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Honors & Advanced Placement (AP)


The Tamalpais Union High School District offers honors and advanced placement classes for students at Archie Williams, Redwood and Tamalpais high schools, and through independent study at Tamiscal. Please see your individual school website for more information.  If you still have questions after examining this document, do not hesitate to contact the counseling department at your high school directly. Students at San Andreas or Tamiscal should contact their principal.  

ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) courses are designed to prepare students to take College Board-sponsored Advanced Placement (AP) exams. These national curricula are developed by both high school and college teachers under the auspices of the College Board. Most universities award college credit based on AP exam scores.

HONORS COURSES are developed locally by district teachers to meet the needs of talented students. An Honors class parallels the curriculum offered in the corresponding regular class but may cover additional topics or some topics in greater depth. Honors courses may be organized as separate classes, or as extra projects or seminars supplementing a regular course.


What AP and Honors classes are offered at the various district schools?
See the Courses of Study for a general list of the courses available in the District, and ask check your school's website for more information about the courses offered at your school site.

When and how do students get information about a particular AP or Honors class?
During the ninth grade Four Year Planning Conference, students and parents should discuss plans for all courses they are considering. Also, they may schedule an appointment with their school counselor at any time for further information.

Most Honors and AP classes are open to 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. Information on seminar-format Honors classes will be discussed in the regular class at the start of the school year.

During late May of each year, any placement exams will be conducted and/or recommendations will be collected for AP/Honors classes with a screening process. Students should consult the bulletin at their school or contact Honors/AP teachers directly for exact dates. Students will be notified if they are accepted into an AP/Honors course for the following year before they leave school in June.

How do AP and Honors classes affect a student’s GPA?
Due to the rigorous nature of AP and Honors classes, the district awards a weighted grade point (A=5; B=4; C=3) for these classes. These added grade points will tend to boost a student’s GPA and class ranking.

The degree to which colleges and universities accept these enhanced grades varies by institution. For example, the University of California (UC) accepts some, but not all, of the district’s Honors courses when calculating GPA as part of its admissions procedures. Counselors receive an annual list designating which courses are accepted by UC for weighted GPA. Some universities may not give weighted grades for AP and/or Honors classes or credit for Advanced Placement exams.

What are the admissions criteria and prerequisites for AP and Honors classes?
Each AP and Honors class has its own different prerequisites and criteria for enrollment. The following is a brief description for each of the various disciplines. For more specific information please contact the Department Chair at a particular school:

  • MATH: Certain grade in pre-requisite course. Passing score on placement test in Geometry, Advanced Algebra & PreCalculus. C or better in PreCalculus required for AP Calculus. Students in Core Plus should consult with their teacher regarding preparation for AP Calculus
  • SCIENCE: Certain grade in prerequisite course. Teacher recommendation. Passing score on placement test in Integrated Science 3-4H, ChemH, PhysicsH. AP Physics requires meeting 4 out of 5 criteria as set by the teacher.
  • ENGLISH: Teacher recommenda-tion. Passing score on placement test in AP English Lit, AP English Comp, and Advanced Expo. For English 1-4 Honors Seminar and American Studies Honors Seminar, students must maintain B or better in their regular course.
  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Teacher Recommendation. Passing score on placement test in AP U.S. History requires C or better in 1st semester in order to continue to 2nd.
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Certain grade in prerequisite course. Teacher recommendation. AP French Lit requires C grade 1st semester to continue to 2nd. Passing score on placement test in Sp 7-8H, AP Spanish & AP Latin.
  • APPLIED TECHNOLOGY: Architectural Design H requires completion of Engineering Graphics or Drafting 1-2 and Architectural Design 1-2 with graded averaging B+ or better or by teacher permission. AP Computer Science requires a C or better in Algebra 1-2, C in Programming 1-2 or teacher approval.
  • FINE ARTS: Completion of prerequisite course. Teacher recommendation. Theater Directing H requires concurrent enrollment in Advanced Drama.
  • COMPUTER PROGRAMMING: Requires a C in Programming 1-2 or teacher approval.

What are the pros and cons of AP/Honors classes?
- Students have the opportunity to challenge themselves in a more demanding class.
- AP/Honors classes expose students to information that they might otherwise not encounter in high school.
- Students who pass Advanced Placement exams may earn advanced standing or college credit when they enroll in a university.
- College and university admissions departments may look favorably on students who take more challenging programs.

- AP and Honors classes have a significantly heavier work load and may increase student stress and minimize time for other activities.
- Taking multiple AP/Honors classes at the same time while engaging in extracurricular activities and/or employment in a part time job is not recommended.

How many Honors/AP classes should a student attempt at one time?
Counselors usually advise students to take no more than two Honors or AP classes simultaneously. If students are involved in athletics, a part-time job or another extracurricular activity, less than two advanced courses may be appropriate.

Is it better to take an AP/Honors class and earn a lower grade or take the regular class and earn a higher grade?
This is a difficult question which has no single answer. When colleges make admissions decisions, they look at a variety of factors including grades, rigor of classes taken, test scores, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations and student essays. Various institutions weigh each of the factors somewhat differently.

When making a decision about which particular class to take, students need to approach the decision on a case-by-case basis. Careful consideration of all the advice above and an appointment with the school counselor together are the best ways to answer this question.

Are AP Exams required and how much do they cost?
Each AP class is designed to prepare students for the College Board AP Exams given in May. Students are strongly encouraged to take the exam, but the exam is not required as part of the course. The exams currently cost $73 and reduced cost applications are available. Contact counselors for further information.