2 years ago
Admissions Advice

What's the main difference between Honors, Advanced, and AP classes?

My parents want me to take as many advanced or AP classes as possible, but I heard it's no use in taking it from previous graduates.

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3 answers

2 years ago[edited]

Hi @arri.janae,

Here's the tea.

These are the categories of HS classes.

1. Regular or standard - So 9th grade English or 10th grade Math would be a regular non-weighted class. Same goes for your required PE, Health or communication skills classes. So if you get an A in this the max. GPA point you get is 4.0, 3.0 for a B, 2.0 for C and 1.0 for a D.

2. Honors, Advanced or Accelerated - These all pretty much mean the same thing. What they are is more difficult than the regular class for 2 reasons. And honors or advanced class will cover "harder" material. So if you are taking Honors or Advanced Chemistry or English, you will cover more difficult topics or hard books. An accelerated class just covers more material than the regular class. So if you take Accelerated Chemistry you might be covering 12 chapters instead of 6, or something like that. Typically H,A, A classes are weighted either 0.50 or 1.00 points more than a regular class so and A will be either a 4.50 or 5.00 on your transcript depending on how your school does it. Taking H,A,A classes makes you look like a student that challenges themselves and this is referred to as "course rigor". The more course rigor you show evidence of, the more impressive you are to college admissions officers.

3. AP Classes - AP coursework is a set of curricula put out by College Board, the same company that puts out the PSAT, SAT, and financial aid forms called the CSS profile. APs are hard classes that have 2 components to them. 1.) The coursework itself as prescribed by the course outline on collegeboard.com and 2.) The AP tests which are given in the middle of May each year. AP classes are typically weighted classes that give students a 1.0 GPA bump so and A equals a 5.0, a B, 4.0 and so forth. The AP tests are scored on a 1-5 scale. Most top colleges like Ivys and Stanford only give you college credit if you get a 5 on the AP exam. So if you get an A and a 5, that really looks good to a college admissions officer. If you take say 5+ AP exams and get mostly 4s and 5s, you get an AP Scholar of Distinction award and that can be used as an Honor on your college application.

4. IB Classes - IB stands for International Baccalaureate which is global teaching standard of courses offered around the world within many countries. It's not as popular as APs in the US (973 HSs offer this) but many private high schools offer them. You can take these in conjunction with earning an IB Diploma which requires 3 HLs (higher level), 3 SLs (standard) and 1 Core component for a total of 7 classes. You need a passing score of 4 out of 7 to earn the diploma. Like APs, IBs are very difficult classes. Most schools add a 1.0 GPA bump to IBs but I hear some schools give a 2.0 GPA bump. So depending on your HS, you can earn 6.0 GPA or 5.0 GPA points for an A.

5. Dual enrollment college courses - Some HSs have special deals with community and state colleges in their area. This varies from place to place. At some HSs you can take advanced math or STEM classes at local colleges for DE credit. This is usually a weighted GPA classes. At other HSs, they allow you to take the college level equivalent course at your HS to earn the college credits while you are taking the HS class. I earned 24 college credits in French through my HSs DE program.

6. Lastly you are allowed to enroll on your own into College Courses for grades and credit. While your HS may not give you credit for this, the admissions officers reviewing your college application will recognize the add'l intellectual vitality you possess if you do this kind of thing. I earned 6 college credits through University of Pittsburgh prior to applying to college.

So your parents are partially correct in giving you advice in enrolling in AP Classes. But as I pointed out, there are many ways to show your intended college admissions officer that you are a serious student. APs do not tell the whole story. You can takes IBs, DEs, and College Courses as well.

Tell your parents MORE is not always better because you can not always monetize all this AP course work. You just have to take enough so the admissions office is convinced you are ready for college, if that makes sense.

Here is a real world example you can share with your parents. I took 9 APs, 7 AP exams and earned an avg of 4.5 on my AP exams and all As in the classes. Like I said I had 24 DE college credits from French and 6 College credits. I applied to Columbia University as a over-represented minority with a 35 ACT score early decision and was accepted. I had many tier 1 and tier 2 extracurricular like team-captain of the water polo team, editor of the school newspaper, chairperson of the DEI school board committee and many other board positions. I was a US Presidential Scholar semi-finalist.

At Columbia, you can only get AP credit for a score of 5s on your AP exam and your college work is evaluated on a case by case basis. So according to my math, I can only get a maximum of 15 college credits toward my degree because 5X3credits per class equals 15 and Columbia Caps the Maximum AP or college credit at 16 units.

So what I'm saying is that while taking 9 APs helped convince Columbia I can do the the work, they are not going to give me 27 college credits regardless of my AP test scores. 15 is the max. at an Ivy like Columbia. At Brown it's ZERO, no APs count toward your degree other liberal arts colleges like Vassar, it's like 6 units. I think it's also ZERO at Williams.

So listen to your parents but also tell them that there are diminishing returns with overloading yourself with AP courses. Honestly, I would never tell anyone to take more than 12 total over 4 years, regardless of how many your school offers. I think some where between 8 and 12 is where most successful Elite college admits end up with. And here is another fact. Top Schools like Ivys, Stanford, MIT, Caltech do not want you to graduate early okay! Tell your parents that. They want the best students so APs help determine that. But they want you to be there on campus for 4 years collecting the full $350,000 and make you take all your STEM courses all over again. If you get into MIT or CalTech, what you are paying for is a MIT or Caltech education not a COllege Board education, so they want you to repeat Calculus, Physics, Computer Science, Biology, Chemistry etc etc.

Hope this makes sense to you and anyone else wondering about how many APs to take in High School.

Good luck.

10 months ago

As a high-school student, I definitely believe that there is use in taking advanced and AP classes. Advanced classes usually are more in-depth and move at a faster rate. You will most likely learn heaps more. AP classes are much more in-depth and can potentially save you a ton of money. If you pass the exam, you may be able to get college credit and transfer it to a university in the future. This depends on what university you attend. However, if you have a hard time testing, dual credit or advanced may be a better option. All of this said, do not throw away your GPA for more rigorous courses! I hope this helps.

2 years ago[edited]

Differences: Honors and Advanced basically mean the same thing. Different schools use different terms. Some call them honors while others call them advanced. Honors/Advanced courses have a faster pace/much more in-depth teaching and activities than normal "on-level" courses, but are wayyy easier than AP Classes. AP Classes are basically college courses that are available for high schoolers to take. These classes are on a different level and are pretty difficult to handle for people who find it hard to keep up with a very fast paced and complex syllabus.

Taking advanced/honors and AP classes increases your WEIGHTED GPA. "Normal" classes, Advanced/Honors classes, and AP Classes all carry different weights and contribute differently to your WEIGHTED GPA. Note that your WEIGHTED GPA (scale of 5 or 6 depending on your school) is different from your UNWEIGHTED GPA(scale of 4 or 100 depending on your school). AP classes carry more weight than Honors/Advanced classes. Honors/Advanced Classes carry more weight than normal classes. For example: An 80 in an Advanced Class is equal to an 85 in a normal class while an 80 in an AP class is equal to a 90 in a normal class. The scalings/weight of each type of classes is different depending on your school and even colleges re-weight your GPA according to their scales.

Taking an AP class gives you college credit. If you pass the AP exam at the end of the year, then you wouldn't have to take that class in college. A score of 3 or more out of 5 is a pass while a score of less than 3 out of 5 is a fail. While some colleges give you college credit for particular courses, others don't. Some colleges require you to earn a particular score in order to receive credit/get excused from taking that course in college. You'll have to check each college's AP Credit policy on the College Board website: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/getting-credit-placement/search-policies

You can always take an AP class and decide not take the exam.

Don't take any more AP classes than you can handle. Test the waters first. Decide the level of difficulty of AP classes, Advanced classes and On-level classes for you before taking up too many. From my experience, Advanced and On-level/normal classes aren't much different but it may be different for you. The easiest AP courses are AP Human Geography and Ap Psychology. I recommend you try taking these first and seeing how you do on them before taking harder APs or multiple AP classes at once.

Advanced and AP Classes show rigor. They show colleges that you can handle difficult classes and can work under stress and other pressures.

Don't feel like you'll have to take a lot of Advanced/Honors and AP classes due to external pressures (parents/peers). Take courses within your comfort zone but don't be afraid to try out more because an A in a "normal" class is better than a C in an Ap class on your transcript.

Hope this helps!!

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