Many high schools offer higher level courses for students who wish to challenge themselves academically. In most schools, there are three levels of classes.
Regular classes are just that - regular. They are the average difficulty. Students learn at the normal pace and cover all the content required.
Honors and Advanced
Higher than regular courses are Honors or Advanced classes. These generally teach more content and at a fast pace than regular classes. Most of the time, students taking these courses will be rewarded with a small bonus added to their GPA.
AP and IB
Next up the ladder are Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. These courses are intended to teach even faster and more than an Honors or Advanced class. Towards the end of the academic year, students are expected to take a test, which, if they do well on, will earn them credit for college. Students should be aware that there is a fee for this test (usually around $100). Like Honors and Advanced courses, a bonus is added to GPAs.
Some high schools offer Pre-AP classes. They are regarded as an Honors or Advanced course, but geared towards preparing the student for the AP class the next year. A student should only take this course if they plan on taking the AP class the following year.
It is important to note that as the course level progresses, the classroom environment changes as well. The higher up the ladder you go, you will find more students who focus more towards learning. Teachers expect more from their pupils and generally want them to do more learning on their own. Generally, higher level courses will require more time for homework and studying.
Colleges tend to look favorably at higher level courses, especially if the student finishes with a good grade. The AP and IB programs can earn a student college credit while they are still in high school. Colleges will like the higher GPA from the weighted bonus of higher level classes.
When selecting your high school schedule, it is important to keep in mind what level course you want to take. Students should consider knowledge they already have. For example, taking AP Chemistry before taking even the regular chemistry class is discouraged.
Students should remember what type of academic experience they want. When choosing courses, make sure to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of each class level.