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Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced Placement courses are curricula and exams created by the College Board (who also run the SAT I and II) and are usually much more rigorous than the general course offerings (including those characterized as "honours") at American high schools. They are also standardized: the AP Algebra III course and exam offered in Connecticut will be the same AP Algebra III course and exam offered in Islamabad.  

"Advanced Placement" means just that-  many colleges and universities will award credit for these courses if the student has received a 3 or higher (or some cases, just a 5) on the AP subject exam [All AP exams are for specific subjects, and the highest score available is a 5]. Highly competitive first tier colleges and universities, however, do have their own set of requirements (see note below*).

Many good high schools offer 15-22 different AP courses, and  - depending on the ones offered by that school- can allow a student to weight his course load with more things he really wants (ie Latin Literature, Latin Vergil or Physics B, Physics B: Mechanical; Physics B: Electricity and Magnetism), unlike more circumscribed curricula (ie the IB Diploma).

There are several advantages to taking AP courses:

  • They are transferable for students changing schools (a student taking the AP World History course in one school or country in the autumn can move to another school and continue on with the same course in the winter if the new school offers that course);
  • They give students strong and challenging course work and show university admissions offices that the student is taking the hardest classes available;
  • If the student's university is willing to award credit for courses taken, it can represent a significant savings on tuition fees (it is conceivable that a student could take ten or fifteen AP courses in high school, and find himself with a couple or three terms of university core studies under his belt, if some or all of the AP courses are similar enough to courses offered by the university).
  • The American high school diploma does require that each student complete a certain range of subjects over 4 years to graduate, but there's room for electives and that's where serious students load up with their preferred AP (in addition to the AP versions of the required ones they're taking). That's probably the biggest advantage over other curricula....the advantages of a broad based curriculum, but one easier to fine tune for the more narrowly focused student.

AP courses are now also accepted by some UK universities for admission (except for some Oxford colleges).

*Top schools (for example in the Ivy League) may not allow students to use AP courses for credit until their junior year in university, and then only if students achieved 5's on at least five of their AP tests in high school. Of course, they only admitted that student in the first place based on the rigour of his course work (based on an IB diploma and/or a high number of AP courses!) and his excellent grades in same.

Schools offering this curriculum: