Is taking an AP exam more important than taking the actual course itself?Answered
I know that colleges are more inclined to accept someone who has more rigorous coursework than someone who takes all regular classes. My school offers a variety of Ap classes (about 20) and I am a junior and have only taken 2 so far (i know terrible) and 4 honors. However, I know that sites like edx have ap preparation classes( but aren't accredited by collegeboard) that some say have gotten them 4s and 5s on the ap exam. If I take the exam without taking an AP accredited course will this make up for my nonrigorous coursework? Thanks.
Q1.Is taking an AP exam more important than taking the actual course itself?
Highly competitive colleges want to see that you have challenged yourself as much as possible given the resources that have been presented to you. That being said, you have not taken advantage of the 20+ AP Courses your high school has given you access to. I don't know your personal reasons for not challenging yourself. Perhaps it's a combination of multiple factors like lack of motivation, lack of interest, distractions to focus on social things, etc.
Given that you have only (1) Summer and (1) Fall Semester to make up for your deficiency, I would highly recommend that you enroll in 2 college courses either taught by your local community college, a MOOC like eDx.org, or something like Outlier.org where you can take a college-level course, earn a transferable grade and college credits.
Your community college has many classes that would be equivalent to AP courses, certainly the STEM, history, and language ones. I'm not so sure about finding an exact fit for AP Lang or AP Lit. I took 6 of these.
eDx.org courses taught by RICE, Boston U., Georgetown, Davidson, Harvard, and MIT are all excellent. For example in some STEM courses, they actually have courses called AP Physics I, or AP Biology 1-5. I took 1 of these.
On Outlier.org they only have 6 classes right now but certainly Calculus I, Psychology, Statistics, and Micro-Economics would be equivalent to a full year of AP classes and you will be well prepared for taking the exam. I took 2 of these.
Mind you, my HS also offers 20+ AP classes but my heavy involvement in leadership, community service, and sports caused scheduling conflicts so the max. I could take was like 5 per year.
Q2.If I take the exam without taking an AP accredited course will this makeup for my nonrigorous coursework?
If you consider my suggestion of taking (2) college courses over the summer and say taking (4-5) AP courses at your high school in the Fall, then you will be able to record (6-7) AP Courses and 2 college courses on your transcript or college application. You can of course sign up for as many AP exams as you would like. For example this spring I signed up for 7 exams. I'm not sure if I'm going to take them all because I already got accepted into Columbia University but I very well might because if I get 5s on them I can place out of certain core classes or get bumped into a higher level class next fall.
There are many qualified applicants that have no APs at their disposal or are homeschooled for example, yet they manage to get into top colleges as long as they show evidence of intellectual curiosity and achievement.
The important thing is that you show your future college more course rigor regardless of where you get it.
Good luck with the next 3 semesters.
Short answer: no. Although its great that you want to take the exams and self study, it will be so much easier with a teacher. Plus, a rigorous courseload is always better. Good luck! :)