According to the AP Canada website, the Advanced Placement (AP) program is a rigorous academic program which “provides opportunities for motivated and prepared students to experience college-level courses while in high school, thereby fostering critical thinking and college persistence and success.” Created by the College Board in the United States, the AP program was designed by university-level educators and experts with the intention of administering university-level curriculum and exams to high school students. Since its debut in the United States, the AP program has also been introduced to select Canadian schools over the course of the past decade.
How do I choose which APs to take?
Choose your APs based on how you would choose your regular courses. Examine your personal academic interests and strengths, or experiment with a subject you might consider pursuing in university.
Will taking an AP exam qualify for university course credit?
Be careful. Not all universities recognize AP exams for course credit. Individual university websites will often specify which AP subjects they accept (spoiler: not all of them) and may stipulate that you achieve a certain score in order to be eligible to receive course credit. However, if you fulfill the given requirements and qualify for course credit, you will save both time and money later on!
Are AP exams like university exams?
The AP exam period resembles the university exam period in its capacity to evoke a brief yet intense state of stress which is tempered only by frequent snacks and the sudden camaraderie that develops between you and your peers in the throes of your collective suffering. They are also like university exams – and most exams, perhaps – in the sense that they require hard work, but can yield rewarding results upon completion.
Be prepared for an adjustment that might be difficult, rewarding, or both.
The AP program is designed to prepare you for AP exams, which often means incorporating new exercises into your usual academic routine. For example, my AP French exam involved a speaking component, in which my verbal observations of an image depicting a certain event were recorded on tape. After years of studying French through conjugation charts, vocabulary lists, and gentle conversational exercises, the prospect of soliloquy terrified the entire class. However, we spent a great deal of class time practicing speech exercises, which ultimately improved our confidence actually speaking the language.
Are AP courses more difficult than regular high school courses? Are they as difficult as university courses?
One of the most touted values of the AP program is its exposure of students to learning material of greater depth and quantity. The workload for AP courses is generally heavier than that of regular high school courses, which might be a valuable experience to have before you careen into university and become overwhelmed by the weight of your unread readings, only to watch them build up and eventually crash down on your GPA.
Whether or not the critical depth and quantity of AP course material is equally stimulating as a university course is difficult to judge, as the difficulty of a university course can depend on many factors aside from the material itself (your personal strengths and interests, the demands and temperament of the instructor, the work assignments involved). While university course material may be more challenging in its requirement of a greater deal of critical thought for excellence, many students seem to struggle with the amount of material there is to tackle, rather than the critical depth of said material.
Regardless of the level of difficulty of the work you have in high school, one thing you can usually count on is that there will just be more of it in university. Ultimately, a big part of the academic transition to university is adjusting to the difference in workload, and the AP program might help you improve your work ethic early on.