How To Decide Which Advanced Placement Exams To Take


After taking three Advanced Placement Exams (APs) this year, I deem myself an expert on all things AP. While there are some high schoolers who take six APs, I consider my three APs quite a feat considering I attend a school with a dual curriculum. In addition to learning history, English, science and math, I also learn Bible, Jewish history and more. With 10 other classes on my plate, I’m lucky I made it out of AP season alive. My mother is also relieved that I finished. Apparently, I’m not so fun to be around when in AP mode, or as my sister put it: I am a “disaster.” I even kicked my sister out of the house and told her to go study at my grandparents. After all, she’s only taking the MCATs; I’m taking three APs. Now that I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I want to help others in their AP process, specifically in choosing which APs to take. (Hint: don’t take all of them.) So, here are five factors you should consider when deciding what APs to take.

Is the teacher any good?

To me, this is the most important factor. The quality of a teacher can make or break your AP score. It’s not enough for the teacher to just be good at teaching the course material, but they also have to be able to teach for the AP. In other words, the way they construct their classwork, homework and tests should prepare you for AP style questions. If you are not sure whether or not this is the case with a particular teacher, look at their success rate from previous years. After hearing that the history teacher is known for her ability to help students get fours and fives, I decided to take AP European history, even though I’m not a big history buff.

A good AP teacher should not only help their students do well on the APs but should also be able to make the class enjoyable and interesting. When talking about Poland, my AP history teacher would suddenly burst out singing the Polish national anthem. Her class was fast pace, enlightening and dare I say it: fun.

Is it a subject you enjoy and are good at?

Just because it is an AP class does not mean you have to be miserable the whole year. Choose APs that interest you, especially if they belong to a field that you might pursue as a future career. Also, know your strengths and weaknesses. Choose APs that, with a good teacher and proper studying, you could do well on. It’s tempting to choose the more difficult path, trying to improve upon areas of weakness. And as inspiring as that is, you also want to be realistic. It’s difficult to work hard a whole year and not see the fruits of your labor. Then again, some people recommend taking a more difficult AP so that colleges can read their transcript and see that they are hardworking and unafraid of a challenge. But, in my opinion, colleges aren’t expecting you to sacrifice potential college credit for the sake of impressing them with your grit.

Do you want a rigorous workload?

While all APs require a considerable amount of work in and out of the classroom, some APs have a more rigorous workload. The workload really depends on the teacher teaching that AP. In my school, certain APs have an hour of homework each night, while others have an hour of homework each month. This year, I took homework-heavy APs. After a rigorous junior year, I want my senior year of high school to be more relaxed, so I plan on taking APs that involve less work next year—I guess my senioritis is kicking in early.

How many APs are you planning to take?

I recommend not taking more than three APs. Also, in terms of taking multiple APs, I recommend varying the difficulty of your selected APs. If you are taking AP chemistry, AP U.S. History and want to take one more, go for the less demanding AP English over AP calculus.

Don’t worry about being “well-rounded” AP-wise. 

I’ve heard many people claim that colleges are looking for students who have taken APs all across the disciplines: in history, English, science, language and math. However, colleges are not looking for you to be a “jack of all trades.” As someone I heard on YouTube once put it: “Colleges are not looking for a well-rounded student; they are looking for a well-rounded class.” In fact, if you show interest in only one or two subjects, colleges will realize your passion for that particular area of study, and will be more interested in admitting you.

Although I have organized this list to help you narrow down which APs to take, you can’t go wrong in your decision. Because, no matter what APs you take, there will be an army of students posting hilarious memes after the exam, making the whole year worth it.

Chani Shulman is a junior at Manhattan High School for Girls. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

Fresh Ink for Teens is an online magazine written by, and for, Jewish students from high schools around the world.