Student Life

Honors vs. AP Classes: Which is Right for You?

Find out if APs and Honors are a fit for you.

Student Contributor, Jessica Ramirez

September 18, 2023

Honors vs. AP Classes: Which is Right for You?
Many high school kids debate over the classes they should take.
Scheduling classes in high school is difficult whether you are an underclassman or an upperclassman, especially when it comes to APs and honors classes. In order to make the most out of your classes, it is important to understand the differences between the two and the potential benefits they have to offer.

What are AP and Honors Classes?

Both AP classes (Advanced Placement) and Honors classes are ways to challenge yourself in high school. They are courses meant to be more rigorous and fast-paced than regular classes. They go more in-depth on subjects and require intense studying and dedication. The goal of these classes is to ultimately prepare you for college.
Besides the benefits of preparation for college, both AP classes and honors classes are ways to boost your GPA. Although the two sound similar, the key to picking the right classes comes down to understanding the differences.

How Do They Differ?

Honors and AP Classes differ in their content, their difficulty, and a student’s end goal. To begin, the content offered in the two are strikingly different due to how each is structured. The curriculum in honors classes usually depends on the teacher, school, or district. Thus, the content taught in honors classes varies heavily across different schools.
On the other hand, the content taught in these classes is uniform throughout the schools that offer AP. This is because the College Board, the organization that created AP classes, sets up the curriculum. The curriculum of AP classes also uses uniform assessments. These assessments consist of multiple-choice questions and free-response questions. These assessments prepare a student for a final examination, conducted by the College Board, at the end of the year. Furthermore, the curriculum in AP tends to lean towards applications of the content learned rather than just the content.
The deep understanding that AP classes need tends to make these classes more difficult than honors classes. This is due to the fact that while honors classes are usually more accelerated forms of high school classes, AP classes are the equivalent of first-year college classes. Due to the difficulty of AP Classes, they are advertised more to upperclassmen whereas honors classes are taken in all grade levels. The biggest difference, however, is the students' end goals. The AP Exams taken at the end of the year give students a chance to earn college credit by earning a passing score of 3,4, or 5. Thus, doing well on AP Exams could mean saving money and skipping some classes in college.* Honors classes differ in that they often do not culminate in receiving college credit. Although some schools may offer dual credit through community colleges in some honors programs, that is not customary procedure. Also, the variety of schools that accept AP credit tends to be wider than the schools that accept dual credit from community colleges. *This depends on the college and score.

My Advice and My Experience

Throughout my high school years, I took 13 AP classes and 10 honors classes across a variety of subjects. In this journey, I noted many ideas to keep in mind while picking out your classes. The first is to know yourself. What grade are you in? What do students in your grade typically take? As an underclassman, you might be too unprepared or unfamiliar to tackle AP right on. As a freshman, I took honors and AP World History. Traditionally, AP Human Geography and AP World History are the classes most taken by freshmen. These are great classes to take if you are brand new to AP as they introduce the ideas of the program through content that students tend to have some familiarity with. They also help develop the skills that you will need in later AP courses, such as essay writing and analysis. However, this also depends on the type of student you are. If you are a motivated student who will remain focused enough to take the AP exam of the year, then these courses could be for you. If you decide to go down the AP path, however, it is important not to overload yourself with too many as the work piles up quickly. In my experience, it is better to just take the AP classes that you have a genuine interest in or that will be a stepping stone for a future career that you want to follow. Along with this, you should be able to identify your end goal. Are you looking to earn college credit, or are you just looking to challenge yourself in school? Do you want to continue your education locally or across the nation? What type of secondary school are you looking into? All these factors are essential to figuring out your right fit. In my experience, I preferred taking AP classes over honors classes when I could. My honors classes differed between all the teachers within my school and my honors classes did not focus on the applications of my learning. Although some of my classes did offer dual credit at my local community college, these credits could not transfer to the schools that I was looking to apply to. That is why I enjoyed taking AP. I liked that there was a standard curriculum that all teachers had to follow, as it made finding resources online easier. I also felt that I learned the most in AP. These classes developed my analysis as they made me apply the concepts learned to multiple scenarios. I have also received scores that will help me earn credit in the future. That being said, although I enjoyed taking AP classes more than honors, it is important to take them in moderation.

Why Should You take AP/Honors courses?

At the end of the day, you should take AP and Honors courses because they are excellent ways to prepare you for college. Not only do they familiarize you with the rigorous and in-depth curriculums of college, but these classes are appealing when applying to college as `they demonstrate a good work ethic and dedication. If you get a qualifying score on AP, you could save money and opt out of classes that students are usually required to take. Even If college is not your end goal, these classes work to stimulate your brain to get you ready to face complex problems in the workforce and in everyday life.

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