By David Lord,
Mathematics and Science Instructor

Are AP classes worth it?

When I was in 10th grade, my counselor approached me about taking AP classes. I’d never taken an AP level class before, so I had no frame of mind for the challenges or obligations that came with the courses. I enrolled, and it was a difficult class with a lot of work, but I liked it, so I figured I’d enroll in even more the following year.

However, I made the mistake of overloading my schedule with AP classes. My teachers were all very engaging and I enjoyed the challenge, but the homework sometimes took 6-8 hours each night. It was draining, but I managed to keep my grades up and made more balanced decisions for AP courses my senior year. I was able to maintain my grades better and adjust to a more predictable workload.

The AP classes did their job of preparing me for my college courses, and the boost to my GPA was certainly a bonus on my application. I even accrued enough college credit through AP classes to graduate a year early!

Can too many AP classes be a bad thing?

AP classes are quite beneficial, but it’s good to be aware of how many hours an AP class requires. AP classes are a commitment, especially for students who are playing sports, active in clubs and their community, or working. And while they look good on college applications and students can earn college credit, it’s important not to let your student become overwhelmed by the workload.

What are SAT Subject tests or SAT 2 tests?

SAT Subject tests, unlike the SAT test, is single subject test that is always an hour long.  They only have multiple choice questions, but the number of questions vary between subjects.  Due to its shorter length in time, your student can register up to 3 Subject tests for any specific test date.  The costs will change over time, but currently the cost is $26 + 18 for each regular Subject test.  

The term “SAT 2” is the former name for the SAT Subject tests.

Are SAT Subject tests worth taking? Is there a difference between required and recommended?

Over the years, many colleges have dropped the requirements for Subject tests, but list them as recommended.

Why did they do this?  By making it no longer required, it allows them to have more eligible applicants.  With more applicants, it becomes even more important to stand out. 

How can that be done?  Have your student demonstrate that they have a strong grasp of the subject matter by taking the tests.  Does your student want to major in biology?  Have them plan on taking the AP biology and SAT Subject test for biology?  Do they want to apply to an engineering school?  They will need to show that they are strong in mathematics and physics.  The physics and Math Level 2 Subject tests will pair well with the AP physics and Calculus tests.   If the college requires any specific subject, make sure to fulfill their requirements.

The most common Subject tests and their AP test counterpart:*

SAT Subject tests AP tests
Mathematics
Math Level 1 (This is often not counted by colleges)  
Math Level 2 AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC
Science
Biology AP Biology
Chemistry AP Chemistry
Physics AP Physics 1 and II or AP physics C Mech and E/M
History
US History AP US History
World History AP World History

*Note: This is not a complete list of all AP tests or Subject tests available at Collegeboard. For more info, click here for AP and here for Subject tests.

Okay, when should I take these tests?

The AP tests are only offered in the first and second week of May.   The SAT Subject tests are offered on the same day at the SAT Reasoning test(except for the March test date), and you can take up to 3 Subject tests at a time. 

While students can take the subject tests at other times throughout the year, I strongly recommend taking the SAT Subject tests in the spring. Many students think it may be better to study over summer and wait until fall to take the test, but often times that means they’ll have to work harder to remember the older material while trying to balance a new semester’s load of classes. If students are unsure on whether the test is require, I still recommend taking the subject tests in May or June, since there’s so much overlap in material that will still be fresh in their minds.

I hope that you found this information useful, but if you have additional questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help.