allow them to be used in lieu of Subject Tests. Which is NYU and Georgetown.

Not taking an exam will have zero impact on admissions.

Our teachers often clarified at the beginning of the year that everyone would be testing. This was done to make sure that everyone was accountable to everyone else for maintaining the pace and the commitment to mastering the material. Iowa, that they all had the same goal. As one put it “I want to be teaching one class!”

It is possible that this teacher was asking for the same reason. Hard to know without being there! But throwing that out there…

Check with the admissions websites of the schools your daughter’s interested in if they accept AP credit for Biology. If so, then I recommend taking the test, as it can help reduce your general education requirements or allow you to place out of introductory Biology.

With test-optional admissions, the lack of a SAT/ACT score means that having an AP/SAT Subject score, especially in your area of interest, is beneficial because it’s another way to demonstrate academic strength: Admissions needs to be certain that you can and will succeed coursework-wise at their school before determining if you truly “fit” their school.

Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!

As noted above, the test likely has very little importance to admissions, as usual, and the same importance as in the past for credit/acceleration, which varies by school. I suspect a 4 or 5 will still earn credit at many schools, so not much has changed,

I’m curious what a teacher of AP Bio with students not taking the test would teach. Why would it be different? I would hope than any plans for an “easier” class would go away if even one student plans to take the test.

Perhaps it’s just to coordinate the mechanics of registration. Or just curiosity. I suspect there are a few test-specific noN-content items are that teachers share I prep for the test. Our Calc teacher does 7:30a prep sessions for a couple of months before the exam - another reason to know how many are taking it (though this can be determined by the registration).

Maybe the teacher had some days reserved for test prep and review that could be used for additional topics if no one wants to take the test?

D20s school always asks because the school registers and pays for the exam. They want to know how many kids to budget for. Many kids in her school take the class for the grade bump, but don’t take the exam because they want to major in bio or pre-med and plan to re-take bio in college.

Last year (fall of 2019) the students had to register for their AP exams that they would take in the spring and the school paid. In past years that registration was always done just weeks before the exam. Following that same timeline, I am sure that is why the teacher was asking. The high school my kids went to required students to take the AP exam if the AP class was taken. That being said, we would have never skipped them. My kids all earned more than 30 college credits for their APs. AP exams that are taken in your junior year or prior will be self reported on most college applications and we were told on most college tours that they would be looked at in the review process. The exams they take in their senior year will not be used for admission consideration as they will commit to a school prior to taking the exam. In short I would never pass on taking the exam.

I am not sure what specifically would be the difference, all I know is that she said that it would determine whether she would “teach to the test.”

also - The school doesn’t pay for the exams. I am not concerned about the exam fee, I am just wondering if the class might be more interesting if there was no test prep to worry about.

@ShamrockLotus As other commenters have pointed out, even if one student decides to take the exam, it’s the teacher’s responsibility (ideally) to prepare that student for anything and everything CollegeBoard expects students to know for the AP exam if the course is designated as “AP” (IIRC they have to submit copies of their syllabi for review, go to training etc.)

^ It might also be less rigorous or cover less material.

“Teaching to the test” has a negative connotation-- as in "not really mastering the material or thinking about it creatively but knowing how to answer the questions ". But in a more positive way, it means covering a certain body of knowledge that is supposed to align with a first seminar class in college.

I think it’s fair for your D to ask how the class will be different if nobody is taking the test.

There is no downside to taking an AP test and not doing well…AP tests aren’t used in admissions…only if you get credit or not.

I always thought taking AP test and doing well bolsters your academic profile thereby helping your admission chances. Based on above comments, it appears my understanding is incorrect? Doing well on AP test has no bearing on admission chances?

@ShamrockLotus What did you decided with regards to the AP test? Do students still have to register in the Fall (which was a horrible decision, IMO)?

Your understanding is incorrect. AP scores carry little to no weight in the admissions process. Doing well in the courses matters much more. Scores are used primarily for credit and/or placement.

If your DD likes science, it is worth taking. At my kids’ HS, all AP tests were optional, so this doesn’t strike me as strange. My D did take the test and got a 5, so unless something has changed, it’s not impossible. However, most LACs don’t give credit for 5s. Most likely, they just allow a student to be placed in a higher level class.

