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Advanced Placement

Honors vs AP Classes: What are the 5 Key Differences?

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

Updated on: 01 Jul 2024


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Are you a high school student struggling between Honors vs AP Classes? If that’s the case, you are not alone.

Which type of class should you take? It depends on your individual goals and abilities.
Honors vs AP classes offer different benefits. Honors and AP classes are advanced courses that allow students to challenge themselves academically and prepare for college. However, they differ in key ways, such as the difficulty level, the material depth, etc. 

If you are interested in challenging yourself and learning more about a particular subject then AP classes may be a good fit for you. If you want to boost your GPA, honors classes may be a better option.

So, whether you’re a high-achieving student looking for a challenge or just trying to figure out your options for next year, keep reading to learn more about Honors vs. AP classes.

What are high school honors classes?

Honors classes are more challenging than regular high school classes. They typically cover the same material as regular classes, but they go into more depth and require more independent work.

Honors classes can boost your GPA and show colleges that you are capable of taking on challenging coursework.

What are the benefits of taking Honors classes?

The benefits of taking honors classes in high school include:

  1. Developing better study habits: Honors classes require more time and effort from students, which can help them develop better study techniques and time-management skills.
  2. Preparing for college: Honors classes provide a more stimulating and interactive learning environment, which can better prepare students for the rigorous coursework in college.
  3. Enhancing critical thinking skills: Honors classes encourage students to think critically and analyze complex topics, which can enhance their problem-solving skills and prepare them for higher-level courses.
  4. Demonstrating academic excellence: Taking honors classes and achieving good grades can demonstrate academic excellence to college admissions officers, increasing a student’s chances of acceptance into a prestigious college or university.
  5. Gaining subject-specific knowledge: Honors classes cover topics in greater depth, giving students a more comprehensive understanding of a subject and helping them succeed in higher-level courses.
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What are AP Classes?

AP classes, or Advanced Placement classes, are college-level courses that are offered in high school through which you can earn college credits. They are designed to give students the opportunity to earn college credit while they are still in high school.

AP classes are typically more challenging than regular high school classes, and they require a significant amount of time and effort.

What are the benefits of taking AP classes?

The benefits of taking AP classes in high school are:

  1. College Credit: Students who score well on the AP exams can earn college credit, which can help them save time and money by reducing the number of college courses they need to take.
  2. College Admissions: AP classes demonstrate to college admissions officers that students are challenging themselves and taking rigorous coursework. It can make a student’s college application more competitive.
  3. Improved Academic Skills: AP classes are more challenging than regular high school classes, which can help students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and time-management skills that will benefit them in college and beyond.
  4. GPA Boost: AP courses are weighted, meaning they carry a higher GPA point value than regular courses. It can boost a student’s GPA, which is important for college admissions and scholarship applications.
  5. Subject Mastery: AP classes allow students to delve deeper into a subject and better understand the material. It can help students build a solid foundation of knowledge that they can use throughout their academic and professional careers.

Comparison between Honors vs AP classes

Honors classes and Advanced Placement (AP) classes are two popular options for high school students seeking academic rigor and challenge. 

While both types of courses offer advanced coursework, there are significant differences between honors classes and AP classes in terms of content, level of difficulty, and potential benefits for college admissions. 

In this regard, we have made a comparison between honors vs AP classes to help students make informed decisions about which type of course to take.Honors vs AP classes

ParametersHonors ClassesAP Classes
EligibilityEligibility for Honors courses varies by schoolAnyone can enroll in AP Classes
CurriculumIt is generally decided by Department Headsand respective subject teachersIt is decided by the College Board.
Impact on GPAAn increase of 1.0-grade pointAn increase of 0.5-grade point
Difficulty LevelMore challenging than regular classesCollege-level
Exam Place and DateIt is generally held at school with otherregular exams according to the standard school timetableAP exams are held at institutionsassigned by College Board in May-June every year.  
Exam FeesNo exam fees$97 per exam
Impact on College Credits or PlacementThere is no impact on college credits orplacement in college-level coursesIt helps to earn college credits andmay lead to advanced placement in college courses.
Honors vs AP classes

1. College Credit

AP classes and honors classes have the potential to enhance a student’s college application, but AP courses offer an extra advantage of earning college credit.

However, it is important to note that not all colleges and universities accept AP credits. Some may have specific score requirements or limitations on the number of credits that can be earned through AP exams.

Therefore, students must research and understand their chosen college’s policies on AP credits before taking AP classes and exams.

Nonetheless, scoring well on an AP exam can still demonstrate to colleges that the student has strong academic abilities and can handle rigorous coursework at a college level.

2. Difficulty Level

It’s a fact that AP courses are generally more advanced than honors courses, as they are designed and set by the College Board to mirror college-level coursework. They aim to prepare students for regular college work and are, therefore, more challenging.

On the other hand, honors courses are still advanced high school courses that require more rigor than regular classes.

However, the difficulty level of honors courses can vary depending on the subject studied. Some honors courses may be more challenging than others, and students should evaluate their abilities and interests when selecting courses.

When comparing the difficulty level between honors and AP courses, AP courses are considered more demanding. Subjects such as Physics and History are typically viewed as the most challenging AP courses, while Psychology and English Literature may be relatively easier.

However, students should rely on more than just the perceived difficulty level of a course when selecting their classes. They should consider their personal goals, interests, and strengths, and seek support from teachers and peers to excel in their coursework.

