AP Tests

To the Register Editorial Staff:

Monday's editorial failed to mention one critical weakness of the Advanced Placement system. Although AP tests can garner undergraduate credits, they become an issue when applying to graduate schools. When you read the fine print, most graduate schools require “graded credit” in certain courses. This means that if any prerequisite courses are from AP credits, they will NOT be accepted by the graduate schools.

 By encouraging students to take AP tests for college credit, you are blindly leading them to a dead end after their undergraduate career. In a workforce that is becoming more and more competitive, graduate school is becoming a necessity for more and more students. I believe three things need to be done to fix this problem. First, a new measure of AP competitiveness between schools is required that does not rely solely on the number of tests taken. Similarly, schools need to stop requiring the tests to be taken to obtain a weighted grade if schools want to encourage their students to be successful beyond their undergraduate career. Finally, AP needs to reform to a standard that graduate schools, as well as undergraduate schools, feel is acceptable as a measure of scholastic success.


Rachael Giertz

AP tests are something that I feel really strongly about. As a high school student, they were stressed as a measure of academic achievement. I sat for 10 of them and received college credit for something like 8 of them. I entered college with 49 credits and was able to skip my English requirements, my first year of chemistry, the history requirement, and the politics requirement. I was able to graduate in three years and I didn't realize I was in trouble until I started looking at graduate schools. All of the programs I looked at required 2 years of English and chemistry at the college level, and even though my AP credits were equivalent to specific classes at Drake and appeared on my transcript that way, they would not be accepted by graduate schools. This means that in order to even be considered for a graduate program, I would need to retake 2 years worth of college classes.

That's why I think measuring high school success by number of AP exams taken is not quite accurate. I would encourage students to take the classes as I did find them valuable in high school, but in my opinion it is not worth the $90 (or whatever they cost now) to lead yourself to a dead end later in life.

I once shared my predicament with my nurse while giving blood. He was a podiatry student at DMU and said that his high school counselor had warned every student about the incompatibility of AP tests with graduate schools. Since he knew in high school that he wanted to go on and do some type of medical training, he chose to avoid the AP tests themselves and just took the classes. I think this is something that every high school counselor should be educated about so that they are not just blindly pushing AP tests for the sake of a high school ranking.

Tags: AP Tests, Schools

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  • thanks for reposting this

    Taking AP classes is valuable for high school students, whether or not they sit for the exam, but you are right to warn against relying on them for lots of college credits.

    I didn’t realize it costs $90 to take the AP tests–I can’t remember what it was way back in my day.

    If money is not an issue, students may as well take the AP tests to see how well they’ve learned the material. However, they would do well not to skip college classes.

  • is it possible for you

    to retake the English and chemistry classes at a community college and get through them in less than two years? Obviously the material would be easy for you.

    For what it’s worth, many of my friends spent a few years in the workplace before going back to grad school. They were glad they hadn’t gone straight there from college. That doesn’t solve your problem, but there might be a silver lining.

    • yes, I've thought about it

      but the main issue is money.  I was a biology major but mostly took classes to prepare myself for a future in medicine and switched over to agriculture when I graduated since I needed a job and graduate school was no longer a viable option.  My current employer will pay for education so I am thinking about obtaining a master’s in an agricultural field and simply taking prerequisite courses that are required for the degree program.

      • just keep in mind

        that you don’t have to make a final career decision now. Lots of people spend a year or two or three in a job before shifting gears and going to grad school in a different field.