AP tests: You really don’t have to take them

For many students, second semester holds is the light at the end of the tunnel. From prom and winter formal, to college acceptances and graduation, second semester is the apex of the typical student’s school year. But for the incredibly lucky bunch, it’s also testing season– and not just any tests, but the dreaded, monstrous and will-breaking AP tests.

With the March 7 registration deadline approaching, AP students must make the decision of whether or not they will take the accompanying exams. Seems like an easy enough choice. You have spent sleepless nights studying, crying and writing those God-awful FRQ’s for this class, and of course you want college credit– so you’re not going to walk away empty handed, are you? 

Despite the common belief that all AP tests are given credit at every college, some seniors have found that the colleges  unfortunately do not offer any college credit for AP classes. Although it is a great accomplishment to take and pass an AP test, what’s the point if you can’t get any credit for it?

Also, the AP exams are ridiculously expensive– just like everything else under the College Board’s iron grip. Sure, $100 can save you thousands in college, but there’s no absolute guarantee you’ll actually get college credit, no matter how much time and effort you put into studying. Add up the $100 testing fee, all those Starbucks coffee runs, and the hundreds of hours you have invested; this test comes with a high price that may not pay off.

Through the college application process, seniors have begun to notice some exceptions in the universal belief that “all colleges accept all AP Exams.” For instance, many colleges offer the same courses for English Language & Composition and English Literature & Composition. Also, some top tier universities like Harvard, Princeton, California Institute of Technology and Dartmouth (effective for the graduating class 2018) have more rigorous standards than passing to even qualify for possible credit — or don’t give any at all. For colleges like these, AP exams are more of a shiny “Good for you!” star sticker on applications. Instead of taking another grueling test for absolutely no realized benefits, check with the colleges you will or have applied to.

But let’s not forget about the emotional toll. Every May, these infamous tests rip a piece out of every AP student. For underclassmen, this could be the first huge test, while upperclassmen even celebrate the season with two or more tests to take. But for both underclassmen and upperclassmen, cramming, stress and a general lack of motivation (not to mention pressure from extra curricular activities and that wonderful feeling of senioritis) remain a common factor. Instead of allotting adequate time to study for several tests, AP students often find themselves spreading their time thin — resulting in the night-before panic.

Because of an overwhelming “Of course you should take the AP test, why wouldn’t you?” from numerous teachers and students alike, many AP students do not fully evaluate their decision. Some do not even consider the option of not taking it. Of course it’s always a great idea to take conquer a challenge, but consider whether or not all the time, effort and money actually provides tangible benefits.