How to Decide Whether an AP Class Is Too Hard for Your Student

by | Jan 20, 2023

February is the time to decide on the classes for next year!

It’s often difficult to determine whether an AP class will be too difficult for you. Here are some tips to lend you a hand for both before and after you sign up for an AP class.

Before You Sign Up for an AP Class …

#1: Think About the Classes You’ve Already Taken

For example, in order to take AP Biology, most schools require students to take regular or honors biology first. The more background knowledge you have of a certain subject, the more likely you’ll do well in its corresponding AP class.

If you don’t have a ton of prerequisites for an AP class, think carefully about whether the class will be out of your reach. It’d be very tough to take on, say, AP Physics, if you’ve never taken a physics course before

#2: Can You Find a Copy of the AP Syllabus?

Looking at the AP class’s current syllabus can help you find out what the workload is like and how the teacher integrates practice AP exams into the course. You can also talk to current students and ask about their experiences in the class.

#3: Find Out the Passing Rate for the AP Test at Your School

If the passing rate for the AP test is low, recognize that you might have to put in a lot of work on your own in order to pass it. If it’s a high pass rate, though, that’s a good sign that the teacher has a strong AP-prep curriculum in place.

#4: See Whether There’s a Summer Assignment

Many AP classes kick off with work over the summer. If you already have summer plans that will make it hard to complete the work, think carefully about whether you can fit that class into your schedule.

After You Sign Up for an AP Class …

#1: Evaluate How Things Are Going at Your First Midterm

What’s your grade so far in the class? How are you doing with the teacher’s style? How well are you getting the material? Consider dropping to the regular class if you are seriously struggling, but try to push through the first marking period. Just make sure that you don’t pass your school’s class- change deadline!

#2: Reevaluate at the End of the First Term

If, by the end of the first quarter/trimester, your grade hasn’t improved or you don’t think you are understanding the material, seriously consider dropping to the regular version of the course. It’s not worth taking the AP exam if you’re certain you won’t pass—and it’s definitely not worth damaging your GPA over an AP test you won’t pass!

#3: Before Dropping, Explore Extra Resources

Don’t just drop an AP class right away; rather, try to explore other resources available to you, such as in-school tutoring, private tutoring, online resources, and study groups.

If meeting with a study group once a week or doing your own online practice problems helps you keep up with an AP class, then consider pushing through.

However, suppose you try adding an outside resource and are still seriously struggling to understand the material and make it through the class. In that case, it’s better to just drop to regular and focus your efforts on other advanced classes.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC


Weil College Advising

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