Aug 10

Choosing the Right AP Exams for Ivy League Admissions

by Trent Baumbach

2023 AP Test Dates Compilation

Choosing the Right AP Exams for Ivy League Admissions

Introduction

Top-tier universities anticipate that applicants will demonstrate their academic prowess by taking AP (Advanced Placement) and other advanced, college-level courses during high school. For instance, to be considered as a strong candidate for admission into the top 20 universities in the U.S., students are typically expected to have successfully completed and passed between 7 and 12 AP exams.

But do any particular AP exams catch the attention of the Ivy Leagues and other top universities? While the short answer is mostly “no,” students can (and should) be strategic about their AP course load.

In this blog, we’ll review what does impress top universities on college applications, and detail how students should pick their AP course load.

Do you want to improve your chances of getting into a top-tier university? Schedule your consultation with Tokyo Academics today!

What do top universities consider when reviewing college applications?

While there is no direct quantitative data that specifically measures how Ivy League schools and other top schools evaluate which AP exams you’ve taken, there are of course core tenets of a strong application overall.

As mentioned in our previous blog “How AP Self-Study Boosts Your College Application,” admission officers generally prioritize the following four areas when evaluating student’s applications:

  1. Academic Performance and Course Difficulty: This includes the level of challenge in the classes you’ve taken (such as AP, IB, or honors courses) and your academic performance as seen by your GPA.
  2. Extracurricular Involvement: This encompasses any leadership positions held, consistent engagement, and substantial achievements in activities outside of the standard academic curriculum.
  3. Essays and Personal Statements: These should be well-crafted, authentic, and impactful, providing a window into your personality, values, interests, and writing skills.
  4. Letters of Recommendation: Letters from teachers, mentors, or counselors that offer an external perspective on your character, work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and potential for future success.

What should international school students focus on when picking AP classes then?

The primary value of AP classes and the subsequent exams overall is that they demonstrate a student’s ability to handle college-level coursework – in line with the first point listed in the previous section. When deciding between the overwhelming 38 AP subject tests, students should also consider the following points:

Course Rigor

Ivy League and other top schools want to see that students have challenged themselves in high school. This means taking the most rigorous course load available, which often includes numerous AP (or IB) classes. A student who has done well in a broad range of AP courses, particularly in their areas of academic interest, will be a strong candidate.

Relevance to Major

If a student is interested in majoring in a specific field, it can be beneficial to take AP classes that are relevant to that field. For example, if a student is interested in studying chemistry, taking AP Chemistry (and doing well) would be a smart. Similarly, AP Computer Science would be helpful for a prospective computer science major, AP English Literature and Composition for an English major, and so on.

Core Academic Subjects

Regardless of a student’s intended major, it can be helpful to take AP classes in core academic subjects: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Foreign Languages. These are foundational areas of study that all students at Ivy League schools, and particularly at liberal arts colleges, will be expected to excel in.

 

What Japanese international schools offer AP Classes?

In our previous blog How AP Self-Study Boosts Your College Application, we also discussed how AP exams (whether taken through your school or by self-studying) offer college credit and advanced standing, supplement IB studies, demonstrates academic excellence, show initiative and independence, highlight your strengths, and can even provide evidence of your English proficiency. Clearly, these exams are worth the time and effort.

Yet, not all Japanese international schools offer these courses.

Please see this link for College Board information on all Japanese international schools offering AP courses. The table below summarizes the availability of several schools in the Tokyo area.

School Offers AP Classes?
Aoba Japan International School
No
American School in Japan (ASIJ)
Yes
Canadian International School Tokyo
Yes
Global Indian International School
No
Horizon Japan International School
No
International School of the Sacred Heart
Yes
Seisen International School
No
St. Mary’s International School
No
Tamagawa Academy
No
Tokyo International School
No
Yokohama International School
No
School Offers AP Classes?
Aoba Japan International School
No
American School in Japan (ASIJ)
Yes
Canadian International School Tokyo
Yes
Global Indian International School
No
Horizon Japan International School
No
International School of the Sacred Heart
Yes
Seisen International School
No
St. Mary’s International School
No
Tamagawa Academy
No
Tokyo International School
No
Yokohama International School
No

For non-AP school students

For international school students whose schools do not offer AP classes, certain schools (including the Canadian International School in Tokyo) will allow a student to take AP exams even if they are not enrolled at that school. Additionally, for families who don’t mind traveling, there are many international test centers in countries like Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and India.

Most non-AP school students will be unable to participate in a daily AP class, so meeting with a tutor can help in forming a meaningful self-study plan and gaining clarity on all relevant topics on the AP exams.

While signing up for self-study AP exams may seem complicated, Tokyo Academics can assist in registering for tests, preparing for the exam with AP practice tests and other materials, and finding an examination center. 

What should international school students do next?

In short, it’s not that certain AP exams are inherently more impressive than others, but rather that the AP courses a student chooses should align with their academic and career goals. The student’s performance on these exams is equally important. Excelling in challenging courses and exams demonstrates the student’s dedication, academic ability, and readiness for the rigors of a challenging university education.

Tokyo Academics has been offering one-on-one tutoring services, group classes, and admissions consulting for international school students for over 10 years. If you want help picking the right AP course for you (and scoring a 5 on the exam!) click the link below to connect with our team.