Posted in HS4CC

Parent Question: Modern States for AP?

We’d like my daughter to take AP Biology next year. She can do it either through SC Virtual or through Modern States. Modern States probably offers higher quality and certainly offers more flexibility, what do you think?

I love Modern States so much and promote the CLEP vouchers so often that I often forget that Modern States *also* offers AP prep. That said, the two programs are very different. I think every time I use the word “CLEP” in a sentence I also use “Modern States” so this isn’t throwing any shade or criticism on Modern States, but how you’d use Modern States in your homeschool matters- so I want to offer some clarity.

Modern States calls their content “classes,” but this can be super confusing for parents. When a homeschooling parent hears or uses the word “class” we expect that “class” to cover the bases and cover the full scope and sequence of a course.

“Modern States Education Alliance™ offers free, high-quality online courses taught by college professors that prepare you for virtually all of the major AP and CLEP exams, which are well-established and widely-accepted.”

That’s not false, but it’s also painting an incomplete picture. Modern States courses are prerecorded lectures and auto graded quizzes on topics that line up with what’s covered on AP and CLEP exams. They do a VERY good job of targeting the most relevant topics that you’ll see on the tests.

Modern States courses do NOT have:

  • live instruction
  • instructors who teach the content
  • humans who interact with you
  • homework of any type
  • graded assignments of any type
  • feedback of any type
  • opportunities for you to “write”
  • opportunities for you to participate with others
  • exams
  • learning beyond the test

Modern States courses DO have:

  • optional videos
  • optional reading
  • optional links for more info
  • mandatory quizzes with multiple attempts to pass
  • a voucher reward when you pass all your quizzes

Modern States is a TEST PREP COURSE

“Test preparation (abbreviated test prep) or exam preparation is an educational course, tutoring service, educational material, or a learning tool designed to increase students’ performance on standardized tests.”

It’s ok- I love test prep. It’s a good way to bring a semester or year long course into focus so we can shift our attention to memorizing what we need to know for the exam. Modern States is a PERFECT way to finish out a high school class and help your student study for their CLEP test. I highly recommend it. Not only does it give them focus on the right material, but it fills gaps and you get college credit for FREE.

Modern States is NOT and AP course

Modern States is not an AP course. When a student studies content for an Advanced Placement exam, there is an extra layer you need to think about: writing.

Unlike CLEP, which is a multiple choice test, Advanced Placement exams are free response based. A free response question requires you to formulate the entire argument and articulate it in your own words without any supporting content. In other words, you’re not simply clicking and guessing, you’re WRITING! That kind of exam requires a lot better preparation. That kind of exam requires a course with a teacher who gives you opportunities to practice answering written / essay questions on a regular basis. AP might ask you a question about biology, but you’re also being graded on your ability to write about biology.

Layer Your Approach

Homeschooling for College Credit with CLEP or AP is all about layering. While I know this works well for CLEP, you can get by with a little less when you build your CLEP curriculum because the exam is multiple choice. For AP, you’ll need to be deliberate in your approach. Make sure your curriculum is thorough in content, but also that you’ve built in a writing-feedback loop.

I’ve written a lot about layering here and in Homeschooling for College Credit (see Chapter 5) but if you look at Layer 4, that’s where Modern States fits in. Modern States is test prep material because it brings the content into focus.

Layer 1: Official Exam Guide
Layer 2: Textbooks & MOOCs
Layer 3: Multimedia and Video
Layer 4: Test Prep Material <— MODERN STATES
Layer 5: Practice Tests

Yes, use Modern States for your AP exam prep, but don’t neglect the other layers! If you use Modern States as part of your teen’s AP course (as opposed to instead of an AP course), she’ll be well prepared on on her way to a passing score!


PA Homeschoolers:  Approved AP courses. Fully online $700-900


Crack AP: dozens of free AP practice tests for most subjects.  Fully online, $0

Modern States:  “test prep” course that follows a homeschool curriculum. Fully online, $0

Khan Academy: “test prep” course that follows a homeschool curriculum. Fully online, $0

Emile:  independent curriculum and “test prep” course.  Fully online, $20/month

Straighterline: AP curriculum and “test prep” course (limited to 4 courses)  Fully online, $99/month + $59 per course. independent curriculum and “test prep” course.  Fully online, $39/month

Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum: Several unofficial AP courses taught from a Christian worldview. Price varies.

Learn more about prepping for AP exams:


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit