3 Tips for Succeeding in Your AP Classes

Eva Mckinzie
Published on
May 18, 2021

You’ve signed up for an AP class -or maybe 3, 5, 7 AP classes- and you’re feeling nervous for the upcoming year. You’re worried about the workload and the difficulty of the test you’ll take in May. You’re thinking, “What if my teacher isn’t the greatest, and what if I won’t adequately learn the material by test day?”

Lucky for you, this Simple Studies article will hopefully make you feel a bit more confident by showing you that there are so many resources for AP classes out there, and so many things you can do as a student to maximize your success!

Tip #1: Don’t disregard the textbook

It’s there for a reason. You may have had classes in the past where you didn't need to use your textbook, but this usually isn’t the case for AP classes. These textbooks are designed to prepare you for the exam. They are there to teach you how to think critically, which is a skill needed to succeed in any AP class.

Speaking on a personal level, I took AP US History my sophomore year and can confidently say that my textbook was one of my best friends. In one of my classes, my teacher didn’t usually cover the units in deep detail- my knowledge was pretty superficial. However, during my preparation period for the exam, I really made use of my textbook and picked up many details that we had not gotten to in class.

Reading your textbook helps you gain more knowledge; these classes cover so many time periods and significant events that it’s no doubt your teacher will skip over some things simply due to the limited time he or she has to teach you the course.

Looking over the section of the textbook that corresponds with what you’re learning in class is a small thing you can do to ensure full understanding of each unit of your AP class. This is bound to lead to you feeling more prepared once test day comes.

Tip #2: Talk to your teachers and let them help you create a personalized plan for success

Teachers can definitely seem unapproachable and a bit scary. I’ve definitely been there. There have been many instances at which I’ve needed help but didn’t seek that help. However, I have learned that teachers are there to assist you and to guide you towards the success you desire to achieve. The reality is that teachers tend to be happy when a student shows interest in their class!

Approaching them with questions about the material or simply for advice can make a big difference and can show them that you are proactive about your studies and want to take advantage of them as a resource.

Again, I speak from personal experience with my IB and AP classes: Some of my best relationships with teachers would not have been possible if I hadn’t overcome my fear of asking them for help and speaking out about what I need from them. I have found it very useful to be specific about what you’re struggling with or simply what you want to know regarding success in their class or on the exam.

That being said, more often than not, your teachers would be more than willing to talk with you about your strengths, weaknesses, and fears in terms of their class to create a personalized plan for success. As teachers of an AP or an IB class, these people usually know their subject well, and know what it takes for success on the tests.

Having a detailed discussion regarding you as a student can allow great relationships to be formed between you and your teachers, and can show your teachers your dedication and desire to do well!

Tip #3: Form study groups with your classmates

Get to know your classmates! You never know how it may turn out- perhaps you’ll find a lifelong friend, or at least someone that can help get you through the class.

In many AP classes, you can find lots of motivated and helpful people. Most of them tend to be more than willing to help you out with whatever you need. While some people may choose not to be collaborative, know that there are so many people that differ from them.

Consider forming study groups with the people in your classes. You are all learning the same material, and have the same goal of succeeding on the May exam. So, why not work together?

I recommend perhaps meeting up before unit tests (or just video calling, given the current situation) to ensure that you all are adequately prepared for an assessment. As you get closer and closer to May, perhaps you can set up more frequent review sessions.

Add some fun in as well! Study for a while, and then go reward yourself somehow! It truly can be a fun time during which you not only learn and review the material, but also are able to bond with your peers!

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