Tips from a Private Irvine AP Tutor: How Many AP Classes Are Too Many?

At this point, almost every college bound student will take an AP course in high school. Many students aren’t even concerned if they get college credit for these courses but simply want their college applications to be competitive, in some cases ultra-competitive. AP courses give students a realistic look at the work they’ll have to complete once in college. But, how young can students start doing college work? Will they be able to cope at 17, at 16, or even 15? Each student is different, but many become entirely overwhelmed with their AP courses to the point that they are unable to complete the course successfully or pass the exam. Additionally, students and parents should think about their overall high school career and what their particular goals are – it’s never too early to book your private Irvine AP tutor.


1. Find out if the courses will count for credit at the colleges you’re applying to

Before signing up for a year-long AP course, students should determine if they’re taking the course to get into college or if they want it to count for college credit. Some universities will excuse a student from freshman English if they take AP English Language and Composition while some will require students to take their freshman English class and simply give elective credit for the AP course. However, students who are simply remaining competitive on their college applications may not be concerned about such things (READ: “AP Exams and the DBQ: How to Improve”).

2. Make sure you can pass the AP exam with a 3 or higher

When determining how many AP courses to take it’s important that students feel confident they can pass the exam with at least a 3. Scores of 3, 4, or 5 on the exam are considered successful and can result in college credit. However, a score of 1 or 2 will not count towards college credit or help students with their college admissions process. If a student is taking AP English Literature and AP Calculus, but have always struggled with numbers they’re not likely to get a 3 or higher on the math exam. They may also become overwhelmed in their English course and score lower due to stress or time management issues. Students should already be somewhat comfortable with the subject, in general, prior to taking an AP course.

3. Stick with subject matter you’ve had success with in the past

Students are strongly encouraged to stick to their strengths when it comes to picking out AP courses. Students who are speed readers will probably do well in AP Literature while students who can easily memorize dates and names will likely excel in AP World History. However, a student’s overall GPA helps determine whether or not they can handle one or even two AP courses. The student might perform very well if they take just one but be entirely overwhelmed if they take two.

4. Take the advice of college counselors and teachers

Students should also talk to their college counselor and their teachers before committing to an AP course. College counselors have a lot of information regarding what a student needs on their resume about the universities they are planning to apply to. Additionally, classroom teachers can offer students valuable information concerning the amount of time and effort required to do well in the course. Although the courses must meet certain standardized guidelines, each teacher is different, and some will give out more or less self-study. In general, an AP course will have about twice as much homework as a standard high school class. However, some courses will be reading intensive or require students to write research papers or essays on a regular basis (READ: “Tips from an Irvine AP tutor: I bombed my AP test. What’s next?”).

5. Get a realistic estimate of required self study

When students pick how many AP courses they will take, and in what year, they should consider the amount of study required. If a student is taking four courses over all and two of them are AP courses, they may be working from the end of school until midnight to get things done. Speed readers and Students who can do math in no time may spend less time doing homework. Students with writer’s block will be at their desk longer. When students start taking AP courses, it’s important for them to know what their other commitments will be and if they have enough time to complete assignments successfully.

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