I'm not sure if this is the proper place to ask this question, but I figured I'll try anyway.

If I have the option of taking a Calculus AP class, and am thinking of pursuing a career in either genetic counseling, occupational therapy, or special education, is it worth it?

Would such a course help me out?

(An AP test is an exam that tests a person for college level knowledge of a particular subject, and if a person passes the exam, they will be given college credit as if they had actually taken the courses. It is often taken after a year of a high-school class in that subject.)

  • $\begingroup$ Certainly it will. You will need it most likely for the first two pursuits (as degree requirement), and for the third, by successfully completing the AP calculus test for college credit, you may be exempt from further required math (except for pedagogically oriented math/education courses) in the degree program. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Sep 15, 2019 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks - you are definitely right. The only reason why I have a question is because it is not taught by the best teacher and it would mean a disproportionate amount of work that will hopefully result in enough adequacy to take the AP. $\endgroup$
    – Burt
    Sep 15, 2019 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! Will be sure to keep it in mind! $\endgroup$
    – Burt
    Sep 15, 2019 at 22:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If it is an option, an AP class in Statistics would probably help you more, given your desired careers. That will most probably be more useful to you later. If Calculus is your only math option, go ahead and take it. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2019 at 0:11
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This question is about personal curricular choices within the context of the US educational system. It is not about mathematics education. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Fox
    Sep 16, 2019 at 9:34

1 Answer 1


I'm teaching AP Calculus for the first time this year, and my students are all asking the same question as you. Here's what I tell them.

If you're going to college next year, and if you will be required to take at least a semester of calculus there (which is a pretty safe bet for nearly everyone but do your own research), AP Calc will do one of two things for you:

  • You'll take the AP exam and get a good enough grade to place out of a semester of calculus. Congratulations, you're already one class closer to your degree!
  • You won't get a good enough grade in the AP exam or decide not to take it altogether. You'll take Calculus in your first semester of college. However, you'll retain enough from your AP class that the course will be a breeze for you. Congratulations, you're now the best friend of all of your classmates and have one less thing to stress you out in your transition to college life!

(The second may not seem like a big prize. Having been through college, honestly I think it's the better deal.)

The downsides and how to cope with them?

  • It's not really an easy course, especially when not taught by a great teacher. As people have said in the comments, lean on the Khan Academy and an AP study guide to help explain things when you didn't get either the skills or the motivation behind them from your class. From a quick glance, it seems like you know how to ask good questions on Math SE, so that's there for you as well.
  • Some students want to protect their GPA in their final year so as not to look bad when applying to college. Honestly, colleges appreciate it when you take risks, and they'll see that you're taking an AP class. And maybe your school has the sense (as mine does) to give a GPA boost for taking AP classes because they know that the reward of being challenged in a useful class is better than sleepwalking through an easy A elective.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ My anecdotal experience [in college $>$ a decade ago...] was that some students approach undergraduate Calc 1 as if "the course will be a breeze for" them, but that this stopped being true about 2/3 of the way through the semester. By then, though, the students had not developed good study skills for a postsecondary math course, and were overrelying on prior knowledge. Not sure if this accords with your experience. . . $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2019 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ What about taking the course and then going for the CLEP which is rumored to be easier? $\endgroup$
    – Burt
    Sep 16, 2019 at 2:28

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