The Cost of Exams is Killing AP Classes

The Cost of Exams is Killing AP Classes

Isabel Mora, Chief Copy Editor & Opinion Editor

$150 USD, or $550,000 COP: that’s the price The Columbus School charges students per AP exam. Multiply that by four to get the money paid by a parent whose child is taking four exams, or by eight to get the price of paying for multiple children’s AP exams. Costs like these are ridiculously high and can quickly become a burden for families, even those as privileged as the ones at TCS. AP courses are, undoubtedly, a great privilege for high school students. These classes are highly rigorous and provide students with the chance to learn advanced topics at a college level. Aside from the intense learning, an AP course’s ultimate goal is to take the exam at the end of the year, as it keeps students motivated and gives them the chance to earn college credit. However, at TCS, the financial burden brought upon by the cost of AP exams stops countless students from taking the exams. This makes AP classes lose rigor and importance, as students are not motivated to learn and take AP courses for factors not associated with learning. Thus, The Columbus School should pay for students’ AP exams to guarantee that AP courses achieve their true potential and purpose. 

Primarily, if TCS students are not motivated to take AP exams because of the financial burden they represent, AP courses lose rigor and importance. The main factor that drives learning in AP classes is the exam at the end of the year. However, if students are not taking the AP exam, they will no longer see the class as a main priority. Andrea Cardona, a TCS senior who is taking five AP classes but zero AP exams, says, “Even though I put in a lot of effort into all of my AP classes, by this time of the year when you know you’re taking the test, you tend to work extra hard. Since I’m not taking the exams, I prefer to work harder on other things like my extracurriculars or my ISC project.” When students stop prioritizing AP classes, they affect the class’s overall functioning since they no longer encourage each other to learn. This, combined with the role played by teachers, leads to AP classes losing importance. If teachers know students are not taking the test, they will not be concerned with students’ level of learning and engagement in the class. If TCS assumed the exams’ payment, this would not be a problem, as the vast majority of students would take the test and maintain AP classes as their main priority. It’s valid to argue that students choose not to take the exams for reasons not associated with the cost, such as lack of preparedness. However, if they knew they would take the exam from the beginning of the year and counted on the school paying for it, the class would maintain a high rigor, and lack of preparedness would not even be an issue to consider. With this in mind, to ensure AP classes maintain the rigor they require, TCS directives should allocate part of the school’s budget to the payment of AP exams.

Furthermore, students who are not taking the AP exam for a specific course are not motivated to learn, making the class hard to structure and manage. One of the most significant benefits of an AP course is being surrounded by intelligent and driven students who seek to learn. However, students who are not taking the exam often lose motivation, as they see no purpose in understanding the class material. Consequently, AP classes can become hard to manage for teachers since they no longer have students working at the same rhythm. As a concrete example, consider this year’s AP Psychology course. Out of four sections, or around 80 students, only four are taking the exam. Essentially, this imbalance, which happens in every class, means that teachers have to work separately with students taking the test. This, in turn, leads to two completely different class structures. Some teachers, like Felipe Naranjo, state that they teach their curse as if everyone is taking the test. However, this is not effective in keeping the class unified, as those taking the test work extra hard and are concerned with test preparation, while those not taking the test tend to slack off. Evidently, having an AP course divided into test-takers and non-test-takers makes the class hard to structure and manage for teachers. If the school guaranteed students’ AP exams, this wouldn’t be a problem, as the vast majority would take the exam, and the class would maintain a single learning rhythm. 

Finally, due to AP exams’ high costs, TCS students no longer see the exam as the ultimate goal of an AP course and, instead, decide to take the class for factors not associated with learning. At The Columbus School, AP students receive a 0.5 bonus in their final grade if their grade for the AP class is three or above (out of a four-point scale). Thus, a student like Andrea Cardona, who is taking five AP classes, can have a maximum GPA of 4.3, while a student with no AP classes can only obtain a maximum GPA of 4.0. Considering these statistics and the extreme obsession at TCS with grades, it’s evident that a prominent factor leading students to take AP courses is the higher grades these classes provide. Most importantly, some students don’t even know what the exam is about or care about the course’s content. If students come into the class with this mindset, they will not be motivated to learn and only work to get good grades. Some may argue that the extra 0.5 is not a “gift,” considering a student has to earn it through hard work. However, particularly in virtual school, good grades are not an indicator of hard work. Hence, TCS must reinforce AP classes’ actual value, which is much greater than having a better GPA. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by paying for students’ AP exams, as this will increase motivation for learning and lead students to value the class for the actual content that is being taught. 

AP classes at The Columbus School are losing rigor and importance. Since not many people are taking AP exams, AP classes are no longer a priority due to their high costs. Most importantly, students are no longer motivated to learn and opt to take AP classes for reasons not associated with learning. Thus, TCS should directly assume students’ AP exams’ payment to guarantee a high level of understanding and motivation and ensure that AP courses achieve their true potential and purpose. If this does not happen, the school should not even bother offering AP classes.