AP vs. Honors (Meaning, Similarities, Differences, Which is Better)7 min read

At high school, students must take recommended graduation courses. Most of these courses are normal courses that all students can take, whether they want to go higher or not.

However, there is a usual misperception that students attending normal high school classes are not as bright as those in AP or honors, but that’s not true.

The resolution to take an AP or honors class is a personal choice and has nothing to do with intelligence.

At the same time, enrolling in challenging courses in high school is a nice way to show the colleges you which to attend later in the future how serious you are about your academics.

This article will compare “AP vs. Honors”, looking at their similarities, differences, and the benefits of each.

AP vs. Honors

What is AP?

AP stands for Advanced Placement. AP classes are more difficult than honors classes. However, students taking AP courses in high school will be evaluated in the same way as college students are.

These courses enable students to gain an insight into college life and a chance to get college credits. However, there is a catch here, because students must take an AP exam and pass at least 3 out of 5.

Few colleges may require that you pass at least four on the test. But, any one-year AP course is equivalent to a one-semester college course.

After completing the course, students usually take a regularized test and receive a grade of one to five (five is the highest). Most colleges give credit for grades of four or five (in some cases three) for specific subjects.

AP courses that are not available at the student’s high school can be self-taught, and an exam can be written with the prospects of gaining credit separately.

AP vs. Honors

What is Honors?

Honors classes are more in-depth versions of regular classes that usually cover more material in a shorter amount of time. Furthermore, honors classes are not required in high schools.

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An honors course usually includes the same curriculum as the normal version of that course. It is customized and targeted at high-performing students.

For instance, if you are taking honors biology, you will perform similar topics as normal biology, but the knowledge in the material will be in-depth.

At the same time, the compositions of honors courses are specified by the teacher, the school, or the region. There is no single national or state curriculum available.

AP vs. Honors: Similarities

The most common feature found in AP and honors classes is that they help prepare students for college. Both courses provide information, assignments, and tutor skills that are consistent with the college courses.

Lastly, one may conclude that both courses are very challenging.

AP vs. Honors: Differences

AP and honors classes are two popular types of meticulous classes that high school students take to showcase their readiness for college and high achievements.

While the two classes can demonstrate how ready a student is to pursue excellence in their academics, they are different in many ways, such as


This is different for various high schools, although honors courses are generally more available than AP courses.

Additionally, there are usually honors courses present at various stages of the same subject, while AP courses only appear at one stage for each subject.

Consider a student who can give Honors French II, III, and IV but only one AP French Language.

Even GPA varies by high school, but traditionally, AP courses have more points (a 5.0 or 4.0 scale A), whereas honors courses have half-point (a 4.5 scale A);


AP courses are more difficult than honors. Some AP courses are for freshman and second-year students as well.

As for curriculum, AP courses have a set schedule that teachers follow to assess students’ understanding.

Honors courses, however, are not regularized but are at the disposition of the teacher, school, or region; Exams in AP exams occur on particular dates in May and June.

Students from various schools take the exam at the same time to avoid fraud. Following that, honors exams are scheduled according to each school’s schedule.

However, the AP exam is standardized, but not for honors;

College Credit:

Based upon the school you attend and the course of the AP exam you are writing, you should get college credit for AP grades of three, four, or four-five.

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Whether you get an A in an honors course, you will not get college credit, even though it could help decide placement or eligibility.

Typically, your teacher or school will recommend their students for placement in an honors course. This starts as early as high school.

Most times, offering honors courses early in high school will get you on the way to earning APs in your junior and senior years.

Although students are often endorsed for AP courses by their teachers, anyone can take an AP exam as long as it’s being conducted at a school or area they can easily reach. 

AP vs. Honors

Benefits Of taking Honors Classes:

Anybody can enroll for honors courses as long as they have the correct grades, results, and instructors to support them. Sitting for honors courses is good choice students make in their pursuit of higher education.

At the same time, honors courses are guided by a standard format that is similar to that used in high schools.

However, they provide more topics and go deeper with more intensive learning and study. When colleges and high schools are in the same state, honors courses are of higher ratings on admissions.

On the other hand, enrolling in honors courses translates to faster learning in class, more work, and more difficult exams.

Acquiring all A’s in high school is a great job, however, leaving with honors is a nice way to set oneself apart and earn rewards with college credits.

AP vs. Honors

Benefits of taking AP Classes: 

Like dual enrollment at a college, AP courses offer academically high-profile and more motivated students a platform to prepare for college-level work.

Attending these courses will be advantageous to the student, especially when the AP test scores are remarkably high.

One peculiar observation about performing well in AP classes is that many colleges will give credits to any student with an impressive result.

Also, they place them in more appropriate classes on acceptance. Moreover, the amount of credits or placements depends on the school the student is applying to.

Some particular universities permit high school students to take AP courses on their campus as long as they qualify through a placement test.

But, students from all over the country enroll for the AP test in May each year either online or offline.

The perk of it all is that online AP courses can be accessible to students in public or private schools.

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AP vs. Honors

Which do colleges prefer between AP and honors?

A lot of public universities want to see enrollees with honors classes because it depicts commitment and determination. While the most reputable schools in the country, the Ivy League institutions, generally like AP classes on transcripts.

Will honors classes increase a student’s GPA?

Honors classes often add 0.5 points to students’ GPA. Graduating with a 3.5 GPA in honors courses is equivalent to a 4.0 GPA in normal courses.

Do colleges have interest in honors classes?

Honors classes demonstrate that a student is very academically driven and achieves excellent academic achievement, hence the answer is yes.

Are honors grades lower than AP?

Looking from a particular perspective, one could say “Yes” because AP classes usually have a higher GPA due to their level of difficulty and more challenging course outlines.

Whereas AP classes proffer college-level course activities; schools place them on a higher pedestal than honors courses. However, honors classes have a lot of weight during the admissions process.

AP vs. Honors


A student’s zeal and competency to overcome a difficult and sophisticated curriculum will undoubtedly increase the chances of admission into top schools.

In short, colleges love to see many honors and AP courses on students’ transcripts, especially when they are available at the high school they attended.

Most top universities do hope that students take AP courses and tests. If possible, consider taking AP courses instead of their honors equivalents.

However, make sure you organize your plans well to avoid adding too many APs. At the same time, you should also consider your specialization.

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