The benefits of completing an AP class are fairly well known--high school students can earn college credit, prepare for college-level courses, and expose themselves to more challenging material, among other advantages.
However, not all students are ready for AP classes at the same time. If you are uncertain about your own preparedness, there are several steps that you can take:
Speak with a current teacher in the subject matter
Chances are high that your instructor has advised other students who were uncertain about registering for an AP class. Typically, a teacher will recommend that you move to the AP or honors level, remain at your current level, or perhaps even drop to an easier level.
To receive your recommendation, schedule time to speak with your instructor. Ask how the AP course will be different, what skills you will need to succeed, and how students similar to yourself have performed in AP classes in the past.
Speak with your prospective AP teacher
If possible, meet with the instructor for your prospective AP course. He or she can likely provide you with a class syllabus, as well as explain the type of work that you will need to produce to succeed. This teacher may even be willing to review your past assignments and to offer candid feedback.
Assess your past effort level
If you are considering an AP course, you most likely had an A in your previous class. You may even be one of the top students in your year. But how hard did you have to work for that A? Were you studying for hours every day?
One of the easiest ways to determine if you are ready for AP courses is by asking yourself, "Did I feel challenged in my previous class?" If the answer is no, then it may be time for you to register for an AP course. However, if you felt deeply challenged, and are unsure whether you could exert more effort, it may not be wise to opt for AP.
Measure your passion for the subject
AP classes generally move faster and cover more difficult material than a "normal" high school course. If you have a strong love of the subject matter, you may welcome the opportunity to explore your passion--even if it is an exacting opportunity. If the AP class is connected to your future college major, this is another reason to consider enrolling in it.
Review your short list of schools
If you plan to apply to an elite college, an AP course can be a great addition to your application. Elite schools seek students who challenge themselves and excel in the most advanced classes at their high schools. You will thus need a very strong GPA and several AP courses on your transcript.
Consider your college plans
Do you hope to double-major, graduate early, participate heavily in extracurricular activities, or study abroad? Each of these activities can enhance your college experience, as well as prepare you for your future career. Getting a head start on earning college credit via AP classes can help you meet your goals while also readying you for university-level work.