Any class name that is preceded by an “AP” sends shivers down a student’s spine.

The mere thought of an accelerated course with a four-hour exam at the end is enough to send students into a spiral of course-selection misery. If you’ve ever taken an AP class, you know the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air, a cold sweat dripping down your back. You had ‘that’ dream again. The dream where you’re sitting in a beige room, the ticking of the clock ringing in your ears, the test in front of you, blurry; you don’t remember anything.

Then you realize it’s July, and you’ve already taken the AP test. 

The thing is, once you've done an AP test, you’ll never shake the feeling of your pencil wobbling in your hand as you try to remember obscure material your teacher promised wouldn't be on the exam.

But we’re trying to convince you to take AP classes, not avoid them. So bear with us and we’ll cover some crucial things you need to know about most AP classes offered by Rowland Hall, tips for passing the classes, and personal insights from people who have taken them. We compiled this list for incoming sophomores and juniors, so only classes we have taken personally are included.

First, we should tell you why it’s so important to take AP classes in high school, and we’ll summarize it in three simple bullet points:

  • They prepare you for college courses.

  • They strengthen your transcript.

  • They can sometimes count towards college credits (some students even skip the first year of college because of their high school AP exam scores).

Now that you are thinking about what classes to take next year, knowing what AP classes have the highest success and failure rates may play a part in your decisions. We compiled statistics concerning AP classes that we have taken to make your job easier.

AP Calculus AB (% who scored 3 or higher = 51% - National AP Score Distributions in 2021):

Bio: AP Calc AB is the high school version of the college class Calculus I. Your success in this class will vary by how much of a fundamental math understanding you have and how much work you are willing to put in. The homework level also varies by day but is usually around 45 minutes per class.

Current Teacher: Mr. Pinto

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don'ts: DO go in to talk to your teacher if you become confused about a topic. Every topic in calculus is intertwined, so if you don’t understand a topic and ignore your misunderstanding, you will struggle in the future. DON’T put off doing the homework. The teacher usually accepts late work, but every class revolves around the homework you do the day before. 

AT Chemistry (% who scored 3 or higher = 51.3%):

Bio: AP Chemistry is one of the hardest natural science classes, but the class itself is not insanely difficult to do well in. It requires students to stay attentive to the weekly assignments and class notes.

Current Teacher: Ms. Knowlton (Tascha)

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don'ts: DO retake tests and quizzes after your grades come out—they will drastically improve your grade in the class. DON’T put off the online homework assignments. While she doesn’t mark you late, it still becomes very hard to catch up after falling behind.

AP Language and Composition (% who scored 3 or higher = 57.8%):

Bio: AP Lang is an English language class that has been taught by KP (Kody Partridge) for around 20 years. This class is heavy on reading and writing, but you will likely leave the class being a significantly stronger writer than you were when you entered it. 

Current Teacher: KP (Kody Partridge)

Workload: Medium-Heavy

Do’s and Don'ts: DO meet with KP when essays and writing assignments are upcoming. She is incredibly helpful and will give you direct advice on how to improve your writing. DON’T skip the readings. You will read multiple texts throughout the year, and the essays will revolve around them, but if you don’t do the readings, writing a nuanced piece of writing becomes very difficult (and KP can tell when you haven’t read).

AP Spanish Language and Culture (% who scored 3 or higher = 80%):

Bio: The second most spoken language in the world, condensed into the smallest AP class. AP Spanish is an experience. It’s not a class where you learn Spanish, but rather a class where you appreciate the language and the culture. 

Current Teacher: Señor Burnett

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don’ts: DO practice daily; Spanish is a language that is mastered through practice. DO listen to Spanish music (the best kind of music in my opinion) and immerse yourself in Spanish culture. DO lots of practice questions in the AP Classroom.

AP US History (% who scored 3 or higher = 47.2%):

Bio: Notoriously referred to as the most difficult history class, AP US History is, well, complicated. Dr. Kogan’s class is heavy on workload but rewarding because of all the AP practice you do.

