AP Anxiety

Jillian Dunlay, Reporter

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The end of the school year is often a bittersweet time for high school students. Graduation is coming, and summer is at arm’s reach. However, along with the good must also come the bad. For many BV West students, the month of May is filled with studying and hard work as the date for the AP exams near. The last couple months of school can be a dreaded time, consisting of test anxiety and overwhelming memorization of information. Students taking the exam only get one chance to prove their knowledge.

It is these intimidating stakes that can leave students questioning whether or not taking an AP course is worth it. Sophomore Colby McArthur is currently taking two AP courses, AP Language and Composition (AP Lang) and AP European History (AP Euro). Though both courses are known to be rigorously challenging, McArthur doesn’t mind the extra work.

“AP Euro is a challenging class, but I also really like history, so I find a lot of the content interesting,” McArthur said. “AP Lang is probably the hardest class I’ve ever taken, but if you look on the bright side, it’s nice to have a challenge,” McArthur said. “It also is really good at helping me develop as a person. It has a focus on social issues and uncomfortable topics, which makes it a good class to take because it makes you comfortable with discussion. That being said, the portfolio, which is a compilation of a lot of essays and writing assignments, was a very difficult experience.”

Both classes require a significant amount of work in and outside of school, which is why so many students struggle with the decision on whether or not to take AP classes. With the addition of extracurriculars, the workload that AP classes consist of can often seem especially daunting and overwhelming.

“AP Euro requires a lot of textbook learning and notetaking, which is pretty time consuming outside of school, but this also helps me retain information, so I don’t have to study as much for tests as I anticipated. I spend about six hours per week on Euro outside of school,” McArthur said.

However, AP Lang, being an English class, approaches its course structure quite differently.

“AP Lang doesn’t have tests and quizzes like other classes do. It takes quite a bit of time outside of school reading and annotating books we read, and there’s quite a bit of homework on top of that,” McArthur said. “I get eight hours of homework in a normal week, probably about 12 during portfolio time.”

McArthur, like most AP students, has already begun studying for the exams he will be taking in May.

“I should’ve studied more for AP Euro, so far I’ve barely started. I’m planning on reviewing my notes and the textbook and taking practice tests,” McArthur said.

However, his study process for AP Lang is quite different, as the exams for each class are constructed in distinctly different forms.

“For the Lang exam, the only way to study is by practicing timed writes. While class is difficult during this part of the year because we do “boot camp”, there’s less homework, so that’s a plus,” McArthur added. “I can’t really do that much outside of school, though.”

Despite all the work that goes into AP classes, McArthur does not regret his decision to take on the challenge that AP brings. Though they include more work, there are also financial and educational advantages. For example, taking an AP class at the high school level is greatly cheaper in comparison with taking courses on a college campus, because the only true fee at the high school level is the cost of the exam. Things like textbooks or other necessities are loaned to students at the high school, whereas students taking the class on a college campus must pay for all materials.

“Taking AP classes and the test is definitely worth it because you can get classes out of the way in high school, when there aren’t significant costs, and you have teachers who are very accessible,” McArthur said.

Though some, like McArthur, see benefit in taking the AP exam to receive early college credit, others choose not to take AP classes, such as sophomore Augusta Moes.

“I’m busy with work, clubs, and outside activities, so I don’t think I’d be able to balance an AP class,” Moes said. “I also stress a lot when it comes to school, and I stress too easily academic-wise.”

There are many factors that go into the decision to take an AP course, like how much time one has available outside of school, a genuine interest or passion for the class, as well as the ability to handle a heavier workload, and the stress that can tend to carry.

“I think the classes are cool, but I think some people take AP just to be seen as smart. I personally don’t have a problem with AP classes, but I think they can be a challenge,” Moes said . “If you take only one hard class that’s AP then that’s fine, It’s always up to what you personally can balance in my opinion.”

All in all, the desire to take AP in high school differs from student to student. Each person has a unique learning process; some thrive off of the challenge and stress that harder courses bring, while others learn better in a slower-paced environment. For those who are planning on taking the AP exam, remember that education is not determined by a score received on a test, but by the experience the class offers and the growth that results from it.

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