术语荣誉挑战refers to the practice of offering higher-level or more academically challenging assignments, coursework, or learning opportunities in a “heterogeneously grouped” or “mixed-ability” course—i.e., a course in which students of different abilities or levels of preparation are grouped together. In academic programs that do not offer multiple course levels to students, honors challenges are used in place of separate荣誉课程。
作为创造单独课程或“轨道”的替代方案，荣誉挑战基本上创造了“荣誉级”课程作业和在所有课程中承认的可能性，并可能适用于所有学生。Critics of academic “tracking” contend, among other arguments, that the multiple course levels in public high schools typically mirror existing social and socioeconomic divisions—i.e., minorities end up being grouped with other minorities, and low-income students end up in the same courses or lower-level tracks as other low-income students. Consequently, many educators believe the practice reinforces and perpetuates existing social and educational不平等。策略等差异化荣誉挑战也旨在避免创造新的不公平：令人缺乏高性能或学者加速的学生，通过给予他们不充分的教育。
Honors challenges are also a way to introduce a more flexible approach to honors courses, which typically require students to meet certain prerequisites (e.g., a teacher recommendation, a grade of A or B in a previous course, or a certain score on a placement test) and to enroll in the course for a full semester or year. As an alternative to traditional honors courses, an honors-challenge option may allow teachers to extend “honors-level” assignments and coursework to more students and to do so at different times throughout the year. For example, if certain students start a course academically behind, but they quickly catch up to their peers, the teacher may introduce an honors challenge partway through the year, whereas that option might not be available to the students if the school were employing a more traditional tiered course structure.