What is AP?

Dr. Shane Thomashot
What is AP?
Advanced Placement (AP) courses, with curriculum developed by the College Board, are college-level courses that allow students to engage particular academic disciplines at complex, detailed levels. Moreover, students can potentially earn college credit upon passing the AP course exam in May. MPCS has numerous AP courses in each academic department. I have taught AP World History and currently teach AP United States History. Therefore, this post focuses predominantly upon the characteristics of AP U.S. History.
What to expect in an AP course
AP courses are rigorous and fast-paced with a focus on writing and analytical skill development. Students should be prepared for large amounts of reading and independent study to reinforce classroom instruction and activities. Additionally, students in AP courses not only learn a large amount of content, but, more importantly, gain essential critical thinking skills that will benefit them collegiately and professionally. In AP U.S. History, for example, students learn how to effectively analyze and evaluate primary documents as well as contemporary arguments by prominent historians. Also, as students improve their skills and knowledge base, they are able to develop their own hypotheses and arguments. They learn effective argumentative writing while also gaining the ability to discern the veracity of written sources within the broader context of the trajectory of both U.S. and world history. 
How to prepare for an AP course
Foremost, students who wish to take on the challenge of an AP course should have a relatively high level of interest in the course content. Moreover, since the curriculum for each AP course is available online, students can gain a better understanding of the breadth of information the course covers. More generally, the most successful AP students are inquisitive, organized, able to effectively plan and manage their time and skilled in note-taking.
The AP classroom
In AP U.S. History, as with most AP courses, students should expect a substantial amount of note-taking. Lectures are interspersed with brief formative assessments, video clips, sound recordings and images for analysis. We also engage in a number of collaborative activities to reinforce information and skills, permitting students to learn from each other. Students may work in pairs or teams on essay argument development, image and document analysis, counterfactual historical scenarios and other assessments. In regard to individual assignments, students complete timed document-based essays, document-based multiple-choice tests and other summative assessments that challenge students to think at the highest levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.  
Overall, AP courses are both challenging and rewarding. Students have an opportunity to learn information in greater detail than in a typical course. Most importantly, students also have the opportunity to acquire logic and reasoning skills that will benefit them for the duration of their collegiate and professional careers.