Regular classes should be significantly easier than their AP counterparts

April 1, 2019 — by Sandhya Sundaram

Recently, somewhat dazed and sleepy regular U.S. history (RUSH) students were shocked when a thick packet landed on their desks with a weighty thud. The packets were huge and daunting. They were for a dreaded World War II research paper.

Last spring, when most students first signed up for classes for this year, they most likely expected a light workload from RUSH. After all, it is billed as being an easier class that would allow juniors to focus on other tough AP and honors courses.

In reality, the experiences of many RUSH students show a deceptive downside to the class: It includes many projects that take a lot of time and work. In some ways, RUSH turns out to be a more demanding class than APUSH in terms of time commitment, especially for those who aren’t fans of lengthy projects or presentations.

According to some students, this situation can happen in multi-level classes like AP physics vs. regular physics and honors English vs. regular English.

Because of the timeline of AP testing in May, AP classes don’t spend as much time on projects and simulations, instead focusing on lectures, labs and tests.

Although the content in AP and Honors classes may be more challenging, it can also be preferable to students who would rather not do group projects, simulations or presentations.

Furthermore, student tend to devote more focus and effort to challenging classes than regular classes — and for good reason. Students purposely opt to take AP classes in subjects that they are interested in, while taking regular classes just to fulfill credits. So when regular class teachers expect too much of a time commitment from their students, it becomes difficult to manage expectations and balance the work.

To help students make more informed decisions, teachers should post class expectations with the curriculum and list major required projects before students sign up for classes. Although the guidance counselors provide students with a list of classes and the average time required for homework during class sign-ups the previous year, this does not inform students about the type of work involved.

After the types of projects and homework are made clear, if an AP level class has less homework or fewer projects than the regular equivalent, students can choose to take it for the lighter load. But if students prefer to do more projects rather than text-heavy studying for the AP exam all year, they can opt to take the regular class. Either way, students will have the proper expectations going into the class.

In addition to the projected time commitment, spelling out the learning methods used in a class would help students make smarter decisions in planning for schedules that are suited to their strengths and interests. With the right expectations, students will be more successful in their courses.

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