Current Teacher: Dr. Kogan

Workload: Heavy

Do’s and Don’ts: DO watch Heimler’s History. Forget Crash Course, Heimler makes the most thorough videos that are usually around 10 minutes. DON’T watch Crash Course; John Green doesn't follow the curriculum for AP US History, so he doesn’t provide the information needed for every given unit. DO the American Yawp readings as soon as they are assigned; they take a long time. DON’T study for exams using Quizlet; Kogan constantly says that history is interconnected, not made up of separate singular events.

AP European History (% who scored 3 or higher = 54.7%):

Bio: AP European History is a history class targeted towards sophomores interested in an in-depth class about European history. The class is heavy on reading but not very heavy on testing.

Current Teacher: Dr. Jones

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don’ts: DO get an AP European history review book; start working through it at the beginning of the year, not just two weeks before the exam. DON’T assume you’ll practice all the different sections of the AP exam. This tends to be people's first AP class, and they rely on just the class to prepare them for the exam. There isn't enough time throughout the year to practice SAQs, DBQs, MCQs, or LEQs constantly, so practice these on your own. Use the class as a basis for content, not AP practice.

Nothing can prepare you. Months before the exam you'll feel the crippling weight of knowing only 20% of the material. You push through because “AP scores look good on college applications.” That motivation alone isn't enough, and at one point you consider not taking the test. The truth is, as you walk through the door to your AP exam and hear the black and white clocks clicking at their highest possible volume, you'll remember something your teacher mentioned in a joke, but it applies to the essay you're writing; or you’ll recall a poster hanging in your classroom with the answer to the multiple-choice question you're stuck on. AP classes are tough, they take up afternoons due to heavy coursework, they squeeze out any excitement you have for the end of the year because as you get closer to summer you get closer to the AP test. But in late July, as you sit below the shining sun of success that is summer, and you get a notification that your test is graded, there is no satisfaction greater than seeing your hard work pay off. AP classes are far from perfect, but if you have the stamina, it’ll pay off down the road.  But, like Eli Borgenicht says, "don't push yourself to the point of mental exhaustion."

An umbrella for your hurricane: An AP course selection cheatsheet
Ruchi Agarwal and Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias

Any class name that is preceded by an “AP” sends shivers down a student’s spine.

The mere thought of an accelerated course with a four-hour exam at the end is enough to send students into a spiral of course-selection misery. If you’ve ever taken an AP class, you know the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air, a cold sweat dripping down your back. You had ‘that’ dream again. The dream where you’re sitting in a beige room, the ticking of the clock ringing in your ears, the test in front of you, blurry; you don’t remember anything.

Then you realize it’s July, and you’ve already taken the AP test. 

The thing is, once you've done an AP test, you’ll never shake the feeling of your pencil wobbling in your hand as you try to remember obscure material your teacher promised wouldn't be on the exam.

But we’re trying to convince you to take AP classes, not avoid them. So bear with us and we’ll cover some crucial things you need to know about most AP classes offered by Rowland Hall, tips for passing the classes, and personal insights from people who have taken them. We compiled this list for incoming sophomores and juniors, so only classes we have taken personally are included.

First, we should tell you why it’s so important to take AP classes in high school, and we’ll summarize it in three simple bullet points:

  • They prepare you for college courses.

  • They strengthen your transcript.

  • They can sometimes count towards college credits (some students even skip the first year of college because of their high school AP exam scores).

Now that you are thinking about what classes to take next year, knowing what AP classes have the highest success and failure rates may play a part in your decisions. We compiled statistics concerning AP classes that we have taken to make your job easier.

AP Calculus AB (% who scored 3 or higher = 51% - National AP Score Distributions in 2021):

Bio: AP Calc AB is the high school version of the college class Calculus I. Your success in this class will vary by how much of a fundamental math understanding you have and how much work you are willing to put in. The homework level also varies by day but is usually around 45 minutes per class.

Current Teacher: Mr. Pinto

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don'ts: DO go in to talk to your teacher if you become confused about a topic. Every topic in calculus is intertwined, so if you don’t understand a topic and ignore your misunderstanding, you will struggle in the future. DON’T put off doing the homework. The teacher usually accepts late work, but every class revolves around the homework you do the day before. 