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3. Impact on GPA

Many students prioritize achieving a high GPA and getting accepted into a reputable college. The good news is that both goals can be accomplished by taking certain courses.

Taking an AP course can boost your GPA by up to 1-grade point in that subject. For instance, if your current GPA in biology is 3.6 and you enroll in AP Biology, your GPA could increase to 4.6.

On the other hand, taking an honors course can only boost your GPA by up to 0.5 grade points. This is because AP courses are generally more challenging than honors courses.

Some high schools may have a different grading system for AP courses, so it’s best to check with the administration before enrolling in any courses for college applications.

4. Curriculum 

The College Board is responsible for creating the curriculum and administering the AP exam. Therefore, the syllabus for AP courses is standardized and remains the same for all students nationwide.

In contrast, the curriculum for honors courses is typically created by the teacher or the school’s administration. This means that the subject teacher or the university’s administration may be involved in designing the syllabus for honors courses. It’s crucial for students taking honors courses to establish a good relationship with their teachers to succeed in their studies.

Overall, while AP courses have a standardized curriculum set by the College Board, honors courses may have more flexibility in their curriculum design. Students should consider their academic goals and abilities when selecting courses and seek support from their teachers to excel in their studies.

5. Exam Fees

Honors courses are advanced-level school courses that do not require any additional fees beyond regular tuition costs. Schools provide these courses for the benefit of their students.

However, taking an AP exam incurs a fee of approximately $93 per exam in the US, US territories, and Canada, regardless of the subject. The College Board sets this fee for AP exams and takes into account various factors, such as international sites and school rebates.

Students should consider the cost of AP exams when deciding to take these courses and plan accordingly.

Honors vs AP classes: Which is better for you?

High school students studying
Honors vs AP classes: Which is better for you?

When deciding between AP and honors courses, it is important to consider your academic goals and future plans. Both AP and honors courses offer more rigorous and advanced academic options compared to regular classes, which can look impressive on college applications.

AP courses are a better choice if you are looking to stand out in your college applications and potentially earn college credit. A high AP exam score shows universities that you have the ability to handle college-level coursework and may also earn you credit toward your college degree.

On the other hand, honors courses may be a better choice if you have a specific academic interest or major in mind. These courses offer more in-depth and comprehensive information on a particular subject and may help you build a strong foundation in that area.

Ultimately, the decision between AP and honors courses depends on your academic goals, interests, and future plans. It is important to weigh the benefits and challenges of each option and choose the course that best suits your needs.


Honors and AP classes are both great options for high school students who want to challenge themselves and prepare for college.

Honors classes offer a more rigorous curriculum than regular classes, while AP classes are college-level courses that can lead to college credit. The best choice for you will depend on your individual academic goals, interests, and abilities.

If you are interested in challenging yourself and learning at a faster pace, then honors classes may be a good option for you. Honors classes can help you develop good study habits and prepare for the rigors of college coursework. They can also give you a boost in your GPA, which can be helpful when applying to college.

If you are interested in earning college credit while you are still in high school, then AP classes may be a good option for you. AP classes can also help you develop good study habits and prepare for the rigors of college coursework. However, AP classes are more demanding than honors classes, so you will need to be prepared to put in a lot of work.

Honors vs AP Classes – the decision of whether to take honors or AP classes is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best choice for you will depend on your individual goals and needs.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Are honors classes regarded as inferior to AP classes?

No, honors classes are not necessarily regarded as inferior to AP classes. Honors classes are designed to offer more challenging and advanced coursework compared to regular classes, while AP classes are college-level courses that prepare students for the AP exam. Both types of courses can be impressive on a college application and offer valuable learning opportunities.

Is it necessary to take an AP or honors course if I am targeting the Ivy League or top schools?

It’s not necessary to take AP or honors courses if you want to get into Ivy League or top schools. However, these courses are highly recommended as they can give you an advantage over other applicants. Taking AP or honors courses and doing well in them demonstrates that you are capable of handling rigorous coursework and can prepare you for the demands of college-level academics. So, while it’s not a requirement, taking challenging courses like AP or honors can help strengthen your college application.

Do colleges value honors classes?

Yes, colleges value honors classes. Honors classes demonstrate to colleges that students are willing to challenge themselves academically and take on more advanced coursework. Colleges consider a student’s academic record, including the rigor of their coursework, when making admissions decisions. Honors classes can be a distinguishing factor that sets a student apart from other applicants who have taken fewer advanced courses. However, it is important to note that colleges also consider a variety of other factors in addition to a student’s academic record.

Do colleges prioritize AP or honors courses?

It depends on the college and its admission policies. Generally, colleges value both AP and honors courses as they demonstrate a student’s academic rigor and ability to challenge themselves.

However, some colleges may prioritize AP courses over honors courses and vice-versa. Ultimately, it’s best to consult with the admissions offices of specific colleges to understand their individual preferences and requirements.

Do honors courses raise your GPA?

Yes. Honors classes frequently increase your GPA by 0.5 points. A 3.5 GPA in an honors course could be equivalent to a 4.0 GPA in a regular course.

How many Honors classes during college level should I enroll in?

Enroll for 2 to 3 honor classes each sem. It is well manageable.

However, if you have more time and think that your favorite subjects are also there, you can opt for as much as you can. There is no limit. 

How can I prepare for college-level AP exams?

Usually, your school provides additional resources for AP classes.
However, apart from self-study, you should enroll for AP classes with expert 1-on-1 tutoring with Wiingy.

Written by by

Apoorvaa Agarwal

Reviewed by by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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