Are AP Classes Useful?


Addison Wallace

Annotations done by a student in a book for AP Lang.

Cottonwood High School offers a large variety of AP classes. According to PrepScholar, “Advanced Placement is a program run by the College Board (the makers of the SAT) that allows you to take courses at your high school, which can earn you college credit and/or qualify you for more advanced classes when you begin college.” AP classes began in the mid 1950’s “as a response to the widening gap between secondary school (high school) and college.” Cottonwood offers AP classes to any student who is interested in taking them.

Mrs. Merkley, Cottonwood High School AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang) teacher, was asked to teach AP Lang for the junior class and accepted. This eventually grew into a love for teaching AP Lang and the students she gets to know through the years. Merkley said this class is one of the most important classes to take in high school because it’s all about reading the world, it’s about “understanding how people persuade, how to make arguments, how to ascertain when people are manipulating you, understanding rhetorical strategies, evaluating evidence. Those are skills that are applicable and transferable no matter what field you want to go into.”

Merkley believes that taking AP Lang is beneficial to students for multiple reasons. One benefit  is the opportunity to earn college credit, but Merkley believes that the primary benefit is that “it provides a really active educational experience that even I think is different from an honors class.” She also felt that students shouldn’t be scared of taking any AP class if they haven’t taken one in the past because “being in AP has everything to do with how much you desire to learn and improve, so in that sense it is literally open to everybody.”

Many college students agree, saying AP is very beneficial even if the student doesn’t earn the credit. University of Utah senior, Abbie Dean, said AP World History was helpful in introducing her into the experience of taking an AP class and “AP Literature…helped me prepare my college applications and prepare for the level of writing in my college courses.” As a history major, Dean felt like AP history classes “reflect the amount of work in most college history courses.”

Betty Keomounmany, senior at the University of Utah, agrees that AP classes are challenging and good preparation for college, but said, “They were somewhat helpful for college in that it taught me how to write a good essay in a limited amount of time! It also helps with time management… AP is still definitely easier than college though.” She added, “However, the idea of the AP tests at the end of the year versus a concurrent enrollment class is pretty crappy.”
She expressed frustration with the AP exam requirement to earn credit compared to concurrent enrollment where you earn the credit by taking the class.

Although most said AP classes were beneficial in at least one way, University of Utah student, Mandy Maybe said, “I didn’t learn as much as I thought I could or would in the crammed semester. It was too fast to keep up with.” She advised, “Take the regular education and supplement your education with extra curricular roles.” Maybe felt the AP class she took, AP English, was mostly about learning the information and how to take the test rather than how to write a good paper. She said students “should be offered skills classes titled College Prep Courses. It would be more efficient towards a student’s time and future skill enhancement.”

Keomounmany said that high school students should be offered more AP classes, but “concurrent enrollment is better because your college credit is not dependent on just one exam, but rather, how you perform in the entire class, much more like college. Having that credit rely on just one AP exam makes it way more stressful and even discouraged me from taking some AP exams even though I was enrolled in the class.” Dean thought similarly, and said, “AP courses are a valuable asset for any school, and in my opinion, the more the merrier. I think having an array of options would be beneficial, because it gives students more options to explore and find out what makes them passionate.” Another college senior, Alexis Jackson, said, “I think every high school should offer AP classes, hands down. If kids start with those expectations early in their education, they are so much more capable of succeeding in college and will honestly get a strong leg up on all those who didn’t get to take the courses.”

Overall, most people felt that AP classes had more advantages than core classes in high school. Merkley said, some students feel like “oh, only these kinds of kids take it” or “they all know each other.” She emphasized,”it’s not this elitist thing” and the teacher caters the class to the kids in it, so all that is needed is personal drive to improve and a desire to take the class.