Should I take the AP test if my college won't give me credit?

Since 1955, College Board has run their Advanced Placement program. They audit and approve curriculum, ensuring that it meets the standards of a companion college course. AP is also widely known for their exams that give students the potential to earn college credit for passing marks. This year they will offer 38 exams to millions of students across the world.  

For the past decade, there has been a steady increase of students taking AP exams. Colleges are taking notice and reexamining their policies around awarding credit for these tests. Melissa Korn's recent article in the Wall Street Journal details some of these colleges revised approach to placement and course credit.

With high schools continuing to encourage AP participation and expanding their offerings of AP courses, students and parents are now faced with a dilemma.

Should I invest the time and money in actually taking the AP exam?

Here are 3 reasons why taking the AP test is in your student's best interest.

  1. AP scores become a part of the student's academic history. Regardless of what school they attend, these scores will stay with them. Statistically, about a third of students who attend college end up transferring to another institution prior to graduation. That means that while the college they are currently interested in may not accept the scores, another college that they may transfer in to may very well award credit.  
  2. Preparing for the AP exam builds important skills that they'll need in the future. The review and preparation time for AP exams is typically around 4-6 weeks.  Students learn to budget their time and pace for reviewing concepts and taking practice exams.  They are expected to recall, process, and synthesize large amounts of information.  These are the skills you'll want them to have when they encounter final exams at the college level...not to mention, this preparation is a tremendous mental workout for a brain that is still in development.   
  3. The act of taking the AP exam is really good for students heading off to college. Students in high school tend to take a good number of tests.  Final exams are often very comprehensive an important. But AP exams take the concept of a "test" to a whole new level - students are expected to analyze, synthesize, and communicate information in a time-bound setting. The length of the exams (often 3 or more hours) also builds in students the skills of perseverance. All very important skills for a successful college experience.

When helping them make the decision to take the AP exam, remember to use your parental judgment.  Every student is unique and the academic pressure that they are experiencing now is unprecedented.  The added stress of preparing for multiple significant assessments may become unhealthy for them.  If that is the case, help them to identify one test in a subject that they are most interested in and support them through the process.  They'll most likely never regret it.

If you have more questions or are looking for a little more direction on college planning - we're always here to help!

Written by Edsel Clark, Ed.D (CEO/Co-Founder at myOWNedu)