Students recommend preliminary courses to mitigate the AP gap

April 3, 2013 — by Nick Chow
As college admissions competition increases, more students are pressured into taking extra AP courses to boost their grades. However, many students are not ready for the jump from non-AP classes in sophomore year to course loads packed with harder classes in their junior and senior years. There are students, though, that have approached this AP dilemma in different ways.
As college admissions competition increases, more students are pressured into taking extra AP courses to boost their grades. However, many students are not ready for the jump from non-AP classes in sophomore year to course loads packed with harder classes in their junior and senior years. There are students, though, that have approached this AP dilemma in different ways.
AP U.S. History (APUSH) is a common AP course taken by juniors instead of regular U.S. History (RUSH). It is a difficult class that requires plenty of time and patience. However, not all students have the time to take on the workload of this rigorous class.
Junior Willie van den Hoek, for example, took APUSH first semester this year, but dropped the class his second semester because of time commitments.
“I was struggling with managing my AP’s and honors [classes] and was not getting much sleep and was really stressed out,” van den Hoek said. “So the office recommended that I drop down to regular U.S. History because APUSH would not be any use to me in the future.”
Because of the enormous difference between the two classes, Van den Hoek is happy with the change; he has more time to relax and has more time to focus on subjects that he enjoys.
“The two classes are leaps and bounds apart,” van den Hoek said. “I have taken one RUSH test and it was a walk in the park compared to the APUSH tests I have taken.”
Van den Hoek, who initially took the class because of the extra grade bump, felt the extra amount of the work was simply not worth the higher GPA.
This idea of entering a class for the grade bump without being ready or having time for the class is the justification and reason that teachers are instituting readiness tests for future courses. In English classes, students fill out surveys that help them decide whether they should pursue English honors or regular. Similarly, the Honors Chemistry Readiness Assessment Profile (HCRAP) was put into place to combat freshman signing up for Chemistry Honors solely for the grade boost.
APUSH is just one example of a class on campus that does not technically have an optional preliminary class — examples of preliminary classes are Physics to AP Physics or the newly created Introduction to Engineering to AP Computer Science.
Senior D.J. Traina took this preliminary course route by taking Physics his junior year and AP Physics his senior year because he felt a direct jump to AP Physics would be too great.
“I completely recommend taking regular before just to get a basic understanding of the concepts before launching into AP,” Traina said. “They are completely different curricula; however, having a strong physics foundation is super helpful.”
According to Traina, the two classes are completely different in terms of difficulty and pace.
“[The two classes] are worlds apart,” Traina said. “For example, I got an A+ on the final last year and this year I am struggling to understand many of the concepts.”
Preliminary courses cannot only help prepare students for the harder AP courses, but they can also provide students who have a passion for the subject with a strong foundation instead of jumping straight to a faster-paced course. Junior Mostafa Rohaninejad feels that such a foundation is important, especially in tougher areas such as computer science, to mitigate the jump from little knowledge on a subject to an AP course.
“[Preliminary courses] provide a sound background in the field, serving as a buffer and transitionary period between the complete lack of knowledge a normal person has coming into high school and the implicit prerequisites one needs for a class such as AP Computer Science,” Rohaninejad said.
The decision to take the AP and honors level courses should come down to the student’s affinity for the course as well as the student’s educational goals, senior Maggy Liu said.
“With the classes that you are truly interested in, you leave with much more knowledge than if you’d taken an AP class that was boring to you,” Liu said. “[AP class or not], entering the classroom with an open mind and willingness to actually learn is the most important thing.”