How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

06/06/20237 minute read
How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

When applying to universities in the US, Advanced Placement courses and strong AP test scores can provide a significant advantage — especially if your sights are set on the Ivy League or similarly competitive schools. Read on to learn about the benefits of AP classes, how many to take, and how international students can access AP curricula from anywhere in the world!

What are AP courses?

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are entry-level college courses offered as high school classes that are standardized and administered by the CollegeBoard. There are 38 different AP exams offered globally, ranging in areas like Psychology, Art, Humanities, Science, Math, History, and Languages. AP courses are designed to prepare students for college-level work by offering a more accelerated approach to the traditional courses offered in high school.

AP classes differ from traditional classes in the sense that they are designed to prepare students for a standardized test each spring that’s developed by the CollegeBoard with the goal of demonstrating a student’s comprehension of college-level subjects. The standardization ensures that every student who passes the AP exam is actually able to keep up with college-level coursework!

How Many AP Classes Should You Take?

The recommended number of AP courses/exams to take varies based on the kind of universities you’re hoping to apply to. A 2013 study conducted by admissions officials at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill found that students should  “pursue at least five college-level courses" during high school; however, it’s important to keep in mind that since the study was conducted, acceptance rates have decreased significantly and the competition is fiercer than ever.

Here are some tips to help you choose the course that is right for you:

  1. Figure out what subjects you are interested in and what subjects you generally do well in school. This will help you narrow down your options.
  2. Think about what college majors and careers interest you, and then take courses related to those. This will help demonstrate your interest as well as expertise in the field.
  3. Research the AP policies of your college of interest. Some colleges award credit or placement, and knowing what you are eligible for will help you understand how many AP classes you need to take.

Why AP Exams Matter More Than Ever With Crimson CEO Jamie Beaton

How Many AP Classes Should You Take for Ivy Leagues and Other Top US Universities?

For students aiming for the Ivy League and Top 20 schools in the United States, a good target is to take (and pass) 10-14 AP classes throughout your high school career — or 3-4 each year. Keep in mind that this course load is not realistic for every student, and if you feel that you’re not capable of taking 10-14 APs while also taking care of your mental health and balancing things like extracurriculars, consider pursuing 7-8. It is more important for you to do well in fewer AP classes than to earn mediocre grades in many.

If students do well in the course but not on the exam, not to worry! The transcript admissions officers see will still benefit from a rigorous course load. However, a strong score, or recommendation, is quite advantageous — especially for applicants to the most competitive universities — so if your test scores are strong, you will want to submit them!

“Despite widespread test-optional policies, we noticed [last year] that the vast majority of STEM applicants (70%+) still submitted test scores in just the EA/ED round. Standardized tests are still considered a valuable data point for Admissions Officers and a strong score still helps students stand out. This is especially true for regions where the vast majority of students are submitting scores — you don’t want to be the one student without one! On the flip side, if your peers are all unable to test due to cancellations, then you are also fine in not submitting a score, but this also provides an opportunity for you to stand out even further with a strong score (if you are able to safely take the test, of course),” says Senior Crimson Strategist, Brice.

How are AP classes scored?

The APs are completely externally assessed through one standardized examination at the end of the academic year. AP exams are scored on a scale of 1-5.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of AP courses?

AP (Advanced Placement) courses offer a range of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the main ones:

Advantages of AP courses:

  1. College credit: One of the primary advantages of AP courses is the opportunity to earn college credit. Many colleges and universities grant credit or advanced standing to students who perform well on AP exams, allowing them to skip introductory-level courses and potentially graduate early.
  2. Rigorous curriculum: AP courses are designed to provide a challenging and rigorous academic experience. They can help students develop critical thinking skills, analytical abilities, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
  3. College admissions: Taking AP courses demonstrates to college admissions officers that students are willing to take on challenging coursework and have a strong work ethic. It can enhance their college applications and make them stand out among other applicants.
  4. Subject specialization: AP courses allow students to delve deeper into specific subjects that they are passionate about or interested in pursuing in college. It offers an opportunity to explore a particular area of study at an advanced level.

Disadvantages of AP courses:

  1. Heavy workload: AP courses can be demanding and require a significant amount of time and effort. Students may find themselves overwhelmed by the workload, especially if they are taking multiple AP courses simultaneously.
  2. High-stakes exams: AP courses culminate in AP exams, which are typically high-stakes tests. These exams can be stressful and may require additional preparation outside of regular coursework. Performance on the exams can also impact college credit eligibility.
  3. Reduced flexibility: Taking AP courses can limit students' flexibility in choosing elective courses or pursuing other interests outside of academics. The demanding nature of AP courses may leave less time for extracurricular activities or part-time jobs.

Ultimately, the decision to take AP courses should consider individual circumstances, academic goals, and personal preferences. It's important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to determine whether AP courses align with a student's educational aspirations.

Final Thoughts

Now you might be wondering how you can take AP classes. Maybe you are studying at a school that does not offer AP classes, or you don’t have access to the subjects you are interested in. Crimson Global Academy is here to help you. We are an international online high school that offers AP classes from the comfort of your home.

At CGA, students study to their ability, not age, so you can take the classes you want regardless of what you are studying in school. Besides AP classes, we offer International GCSE, A Level and US Diploma courses for students aged 8-18. There are also a variety of extracurricular activities, internships and leadership opportunities at CGA.

What is Crimson Global Academy?