As the school year begins across the country, many high school students are in for a new experience: their first Advanced Placement (AP) class. While you may have heard of AP classes, and know that they’re important for preparing you for college, your first AP class can still be an intimidating experience. It doesn’t have to be! Here are some things to expect if you’re starting your first AP class this year:

What Is an AP Class?

An Advanced Placement, or AP, class is a class with accelerated, upper-level material, which, while taught at high schools, is considered to be academically equivalent to a college course. There are AP classes in almost any subject you can imagine, from math to English to foreign languages to history. AP classes are often more specialized than a typical high-school-level honors course—for instance, some schools offer AP classes in specific fields of history, such as European or World History AP courses, or in more focused scientific fields, like AP Chemistry of Physics.

In the spring after you’ve taken an AP class, you will take an AP Exam. These exams are standardized and taken across the United States, and your scores will determine whether you will be considered to have passed the subject at the college level.

How Do AP Exams Work? What’s a Good AP Exam Score?

An AP exam is a standardized exam given across the United States, specific to the subject you’ve taken the class in, that’s taken at a specially scheduled time outside of typical school class periods. AP Exams last several hours, so you couldn’t fit one into an average class period! You do not have to take the AP exam for every AP class you take, but the overwhelming majority of students do. Just like your SAT/ACT scores, you can send your AP scores to the colleges you’re applying to as part of the application process.

AP Exams are scored out of 5. A 3 or higher is considered a passing grade at the college level. However, many colleges and universities will only award you credit, or allow you to skip prerequisites like a foreign language requirement, for AP exam scores of 4 or above.

Are AP Classes Mostly Test Prep, Then?

Not at all! While the AP exams are meant to test your knowledge of what you’ve learned in the class, that doesn’t mean you’ll spend all your class time prepping for the exam. Just like any other class, your AP classes will have lectures, unit tests, projects, and subject-specific assignments like essays, labs, or presentations. There is often nothing to denote a difference between an AP class and a “regular” class in the same subject, besides how advanced the material is

Will Colleges Care About My AP Classes?

You bet they will! AP classes are college-level classes, so taking AP classes, working hard to get good grades in them, and doing well on your AP exams is a great way to show the schools you’re applying to that you’re ready and able to handle college academics. Further, which AP classes you elect to take, and how well you do on your AP exams in them, can show your college what subjects you’re most passionate about, and which might make a good major or minor for you. Your college admissions officers will definitely be interested in any AP classes you’ve taken in high school!

While your first AP class may seem like a daunting task, it’s closer to a milestone—your first college class! And not only that, but the first of many, including more AP classes, and eventually the courses you’ll take in college itself. And remember, if you need help in an AP subject, or prepping for your AP exams, seeking help, like from our tutors at A-List, is never a bad idea—and will help you get comfortable as you advance into doing more college-level work!