Optimist’s declassified AP course survival guide


Calvin Prenkert , Editor

The Indiana Academic Honors Diploma is now required by many instate schools for admission after graduation from high school. To obtain a honors diploma from South, students must complete one of the following listed in the South course guide:

  • Earn four credits in two or more advanced placement courses.
  • Earn a combined score of 1750 or higher on the Old SAT (critical reading, math, and writing sections and a minimum score of 530 on each
  • Score a 26 or higher composite on the ACT with writing
  • Earn six verifiable transcripted college credits in dual credit courses from priority course list
  • Complete a combination of one AP course and corresponding AP exams and dual high school/college credit course(s) from the priority course list

Many often choose to take advanced placement courses to fulfill this requirement, which leads to a hotly contested debate about what AP classes students should be taken. Although each class has benefits and drawbacks, the Optimist staff has tried to come up with a ranking system that includes every AP class. Although any ranking system of this kind will be opinionated and subjective depending on your interests and experiences, we believe that these rankings should give a good idea of what you should expect going into each class.

5 easiest:

AP Government– AP Government is a one trimester AP class, the only one of its kind at South. The class is taken by seniors almost exclusively, as to graduate high school students must take both government and economics their senior year. The class is informational but mainly consists of  a lot of important work done through worksheets to help students gain a better understanding of the way the government works before going out into the real world or a college setting.

ACP Finite- Taking Finite at South is tremendously advantageous if you plan on attending Indiana University after high school. Finite is the most dropped class at IU, so if you are able to knock it out of the way while still in high school, you will be at a huge advantage compared to those who don’t and have to suffer through the college course during their freshman year. Finite is considered extremely doable at South for several reasons, including the kind and very accessible teachers Drew Frey and Lisa Parker, having little to no homework besides canvas quizzes and the well written and explained in-class tests and quizzes.

AP Environmental Science– APES is an easier than its fellow AP science classes because it examines a science that is more focused than “Chemistry” or “Physics.” For many, APES is an enjoyable class because it delves into something students are passionate about, like environmental science and conservation. This class does not require a rigorous grind to understand the content, and it can be taken by those who don’t even care about the environment. The teacher Amanda Figolah is passionate and cares deeply about what is being taught, which can make the experience much more interactive and interesting compared to classes where teachers don’t demonstrate interest in the topic.

AP European History- Sophomore and senior students often find themselves in this class, whether it be for an introductory/preparatory class for future AP classes as a sophomore, or in the case of seniors, a class to strengthen their schedules without making it unbearable. European History is taught by Matthew Hoagland who is a student favorite. Many enjoy his sarcastic, and at times sadistic behaviour, seeing through to the kind, heartfelt personality he tries to hide from his students. The class is mostly notes that are taught and presented well. Your grade constitutes of skill builders, current events quizzes and tests. While the actual class is generally is pegged as easy, one should be willing to put in some extra work to succeed on the AP test.  

AP Language and Composition– AP Lang is a course that is open to anyone entering their junior year. While it is not the most rigorous course, students do practice timed writings for a grade often and have to do a several book essay reports. The teachers have reasonable standards and are generous with grades and makeups. Another plus that was instituted this year is the course only requiring one summer reading book instead of two like in previous years. The main downfall of the class is that work can become tedious and mundane. However, if you’re seeking that Academic Honors Diploma, AP Lang is a great class to help meet your three AP classes requirement.

5 Hardest:

AP Physics– AP Physics will be a challenging course for all who take it. Although it may be enjoyable for a select few, the class is well known to be the hardest at South. This class is taught well, but the content is challenging as it combines two AP Physics classes into one year long course. Many will take the course, and will likely succeed, but it will not come without hard work and studying.

AP Chemistry– This is a notoriously tough class because it requires a deep understanding of chemistry and a commitment to getting work done. It is also three trimesters long. While it has interesting labs and is taught from a very knowledgeable teacher, you will have to put in extra work and study time to succeed in this class.

AP Calculus BC– This two trimester class picks up where AP Calculus AB left off, adding tougher material and having a less consistent string of new materials that build off of each other like other math classes often do. Technically, BC stands as the highest level math course at South because of the prerequisites required to take the class. Because the class is only taught in the first two trimesters, those who plan on taking the AP test will have to work and study on their own time, which can pose issues come test time.

AP Statistics– Statistics is a ranked as the fourth hardest AP class because it differs from the normal “numbers” math and deals with explanation and analysis. What can make this class challenging is that the class lends itself to traditionally non-math students, making it harder for those who normally excel in math to find success. The homework is also taken for a grade in Stats, and students often drop the class due to the rigor.

AP Literature and Composition- If you still have nightmares about your sophomore year English experience or shudder anytime someone mentions Grammar Wednesday, this class probably isn’t for you. The class, primarily taught by Bogdan Rakic and Ian Rickerby, is often labeled the hardest English course available at South. The class deals heavily with fictional writing and reading which can either be a blessing or curse depending on what you prefer. If you do well in the class it might be worth the work, but with Rakic’s tough grading standards, you may regret the decision to take the class.

The “Middle”:

W131- There is lots of homework, analysis, and DEJ’s. The teachers are nice and understanding, but it is a college level course so grading is done appropriately. It could be challenging for those who haven’t taken AP Lang or Honors English

AP CALC AB- This three trimester class is a great indicator of your readiness for upper level math and science classes. Both teachers who teach this class are great, and many students who are willing to put in studying time will succeed. Some will find it easy, some will find it hard.

AP BIO- The worst you can do is an A- if you are willing to do all the work and try on tests. The content can be challenging, but you will be well prepared for the AP test as teaching is very strong.

APUSH- Potentially the most divisive class in terms of student opinion. The two teachers each present different challenges, and often students are more suited for one than the other. This is a test heavy course that offers little opportunity to gain points back if you a not a strong test/note taker.

Because the following classes are world languages or fine arts or technology based we’ve deemed them too subjective to rate. However, these classes still may be the perfect fit for you!

AP Drawing

AP Studio Art 3D

AP Computer Science

AP Spanish V

AP Latin III