The number of international students being offered a place at university on the back of their Advanced Placement (AP) qualifications is increasing. This qualification offers both a demanding and a rewarding curriculum, and is useful currency for students considering enrolment on further education programmes throughout the US and Canada.
Indeed, with its 50-year history, universities in more than 60 countries worldwide, including many universities in the UK, now recognise AP scores in their admission process.
Advanced Placement courses offer the most flexible opportunity to tailor an educational plan to the individual learner. Students may embark upon an AP curriculum by concentrating on a few courses in an area of passion and interest, allowing each student to excel and be rewarded with impressive academic success.
Students can take any number of AP courses per year. However, on average, most Grade 11 students (aged 16) take three AP courses, while those in Grade 12 (aged 17) study four.
Courses are for one year and are purely test based, which makes them especially favourable for students in transition, as such students can complete a world-recognised qualification in a shorter timeframe.
Currently, there are 34 AP courses, covering a huge range of subject areas, including the arts, sciences, languages and humanities.
The AP is widely accredited, and can be useful in helping to achieve admittance to some of the more popular courses at the many prestigious institutions. It is generally recognised to be equivalent to undergraduate courses in college, with more than 1,400 colleges worldwide, but particularly in America, granting up to one year's credit to students who obtain high enough scores on their exams.
Completion of AP courses helps to instil, and command the use of, many of the skills required for the successful completion of courses at university and college level. Students are taught to read texts critically, use analytical skills when solving problems, evaluate documents and perspectives, and think quickly, thus enabling them to deal with the dynamic world in which they will operate.
A student’s perspective
John Bolla, an AP student at ACS Hillingdon, previously attended an American public school in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He has completed AP courses in Calculus, English Language and Composition, and US History, and is currently working to accomplish AP's in Literature and Composition, and Statistics. He hopes to return to the US to attend university.
Of his experience of the AP programme, John says, "I really enjoy all of the AP classes that I take. Although they are difficult, the classes are very interesting and allow students to really gain a thorough understanding of the subjects that they are studying.
"For each AP class that I take, we are provided with a syllabus to outline the material that is covered throughout the course, and in the final exam. Although this material is covered in class, a lot of work must also be done outside of classroom, in order to be fully prepared for the exam.
“My AP classes are taught in such a way to provide students with a large amount of information in a short time in order to properly prepare the student for the AP exam.
"I find that the most challenging part of the AP is the amount of material that needs to be covered. Often, there is only enough time to cover the material once in class, and all revision on topics must be done on the student's own time.
“Although this can be difficult sometimes, I think that this experience will help prepare me for university study, where there will be a lot of material and not a lot of time to learn it all. In this respect, taking AP courses is a great preparation for college.
"I believe that the AP teaches a student how to manage time and how to study. In order to do well in the AP, a student needs to do a lot of work on their own. Both in life and in college, these skills are essential."
The AP is truly exceptional in allowing students freedom to study interesting content while boosting their prospects, and should certainly be high on the list of considered programmes for relocating families. AP courses also give students the opportunity to study at the highest level, and in a global arena.
A teacher's perspective
"The AP is a very challenging qualification, so any students considering the course must be highly motivated and ready to put in the required effort and study time in order to excel,” says Dr Neelu Sharma, from ACS Hillingdon.
“However, it is also very rewarding and helps students to develop high academic and critical thinking skills. Rather than just memorising content for an exam, students develop a thorough understanding of their subject.
“These skills are invaluable for students when they go on to study at college or university, whether in the UK, the US or other countries."
Tips for students
If you are considering taking an AP course, but are unsure, speak to your teacher, who will be able to advise you on the best options.
If you are already studying the AP, here are some tips to help you succeed in your courses:
- Ensure that you take thorough notes on tasks, so that you have all the relevant information available when you come to revise for the exam
- Continually review topics that you have covered in class in your own study time; this will enable you to understand the content rather than just memorising it
- Flash cards can be a useful tool to help you condense your notes and review them for revision purposes