AP is short for the Advanced Placement Program offered by the College Board. More here.
What is AP?
AP or Advanced Placement Program is a three year sequence of high school course work offered by the College Board in over 34 subject areas. The idea behind offering AP courses is to provide college bound high school seniors with a level academic playing field. You see, it doesn't matter whether you are a high school student in Dubuque or Darien, AP courses and the end of course examinations are the same wherever they are offered. The course content is the same. The teaching objectives are the same. The preparation for the final examinations is the same. Because the standard is the same everywhere and the final examinations are proctored and graded by the College Board, college admissions professionals are able to compare student academic achievements with confidence. They know exactly what AP means when they see it on your transcript. They know exactly what your AP scores represent. This brief video explains the impact of AP credit and placement.
That is the intrinsic value of AP Courses and their examinations from a college admissions point of view. Admissions professionals want to know that the math courses which an applicant took at a public high school in Kansas are the same as those an applicant from a private school in Tennessee took. In other words they want to compare apples to apples. When one applicant offers a high school math course which is not an AP math course, the admissions staffers have to determine what the course content and standards are in order to compare that applicant's academic achievement with other applicants who took an AP math course. AP stands for qualitative and quantitative consistency in measuring academic achievement.
AP courses are optional but offer students the opportunity to work at a first year college level. National examinations are held in May of the senior year. The reason most prep schools offer AP courses is because a good grade in AP exams usually eliminates the need to take introductory college courses. That means you can get on with more advanced courses as soon as you start college saving both time and money.
How Are AP Exams Scored?
AP exams are scored on a five point scale. A grade of 5 is the highest, 1 the lowest. For more information about AP scores and how they are determined, read About AP Scores
The scores are a combination of the scores on both sections of the examination. They are as follows:
5 which is the highest and described by the College Board as "extremely well qualified"
4 which is "well qualified"
3 which is "qualified"
2 which is "possibly qualified"
1 which is "no recommendation"
Since course work in a given subject is generally considered to be the equivalent to a first year college course, usually students who achieve a 4 or 5 are permitted to skip freshmen courses in the subject.
How Are AP Courses Taught?
One of the features of the AP curriculum which appeals to most parents is the interactive nature of the teaching. Students in an AP class are involved in the discussions. They are not simply learning information which will never be used after the examination. They learn to share ideas. They discuss. They debate. AP courses help sharpen students' academic skills in ways which will benefit them in their college level studies and in later life. Combine AP courses with the small class size which is common in most prep schools and you have a very powerful academic combination for high school students. The secret to successful learning is a gifted teacher as this video demonstrates.
The College Board supports its Advanced Placement Courses with a full line of training aids and summer workshops. Online webinars
make available best practices and what works to as wide a group of teachers as possible.
In What Subject Areas Are AP Courses Offered?
The AP offers over 30 courses in 7 subject areas. AP Capstone, Arts, English, History & Social Science, Math & Computer Science, Sciences and World Languages & Cultures comprise those subject areas. You can read about them at AP Courses
Who Administers AP Courses?
While the Advanced Placement program is administered by the College Board, a panel of expert educators from around the U.S.A. guides all aspects of the program. Teachers also participate in the reading of the free response sections of the exams each June. AP examinations take place during the first two weeks of May. AP examinations are standardized. They are administered in the same manner worldwide. As a result it is important for both students and parents to be familiar with AP Exam Policies. Failure to adhere strictly to all the AP rules and regulations could cost you your score. How many AP courses should you take? This video weighs in on that subject.
Most prep schools offer Advanced Placement courses. Some schools offer six to eight AP courses. Others offer over 20 AP subjects. Schools which do so have to maintain a highly qualified and experienced faculty in order to achieve good results in these rigorous examinations. Put another way, their academic reputation is on the line. The quality of curriculum and course offerings is yet another aspect to any prep school which parents should take into consideration as they evaluate schools
Points of Comparison With IB and Progressive Education
If you had to characterize AP and where it fits into the high school spectrum, think of AP as the center. Then on the left would be progressive education and on the right would be the International Baccalaureate program. Advanced Placement courses reportedly have a favorable impact on college admissions decisions. https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/exploreap/for-parents I encourage you to explore the AP website. It has several articles which will help you decide if AP fits your requirements and objectives. I recommend that you begin explore AP, IB and progressive education options when your child is in 6th or 7th grade. By doing that you will have a very clear idea of what kind of schools you will want to focus on as you get closer to your child's high school years. Knowledge is always power when it comes to making major decisions. Explore your options fully and understand the pros and cons of Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate and progressive education.