Most Difficult Classes at KHS


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Raabia Ali, Staff Writer

With 20+ AP classes, many National Merit Scholars, and an abundance of high-achieving students, Kingwood High School is no stranger to academic excellence. To set themselves up for future success, many KHS students opt to take many challenging classes, whether they be AP, dual, or advanced. Nationwide, AP classes are regarded as the most rigorous classes available to high school students, which is understandable when you consider that these are classes students can potentially earn college credit for. Over the past 3 months, I have conducted a study on the classes KHS students believe to be the most difficult. This study incorporates the responses of 216 KHS students, the majority of whom have the most demanding coursework.
Out of the 216 students who filled out the form, 18 were freshmen, 38 sophomores, 61 juniors, and 99 seniors. The senior majority provided beneficial data to the study due to their experience with difficult classes. The hardest class at KHS, according to the data, is AP Chemistry. Following this, Advanced Physics and AP Physics C. Students usually struggle more with STEM classes, so this ranking is understandable.
AP Chemistry consistently ranks as one of the hardest AP classes and proves it with its AP exam pass rate of 53%. Some reasons KHS students ranked this as the hardest class include: “difficult to grasp concepts” and “it’s very in depth”. College students nationwide agree that AP Chem provides a solid foundation for any chemistry one may take in college, the test questions are very detailed and students need a deep understanding of the topic to answer them. You need some sort of math proficiency and should know the fundamentals of chemistry before you take it. Taking an intro to chemistry class before is recommended. If you plan on taking this class, do practice problems and ASK QUESTIONS! This class will require your time and effort.
AP Physics C is considered by students all over the country to be the hardest AP class offered by CollegeBoard. For that reason, at KHS, only seniors (exceptions can be made) are allowed to take this course. This can be attributed to the fact that it is calculus-based and students must know calculus well enough to apply it in physics. Students included “depth of material”, “overwhelming workload”, and simply “pain” as the reasons they believed it to be the most difficult class they have taken so far. Some tips from AP Physics C alumni include: “do timed practice” and “make sure you thoroughly understand the concepts”.
Moving on to individual grade levels, 9th grade had the lowest response rate with only 18 freshmen responding to the survey. The most difficult classes they listed, in order from most to least difficult, are Advanced Biology, Advanced Geometry, and AP Human Geography. Biology was “hard to understand” and there was “not a lot of time per unit”. Perhaps the dramatic change from broad middle school science classes to a specialized high school biology course is the reason so many freshmen struggle with this class. One senior recalled their freshmen biology experience, stating that “I was young and didn’t really know how to study. I also remember what we learned in class was super different from the tests. It was one of the only classes I truly struggled in.” Advanced Geometry is expected, many students find high school math classes difficult. The high votes for AP Human Geography is also understandable. It is the first AP class high-achieving freshmen take and it is a completely different format from what they are used to. Overall, the difficulty of these classes can mainly be attributed to the fact that these are the first classes students take in high school. Freshmen are put in a completely different environment from what they are used to and presumably they try the best they can, but it is understandably difficult. These classes provide the introductory framework to develop advanced study skills and adapt easily when placed in more difficult classes later in their high school careers.
Following this, the top 3 most difficult classes for 10th graders were: AP World History, Advanced Chemistry, and Advanced Biology. AP World History is a modern world history course, starting from 1200 CE to 2001. It has a pass rate of about 60% on the AP Exam and as of 2022, 13.2% of test takers achieved a 5 on the exam. KHS sophomores stated that “there is a lot of information to remember ”, “the advanced questions” and “it’s very detailed” as primary reasons they believed the class to be challenging. To anyone who may take this class, the best thing for you to do is always pay attention in class. Trying to cram in knowledge before the AP exam will be difficult and not benefit you. If you keep up with class content throughout the year, you’ll walk into the test with a solid basis of knowledge. Additionally, practice your writing skills. The free-response portion of the exam is worth about 60% of your final score. Practicing writing for this class will help you become a better writer overall, you will learn to analyze documents more easily and formulate your argument more rapidly. Advanced Chemistry is usually the first science class students take that incorporates math so widely throughout the curriculum. Perhaps this change throws students off and causes them to struggle. “Complicated material” and “the amount of stuff we learn and need to memorize in one unit” are the primary reasons students cited when asked what makes the class difficult.
Moving on to juniors, their most difficult classes, ranked from most to least arduous, are Advanced Physics, AP Chemistry, and Advanced Algebra 2. “The tests” and “the concepts are hard to understand from lecture” were the top reasons students struggled with Physics. According to one student, “physics was a lot of math that went beyond basic algebra unlike other science classes, every unit is connected so you have to have understood the previous unit well to understand the next.” When questioned, students say that visual and/or hands-on approaches to the curriculum help them better understand the concepts. Physics has math and formulas that must be understood to be applied correctly, which may make it difficult to understand for some students. Although it may appear difficult, don’t be discouraged from taking the class. There are tons of real-world applications (from improving your golf swing to launching a rocket) that come with learning physics.
Finally…the seniors. 12th graders are experienced veterans of AP classes and usually have taken or are taking one in every subject area (English, Math, Science, History). With this experience, seniors ranked the most difficult class they have taken as AP Physics C, AP Chemistry, and AP Calculus BC following it with a tie. I have already addressed why students struggle with AP Physics and AP Chemistry earlier, but I have yet to touch on the AP math courses. AP Calculus BC is considered the hardest math class at Kingwood High. CollegeBoard defines the class as “A first-semester college calculus course and the subsequent single-variable calculus course”. AP Calculus AB is also offered, but it focuses on topics that are taught in the college-equivalent first-semester calculus class while AP Calculus BC focuses on topics covered in both first- and second-semester calculus classes. Reasons seniors listed when asked why they believed it to be difficult included: “lots of homework, material is confusing” and “fast-paced”. If you are an underclassman wanting to take this class, make sure that you take Advanced PreCalculus BC to prepare for AP Calculus BC.
Looking over the results of this study, there is a common theme of students considering STEM classes to be the hardest. STEM is notorious for being challenging for students, both in high school and college. These classes build on previous knowledge, so it’s difficult to understand one concept if you didn’t fully grasp the previous one. We could go into all the reasons why students struggle with STEM classes, but that would need its own article. While these classes are challenging, KHS students go the extra mile and challenge themselves with hard coursework to prepare themselves for a successful college future. If anything, that demonstrates the drive and dedication Mustangs have, which sets us apart from other schools. Keep up the good work KHS!