Honors courses are classes that are similar in course content to regular or college-prep level courses, but are designed to give students an extra challenge. Usually honors classes are offered in nearly every subject, especially in basic topics like math, English, history, and science. These classes typically cover all of the topics that lower level classes cover but in most cases, cover the topic with more challenging material. The specific difficulty level and material covered in each honors class is largely up to the school, school district, or specific teachers. An Honors class usually requires students to learn at a faster pace, apply their knowledge more widely, or perhaps practice their critical thinking and analytical skills in new ways.


Differences from Regular Classes


Tests and exams are more challenging in an Honors course. They might cover more topics or simply just require the students to have a deeper and more complex understanding of the material. Many schools require that the grades given in Honors classes are more focused on exams, and less on homework and class work; reflecting the grading systems that are common in higher learning institutions.


In addition, students should expect much greater workloads in honors classes. They should expect not only more, but more challenging coursework and assignments. This may include analytical papers, more independent research and, in general, more assignments that require the student to think for his or herself.


Benefits of Honors Courses


There are many reasons that students like honors classes. First of all, these courses are designed to suit student who would be bored and lack motivation in regular level classes. So if your student is skilled or really enjoys a particular subject, then he or she might elect to take the honors level. Additionally, colleges like to see students that have been challenging themselves. Good grades in regular level courses are less impressive to college admissions counselors than good grades in honors level courses. Of course, the question is how do average grades in honors classes look compared to good grades in regular classes? There is no one correct answer to this question, so the best advice is to encourage your student to play to his or her strengths and take the honors classes that her or she will enjoy and are suited to his or her abilities.


How to Enroll in an Honors Course


Incoming high school freshman should look for honors recommendations from their 8th grade teachers towards the end of their 8th grade year. Usually these recommendations are based on past coursework and sometimes state standardized test scores. If your child is already in high school, requirements can vary a great deal more. Some classes require teacher recommendations from the class that precedes the class you are interested in, or a particular grade, or both. For example, to take Honors Geometry, some schools might require an A in regular Algebra 1 or a
B accompanied by a teacher recommendation. Some even require an entrance exam or paper. Prerequisites for each class are different and information on these requirements is usually available in the student handbook or from instructors directly.


Honors Courses Calculation Method


The GPA calculation for honors courses is different than the normal class. Normally, if students earned A in the non-honors class, the point for that class would be 4. On the other hand, if student earned A in the honors / AP classes, the point would be 5 instead of 4. Therefore, the honors students tend to have higher GPA than other students but in exchange the classes are much more difficult.




Junior high students who have participated in the GATE program or who have graduated middle school with straight A’s and received various awards will, of course, choose Honors courses in High School. Nevertheless, shortly after starting high school, the students may realize that it is difficult to adapt to their new learning environment. This is mainly because the learning styles between elementary, middle, and high school are different. In elementary and middle school, teachers often offer many extra credit opportunities and place less emphasis on tests to encourage students. As long as the students turn in their homework on time, review before the rest and earn a few extra credit points, there’s no doubt that they will have good grades.


In high School honors courses, students are not only coming from different middle schools, but to be in such courses, they are all at a higher level of learning abilities. In classes, there will always be someone who will receive an A, B or C. In addition, the demands for homework and tests are different; if the students is not up to the task of a higher level of expectation in their schoolwork, their grades would inevitably suffer.

The decision of taking Honors courses depends on the time management skills of each student, their future goals and aspirations, and the student’s foundation in each of the subjects. The greatest benefits of taking Honors classes are higher GPA averages and better preparation for future AP courses.


The extra points earned in GPA due to taking honors courses are not all acknowledged by the UC system. For more detail, please visit the UC website at doorways.ucop.edu/list