Requirements for Taking a High School AP Class

by Katherine Bradley

Success in Advanced Placement classes is a good predictor of college readiness. Scoring well on the end-of-course AP exam is a requirement if the student is to receive college credit. Although enrollment requirements vary from school to school, many institutions consider the cumulative academic GPA, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations. Some schools will admit students to AP courses even if they do not meet these requirements, provided that the parent signs a waiver indicating that the student is enrolling without having met the requirements.

GPA Requirement

The cumulative academic GPA -- within the AP course subject or overall -- is sometimes used as an indicator of readiness for AP classes. Since AP classes very closely simulate the work level of a college course, it is imperative that students have the appropriate study and reading skills to complete the work. Although the cumulative academic GPA is probably the least used of these standards, it is taken into consideration when the other standards barely meet the threshold of acceptance.

Standardized Test Scores

Often the most trusted indicator of AP readiness is a standardized test score. In general, students who are successful on standardized tests have good reading and comprehension skills. Although there are other tests, the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test or lexile scores from the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test are often used to determine the readiness of upcoming ninth grade students. The PSAT, SAT or other standardized quantitative measurement may be used to help determine a high school student's readiness.

Department Approval

Teacher recommendations weigh heavily in the decision to admit a student into an AP course. Teachers who have had past experience with students applying for AP acceptance know of their strengths, weaknesses and study habits; this information is very useful in determining readiness for an AP course. Additionally, past teachers provide other useful information, such as a student who has marginal scores but is highly driven and may rise to the challenge. Students who struggle in an AP class may be moved to a regular class.

Parent Signature

Some students end up taking AP courses despite not meeting the requirements set forth by the school. Sometimes, the school's efforts to convince the student and parent that the student may not be ready for an AP class are unsuccessful. If they insist on enrollment in AP courses regardless of the recommendation of the school, the school must obtain a signed waiver, stating that the parent is disregarding the school's recommendation for placement.

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