AT Chemistry (% who scored 3 or higher = 51.3%):

Bio: AP Chemistry is one of the hardest natural science classes, but the class itself is not insanely difficult to do well in. It requires students to stay attentive to the weekly assignments and class notes.

Current Teacher: Ms. Knowlton (Tascha)

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don'ts: DO retake tests and quizzes after your grades come out—they will drastically improve your grade in the class. DON’T put off the online homework assignments. While she doesn’t mark you late, it still becomes very hard to catch up after falling behind.

AP Language and Composition (% who scored 3 or higher = 57.8%):

Bio: AP Lang is an English language class that has been taught by KP (Kody Partridge) for around 20 years. This class is heavy on reading and writing, but you will likely leave the class being a significantly stronger writer than you were when you entered it. 

Current Teacher: KP (Kody Partridge)

Workload: Medium-Heavy

Do’s and Don'ts: DO meet with KP when essays and writing assignments are upcoming. She is incredibly helpful and will give you direct advice on how to improve your writing. DON’T skip the readings. You will read multiple texts throughout the year, and the essays will revolve around them, but if you don’t do the readings, writing a nuanced piece of writing becomes very difficult (and KP can tell when you haven’t read).

AP Spanish Language and Culture (% who scored 3 or higher = 80%):

Bio: The second most spoken language in the world, condensed into the smallest AP class. AP Spanish is an experience. It’s not a class where you learn Spanish, but rather a class where you appreciate the language and the culture. 

Current Teacher: Señor Burnett

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don’ts: DO practice daily; Spanish is a language that is mastered through practice. DO listen to Spanish music (the best kind of music in my opinion) and immerse yourself in Spanish culture. DO lots of practice questions in the AP Classroom.

AP US History (% who scored 3 or higher = 47.2%):

Bio: Notoriously referred to as the most difficult history class, AP US History is, well, complicated. Dr. Kogan’s class is heavy on workload but rewarding because of all the AP practice you do.

Current Teacher: Dr. Kogan

Workload: Heavy

Do’s and Don’ts: DO watch Heimler’s History. Forget Crash Course, Heimler makes the most thorough videos that are usually around 10 minutes. DON’T watch Crash Course; John Green doesn't follow the curriculum for AP US History, so he doesn’t provide the information needed for every given unit. DO the American Yawp readings as soon as they are assigned; they take a long time. DON’T study for exams using Quizlet; Kogan constantly says that history is interconnected, not made up of separate singular events.

AP European History (% who scored 3 or higher = 54.7%):

Bio: AP European History is a history class targeted towards sophomores interested in an in-depth class about European history. The class is heavy on reading but not very heavy on testing.

Current Teacher: Dr. Jones

Workload: Medium

Do’s and Don’ts: DO get an AP European history review book; start working through it at the beginning of the year, not just two weeks before the exam. DON’T assume you’ll practice all the different sections of the AP exam. This tends to be people's first AP class, and they rely on just the class to prepare them for the exam. There isn't enough time throughout the year to practice SAQs, DBQs, MCQs, or LEQs constantly, so practice these on your own. Use the class as a basis for content, not AP practice.

Nothing can prepare you. Months before the exam you'll feel the crippling weight of knowing only 20% of the material. You push through because “AP scores look good on college applications.” That motivation alone isn't enough, and at one point you consider not taking the test. The truth is, as you walk through the door to your AP exam and hear the black and white clocks clicking at their highest possible volume, you'll remember something your teacher mentioned in a joke, but it applies to the essay you're writing; or you’ll recall a poster hanging in your classroom with the answer to the multiple-choice question you're stuck on. AP classes are tough, they take up afternoons due to heavy coursework, they squeeze out any excitement you have for the end of the year because as you get closer to summer you get closer to the AP test. But in late July, as you sit below the shining sun of success that is summer, and you get a notification that your test is graded, there is no satisfaction greater than seeing your hard work pay off. AP classes are far from perfect, but if you have the stamina, it’ll pay off down the road.  But, like Eli Borgenicht says, "don't push yourself to the point of mental exhaustion."

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