What Goes Into Teaching AP Classes

Advanced Placement teachers reveal how they prepare for teaching their hardest courses

Advanced Placement Program Logo from the College Board

Advanced Placement Program Logo from the College Board

Hundreds of students take Advanced Placement (AP) classes leading up to the exam at the end of the year for college credit, but preparing for the courses from teachers isn’t as commonly seen. As every teacher plans their classes before the school year starts, AP teachers have extra steps that they have to do.

The Advanced Placement Program consists of classes provided by the College Board, who are also the creators of the SAT. It offers difficult classes with heavy workloads and a certain extent of information needed to know for the AP exam at the end of the year, which can provide college credit for the topic of that class.

While students frantically do a lot of tasks for AP classes throughout the year, teachers also have to do a vast bulk of preparing the curriculum and make sure their students get all the information they need. “It’s an extremely taxing job,” Dave Hausser, AP Seminar and AP Government teacher began, “AP requires that you cover immense amounts of content in a set amount of time. There are required training seminars outside of school and constant changes to the classroom content, which necessitates constant observation,” Hausser said.

Beth Bernards, Juan Diego’s biology teacher, started teaching AP Biology last year. “It made me feel like I was a first-year teacher all over again. It took time every day after school and weekends to prepare adequately for that class. It took me time this past summer, too, because I was rearranging and adding material to strengthen the class.”

“Each AP teacher should attend an AP Institute, which is usually a week-long training course,” Vanessa Jacobs, AP Art History and AP World History teacher, started. “Additionally, each AP course has an ‘audit’ that must be approved by the College Board. These audits demonstrate that each of the College Board’s curriculums are taught. In the audit, teachers have to include what specific portion of the curriculum and how it is taught.”

“I spend at least 5 hours a week just on the AP courses,” Jacobs started. “The most obvious point is that teachers are preparing students for a test we have not prepared. In an academic or honors course, I make the exam so I know exactly how the students should prepare and what information they need.” Another comparison found between an academic or honors class and AP classes is the larger amount of knowledge that has to be taught in only nine months.

“Teaching AP classes has its costs and benefits compared to other classes,” Hausser continued. “The hardest part is racing against the clock in a limited amount of time. The test date is set a year in advance and we have to cover all of the required skills and content before that date. This is particularly hard at JD where we have such an active student body–most AP students are heavily involved in sports and Campus Life, which can lead to scheduling conflicts.”

While teachers and students both have to put a considerable amount of time into an AP class, students may find it surprising to learn that teachers have to do the same amount of effort constructing and teaching the class. But, with the week-long AP Institutes, constructing homework, projects, and the course syllabus, teachers sacrifice a lot to help their students get where they want to be.