A high score will do nothing for admissions, since scores don’t come out until you’ve already been admitted or denied. They could help with a waitlist, perhaps, but I’m not sure about this.

What does help with admissions is taking as many rigorous classes as you can.

We were specifically told by many colleges on our tours that the AP classes were viewed in regard to what classes you took as well as what grade you received AND what your AP test score was. Obviously an AP test score will not matter in your senior year but yes it does in the years prior. An A in the course with a 2 on the exam does not reflect well on the teaching/grade inflation of the teacher. They used the exams to measure how well you could handle the course load and grasp the material. It is true the ivys are not giving you credit for the course but they will still use it to judge your ability. Additionally, they will look at the AP courses the high school offered and which ones you are taking. If they only offer 4 and you took all 4 is better than if the school offered 24 and you took 4. Finally they told us to self report AP scores on the application (obviously again not the ones from SR year) BUT do not lie as scores must be officially sent and match your self report when you accept admission their school. Now with that said I will clarify that we toured both state schools (some of the highest ranked) and ivys but none of the smaller LACS that are sometimes referenced here so that is what my response is based on.

Agree with @User2987456 ; we heard the same on some tours and the HS college counseling office tells our kids the same: some schools use it as part of the evaluation, and it is why our school puts the scores on the transcript whether you want them to or not. This year in the TO environment, they have let the kids know “some” schools may look more closely at the scores.

Posted this on another thread but wanted to share it here:

"I’m assuming that you’re aiming for selective schools b/c of the sheer number of AP courses you’ve taken, so see the following which is by Harvard’s Admissions Dean: https://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/harvarddean-part2/

"We have found that the best predictors at Harvard are Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, closely followed by the College Board subject tests. High school grades are next in predictive power, followed by the SAT and ACT. The writing tests of the SAT and ACT have predictive power similar to the subject tests…

At Harvard the more curriculum-based tests such as the AP, IB, and subject tests are the best predictors of college grades. More research is needed to determine whether our experience is replicated elsewhere, and there was great interest on our 2008 NACAC Commission in developing future tests that would encourage students to focus on their high school curriculum rather than the many costly and relatively ineffective test prep programs. These programs, on average, boost scores by only 20 to 30 points on the old 1600 point scale."

While the article is a bit outdated (2009—when the SAT was out of 2400,) it still has extremely helpful advice. Although standard testing as a whole is rife with problems, AP/IB (and subject test scores to a lesser extent) are extremely helpful in reinforcing your school grade.

Think about it this way: will students do better on a tests set by their school teacher where the teacher’s teaching them exactly what is and isn’t on the tests (b/c they wrote it) or on a test that isn’t created by their teacher and their teacher doesn’t know exactly what’s tested (i.e. they have to prepare them for any concept that could show up?) Students would do better when it comes to their school grades, and this is why AP/IB test scores are useful: to show colleges that you didn’t just get an A or a B b/c your school is grade-inflated but b/c you actually know the subject matter on a STANDARDIZED exam taken by students across the country, one that’s not written by your teacher.

So what does this mean for you? I highly, highly recommend taking AP tests this year (at least in your areas of interest) if you’re planning on applying to schools like Harvard: especially in a SAT/ACT test-optional atmosphere, it’s beneficial to have less biased tests (than your school grades,) in your fields of interest to show that you have a strong background in what you’re studying, and that you’ll be able to handle the rigors of the coursework at Harvard or elsewhere. Also, as @ucbalumnus states, you might be able to get credit for general-education or other introductory course requirements: saving time and money, as college is extremely expensive."

Hope that helps!

Just be aware that, despite a Harvard blog from 11 years ago, I’ve been told by multiple T20 admissions officers that they don’t even receive AP scores in their candidate files. At the Harvard Q&A session last year, the rep said they look at AP scores but certainly didn’t indicate they were highly important - certainly not more than high school GPA.

The fact that the article states that Subject Tests and SAT/ACT writing tests are more effective than high school grades tells me that, if this is accurate, Harvard has a very different profile than most schools.

I’m not clear on the “pretty big gamble” question. You don’t have to submit AP scores in a college application.