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Is AP Research Hard? Is AP Research Worth Taking?

4 min readaugust 23, 2020


AP Research 🔍

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What to Expect

Congratulations! You successfully completed AP® Seminar, a grueling course of 2+ research papers (more if you did mock papers), and multiple presentations with teams that may or may not have worked well with you.
You likely have heard from your teacher and former AP Seminar students about how Research is a completely different course. Continue reading to find out whether AP Research is hard or even worth taking. You got this 🎉

How difficult is AP Research?

Let's do some quantitative analysis and take a look at the pass rates for AP Research!

Crunching the Numbers 📈

Score Distribution

Year54321
20208.8%32.1%31.5%25%2.6%
201910.8%22.3%43.1%19.3%4.5%
201811.4%23.8%40.2%19.6%5%

Generally speaking, about 75% of students pass the AP Research exam. Note that this year's results may be a little different due to the lack of a presentation/oral defense portion (POD).

Workload

This course does not have an intense workload as long as you stay organized. This course is the most problematic to procrastinate for, as the 4,000-5,000 word requirement means that waiting until the last week will likely result in a failing AP score 👀
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-rSx2VK8rPkKj.png?alt=media&token=ed7e1f5d-483a-4b7a-90f3-b4b33d845d1c

This is what you'll look like when you try to write your entire research paper in one week! Image from Unsplash.

Throughout the year, you will likely read about different methodologies, watch presentations, and/or read sample papers. The writing will be completely independent, but time management apps like Toggl and Todoist can help you out throughout the school year!

Great Advice from Past Students

Here's some great advice from a past AP Research student:
"Understand the limits/scope of the paper: you have one school year and do not have like a lot of resources and money. Nevertheless, pick what you’re interested in—you can use the method of another study but to a different audience to fill the gap." —Abby Liang
Another great answer from another AP Research student:
"I would say it’s a lot of independent work as your teacher can’t directly give feedback on your paper, so depending on your workflow, this class may be hard." —Solomon Kim
AP Research's difficulty also depends on the workload from your other courses. While there isn't any inherent memorization or testing, the writing process and preparation for the presentation may be burdensome for many students who are also taking other AP courses. At that point, it becomes important to ask . . .

Is AP Research worth taking? 🤔

The answer is absolutely, yes! One of the best benefits of AP Research is gaining either the AP Seminar and Research Certificate 📜 (passing both classes) or AP Capstone Diploma 🎓 (passing both classes and 4 other AP exams). You can show this off to colleges and can boost your college application!
This course can be an early introduction to conducting independent research! While you are likely not receiving any grants 💰 from your high school nor gaining assistance from high-level professors, writing the different aspects of a research paper in high school is incredibly impressive.
Furthermore, AP Research is incredibly multidisciplinary, which means that it won't immediately give you credit for any college classes. However, you can show your research paper to your advisor, and they could advise as to whether you could conduct further research in your higher education with a professor.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-WvaUvDhOAql1.png?alt=media&token=0a3f02fb-30c8-4422-906c-24caa40450a7

You could be conducting lab research in college after you write your AP Research paper. Image from Pixabay.

Another great benefit of AP Research is the possible scholarship opportunities. Bard College Berlin emailed me when I was in Seminar and promised a tuition waiver of up to 90% for four years if I received the AP Capstone Diploma (with priority given if you took AP courses in multiple disciplines). But don't just take it from me—other students concur that AP Research is worth it!
"It's 1000% worth taking because it teaches you college-level skills and shows you a little bit more about what research (not just finding information, but creating new knowledge) looks like." —Solomon Kim
"I really liked it and do recommend it because this class teaches you to work independently and do research (from lit review to data analysis) on something you’re actually passionate about! It’s also super cool to learn everyone else’s topic from your class." —Abby Liang
"AP Research is definitely worth taking because you will understand the methodology and research processes behind a lot of studies you might read in college." —Fatima Raja

Fiveable Courses 🙌

One of our new initiatives here at Fiveable for the 2020-2021 school year is Fiveable Courses! You can sign up for the AP Research Fiveable course to get access to a bunch of assistance throughout either the fall or spring semester. This can be super helpful, especially if you're looking for extra support to supplement your in-class work or even an extra pair of eyes.
A Fiveable course in AP Research includes:
  • 👩‍🏫 weekly 60-min live lectures
  • 🤔 projects or practice assignments
  • 💭 feedback from exam readers
  • 💬 office hours led by student TAs
  • 🧑 active community & support system
It's $55, and it'll be worth it for the long run! 🙂 Sign up for Fiveable's AP Research course today!
After coming out of AP Research, you're going to be stronger in your analytic abilities while also learning how to write at the expected higher education level. You'll be glad you didn't cap on Capstone 😉

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