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Teens & College: My Questions (So Far)

What is the difference between Regular Honors classes, AP classes and the International Baccalaureate (IB)?

Regular honors courses are developed to help meet the needs of accelerated students. Honors classes are by design more intense and more demanding than a "regular" class on the same topic. Honors classes offer the same curriculum that non-honors classes offer but are more challenging. Honors courses are faster paced and cover topics more in-depth. However, these classes are not usually considered to be equivalent to college-level work, which is why they will not earn college credit.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are developed with the help of the College Board. These courses are more difficult and involve more work than standard classes. AP courses require hours of work outside of class. AP courses are considered college-level courses, so they allow the student to earn college credit. In order to get college credit, you must earn a specific score on the AP exam, which is administered at the end of the course.The exams are graded on a 1 to 5 scale (5 is the highest) and 3 is passing. Colleges sometimes—but not always—give units of credit for scores of 3 or higher or allow students to take higher level courses in that subject area.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered at schools in many different countries, including the United States. The International Baccalaureate Organization works with schools, governments, and international organizations to develop challenging programs for students. The IB Diploma Program (DP) is offered to highly motivated students during their final two years of high school. The DP is a demanding course of studies that leads to examinations in six subject areas. You must achieve a specific score on the examinations in order to gain college credit.

What are are the benefits to taking honors & AP courses?

You can gain an edge in the college admission process. College admission officers look for students who take rigorous courses.
You can earn college credit. If you take AP or IB courses, you may be able to get college credit depending on how you score on a comprehensive examination in the subject. Most colleges will give credit for scores of 3 or higher on AP exams (AP range is 1-5) and scores of 5 or higher on IB exams (IB range is 1-7).
You can boost GPA if you are calculating it. Because honors classes are more difficult than non-honors classes, the grades earned in honors courses at most schools are given an extra grade point. With the standard four-point grading scale, A = 4 grade points, B = 3 grade points, C = 2 grade points, and so on. With the honors scale, A = 5 points, B = 4 points, and C = 3 points. Therefore, when these grade points are averaged with your regular grades, your overall GPA could be higher than 4.0.
You can develop study habits that will prepare you for college. College courses are more rigorous than standard high school classes. By taking the more challenging honors classes in high school, you will be better prepared to succeed in college.

Why Advanced Placement?
The Advanced Placement Program offers high school students the opportunity to receive college credit for their work during high school. This can save time and money when students go to college. The College Board develops and maintains courses in various subject areas. The College Board allows the homeschooled student and others who have not taken a course at a high school to take the exam.

Do Colleges Really Care if Students Take Honors and AP Courses?
YES! When colleges analyze high school transcripts, they pay attention to the grades that students make, but they also ascertain the levels of the courses. If you peruse the admission processes at the colleges your student wants to attend, you will find the statements that they make regarding these classes.

Can I take the AP Examination if I haven't taken an AP course?
Yes. If you are a homeschooled student or attend a school that does not offer AP, you can still take the exams by arranging to test at a participating school. The AP exams offer a great opportunity to earn college credits before you even start. Gaining AP credits will help lessen your course burden in college.

What subjects can my student take AP tests in?
The College Board Advanced Placement Program offers 37 courses in 22 disciplines. You can review the official AP Course Descriptions [in PDF format] for the most up-to-date information about each course and exam [Here]. You will need to know what tests you want to take when you schedule.

Art History, Biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science A, Computer Science AB, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Environmental Science, European History, French Language, French Literature, German Language, Government and Politics: Comparative, Government and Politics: United States, Human Geography, Italian Language and Culture, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin Literature, Latin:Vergil, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Music Theory, Physics B, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics, Psychology, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Statistics Studio Art: 2-D Design, Studio Art: 3-D Design, Studio Art: Drawing, United States History, World History.

What are the steps required to register for an AP test?

  1. Call AP Services [numbers at the college board website] no later than March 1 to get the names and telephone numbers of AP Coordinators at local schools.
  2. Contact the AP Coordinators at the local schools identified by AP Services no later than March 15. Identify the tests you want to take. They will tell you when and where your student needs to appear for testing.

What are the SAT Subject tests?
Subject Tests (formerly SAT II: Subject Tests) are designed to measure your knowledge and skills in particular subject areas, as well as your ability to apply that knowledge. Students take the Subject Tests to demonstrate to colleges their mastery of specific subjects Many colleges use the Subject Tests for admissions, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection.

What's the difference between the SAT Subject tests and the AP tests?
The SAT Subject Tests do not have a specific recommended curriculum like the APs. In general, AP tests have nothing to do with college admissions. They're used to determine if your student will receive college credit for the tests he passed. AP tests are scored 1 to 5 (or 1 to 6, depending on the test), and although a score of 3 is considered passing, some schools require a 4 or 5 for you to receive college credit. Through AP Exams, your student has the opportunity to earn credit or advanced standing at most of the nation's colleges and universities. AP Grade Reports are sent in July to the college designated on the answer sheet and to your student. Each report is cumulative and includes grades for all the AP Exams your student has ever taken, unless you have requested that one or more grades be withheld from a college or canceled. .

Having AP credits doesn't affect admission into college. SAT subject tests, on the other hand, can affect admission chances at the schools which require them. SAT subject tests are often required or strongly recommended when applying to some of the more selective colleges.

Except for Studio Art and Music Theory, all AP exams have multiple-choice questions and an essay or problem solving section. All SAT subject tests have multiple-choice questions with no essays. You can retake both tests. AP exams are only given once a year in May, while most SAT subject tests are given throughout the year.

Subject Tests fall into five general subject areas and you can review the descriptions here:
English - Literature
History - U.S. History (formerly American History and Social Studies), World History
Mathematics - Mathematics Level 1 (formerly Mathematics IC), Mathematics Level 2 (formerly Mathematics IIC)
Science - Biology E/M, Chemistr, Physics
Languages - Chinese with Listening, French, French with Listening, German, German with Listening, Spanish, Spanish with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening

When should my student take SAT Subject Tests?
Most students take Subject Tests toward the end of their junior year or at the beginning of their senior year. Take tests such as World History, Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics as soon as possible after completing the course in the subject, while the material is still fresh in your mind.Most teens suggest on the test message boards, the best advice is to take the AP exam first (in May of your junior year), followed soon after by the SAT subject tests (which many claim are much easier). The reason is that you'll then only have to study once (with maybe a refresher).

Which SAT Subject Tests should you take?
Before deciding which tests to take, make a list of the colleges you're considering. Then take a look at what they require.

What is the High School Profile?
When high schools send student transcripts to colleges, they enclose a copy of the School Profile. This profile tells colleges basic information about the school: address, phone number, special programs at the school, how the GPA is computed, what type of schedule the school uses, how many teachers and administrators are on staff, how many students the school has, and the specific courses students must take in order to receive diplomas. The profile must also list the specific Honors classes and AP classes the school offers. As a result, when colleges look at the courses and grades of an individual student, they will compare them to the courses which the school offers.

When Should My Teen Take the PSAT/NMSQT® ?

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®)—a test which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.4 million entrants each year.
Student Entry Requirements

  1. They must take the PSAT/NMSQT® no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12.
  2. They must be enrolled full time as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school.
  3. They must be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

Sophomores can take the PSAT for practice, but in order for it to count for National Merit Scholarship, students have to be Juniors.

Taking the PSAT if you are a homeschooled student
If you are a home-schooled student, contact a principal or counselor at a local public or independent high school to make arrangements to take the PSAT/NMSQT at their school. Be sure to contact them, by phone or letter well in advance of the mid-October test dates. The recommended timeframe to do this is during the June prior to the school year your wants to take the test. If you're a home-schooled student, your PSAT/NMSQT score report is sent directly to your home address. You will need to have your state's home school code in the "school code" to complete the basic information section on the answer sheet.

How Score Reports Are Delivered
If you are in a Public or Private School, score reports are mailed to your high school principal in December. Each school decides how and when to distribute the scores to students. PSAT/NMSQT scores are not available by phone or online. If you're a homeschooled student, your PSAT/NMSQT score report is sent directly to your home address.

If you are a Finalist
Of the 1.4 million entrants who take the test, some 50,000 with the highest PSAT/NMSQT® Selection Index scores (critical reading + mathematics + writing skills scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit® Scholarship Program. In February, some 15,000 Semifinalists are notified by mail at their home addresses that they have advanced to Finalist standing. High school principals are also notified and provided with a certificate to present to each Finalist.

In April, following the fall test administration, high-scoring participants from every state are invited to name two colleges or universities to which they would like to be referred by NMSC. In September, these high scorers are notified through their schools that they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist. If you're a homeschooled student, you are notified, by letter sent directly to your home address.

What is The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)?
The College-Level Examination Program® or CLEP provides students of any age with the opportunity to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of exams in undergraduate college courses. There are 2,900 colleges that grant credit and/or advanced standing for CLEP exams. Before you take a CLEP exam, check directly with the college or university you plan to attend to make sure that it grants credit for the CLEP exam(s) you wish to take, and review the specifics of the institution's CLEP policy.

At the time you take the exam, you can indicate in test software the college, employer, or certifying agency that you want to receive your CLEP test scores. There is no additional cost for this service — your exam fee covers it. If you did not indicate a score recipient institution at the time of your exam and you want to request your CLEP scores, you can do so by ordering a CLEP Transcript. This Transcript is a cumulative score report of all the CLEP exams you have taken and the scores you earned in the last 20 years.

CLEP exams are developed and evaluated independently and are not linked to each other except by the Program's common purpose, format, and method of reporting results. For this reason, direct comparisons should not be made from one CLEP exam to another. Nor are CLEP scores comparable to SAT® scores or scores of other tests that use similar scales.[read more]

The exams offered: [read on]

Find colleges granting credit for CLEP: Colleges Granting CLEP Credit

CLEP Official Study Guide





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