2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Do online courses actually prepare you for 5 on AP exams?

Hi all. I am a rising sophomore. This summer, I'll begin self-studying for AP Macroeconomics. However, I have heard that the AP course is more important than the exam itself. So, I decided to enroll in an online course. The internet provides me with numerous options. I've decided to only enroll in accredited, fee-based courses. The cost varies, some are less expensive than others. For example, US Scout has an on-demand plan for AP Macro for $400, flvs-global has a plan for $475, and Johns Hopkins CTY has a very expensive plan for $1,605. That's the cost of AP Macro on the three platforms. I'm unsure about the quality of these courses and they lack physical textbooks. Do they actually help students prepare for a 4-5 on AP exams? Or is their curriculum limited to grades 3-4 or lower? This makes me wonder if it's worthwhile to pay for these online courses, or if I should just study with textbooks/prep books and supplement with free online resources?

Please share your suggestions. Also, if anyone has taken courses from any of the platforms, please share your experience. Thanks in advance!

@joewhite242 years ago [edited]

my opinion is that online courses are almost useless. If you really want to develop your skills, I think its much better to use those materials that are in free acces on the internet. Nowadays you can find anything on the internet, even answers for different tests, like here https://edudriver.com/test-answers/gross-motor-skills/ for example. So, trust me, if you have enough will - you'll find and learn by yourself.

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago

Short answer - Yes.

Long answer - You should pick a course that is not only accredited but will count towards your HS transcript. There are some paid courses that do not automatically give you high school credit for the course and send your grades directly to your HS so be wary of those.

The last part of your question actually only makes sense if you only care about getting a AP test score and do not care about improving your course rigor on your transcript. I do not think that just self studying for one or more APs improves your course rigor that much. Why? You are studying for a 2 hour exam like a subject test and that is not the same thing as taking full year's course, doing all the assignments and reading, taking quizzes and tests and/or doing presentations/lab/writing papers.

Colleges look at APs, IBs and College Course work as evidence of course rigor to inform them that you are fully capable of thriving vs. struggling with college level courses. If you take 8-12 real sit down APs or IBs than the AO knows that you are fully capable of succeeding with college coursework, especially if you earn an A in the Class. The test score itself is a messy bit of data to analyze. Why? You could have had a great teacher who was distracted from the AP exam material that didn't focus the whole class on the exam content, and as a result the class on the whole got say 2s, 3s, and 4s. But another AP teacher who only focuses on the AP exam, might help the class better in getting 3s, 4s, and 5s. So the sometimes the someone with 8-12 APs has 4s and 5s on their AP tests, and other A students end up with mostly 3s. It's really a function of the quality and focus of the teacher, not the school, not the institution who hired the teacher. Therefore it would be safer to assume that more reputable AP instructors have a better track record of predicting outcomes.

It's hard to tell which paid service is better since this is not a super popular thing to do. It's mostly for students who don't have regular access to APs at their HS.

Alternatively, you can enroll in a college course at your community college or online MOOC like outlier.org and get a great grade and 3 college credits for your effort. That certainly looks just as good to a AO than taking an AP and getting a 5.

Good luck.

2 years ago

Hi @Thinker!

Taking AP courses in high school is important because they show colleges how well you perform with rigorous coursework. Since the College Board makes the curriculum, it's easy to compare letter grades from one state to the next, and you'll want to have as many AP courses as possible on your transcript to show that you're challenging yourself. AP exams, meanwhile, are mostly used to let students skip introductory courses once they've already gotten into college. They typically don't factor much into admissions unless there's a big discrepancy with your course letter grade.

That being said, if you're looking to take AP exam whose class is not offered at your school, then you're probably better off self-studying. Here's our guide on that: https://blog.collegevine.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-self-studying-ap-exams/

But in short, self-studying can be helpful because it shows colleges that you've taken the initiative to learn AP material without having a class offered at your school. The AP exam becomes more important here, because it's a college's only way to test how well you've done in that attempt.

Most of the courses you've mentioned seemed to be designed to help students self-study in a structured format. To that end, I'd recommend only paying for them if you find yourself severely struggling and not passing the practice exams. They won't give you much benefit if they don't go on your transcript, besides helping you do something for which free resources are readily available.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

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