Tips for Surviving AP Classes

No one said your AP classes would be easy--in fact, they said the opposite. But that doesn't mean you won't survive, especially with these tips.

Any seasoned AP student will tell you that surviving such a rigorous course isn’t a piece of cake. Most AP students will be more than happy to talk about the seemingly endless workload, high-stress exams, and paragraphs of highlighting. Before I began the trek that is AP, I had no idea what to expect. Was I smart enough for this class? Would I pass the exam?

If you’re new to AP, or still just trying to figure out what you’re doing, use these simple tips to get on track.

Actually read the textbook

Most courses use a textbook, and some are based entirely around reading. I know, reading 50 pages on the French Revolution isn’t the ideal way to spend your night (if it is, then good for you!), but it can be the difference between acing your test or totally bombing it.

Plan ahead

Reading an entire chapter—or two or three—isn’t something the average student will be able to do the night before a test. If you plan ahead, you might only have to read 10 pages a week rather than 50 the night before. As you move from chapter to chapter, think about how many pages you’ll be able to read a night, and when you’ll be able to do assignments.

Use free time

There will be plenty of times in a class where you won’t be doing anything. Instead of sleeping or texting, use this time to be productive. Trust me, you’ll thank me when you finish your homework in a second period study rather than at home, when you’d much rather be binge watching your favorite show on Netflix.

Related: 4 Techniques to Improve Your Time Management

Ask for help

Unfortunately, most students can’t roll through an AP class without applying themselves at least a little. It can be scary to ask for help, but sometimes a quick meeting with your teacher or staying after school for tutoring can make a huge difference. Your teachers are there for a reason, and they want to help you!

Pay attention

In lecture-heavy classes, it’s so easy to zone out. I’ve been there a million times, especially first thing in the morning. So do whatever you can to be mentally present. If that means loading up on coffee or eliminating other possible distractions (for me, it's my phone), make sure you drink a big cup of joe or leave your phone in your locker.

Share notes

If you go to a school that gives you computers, taking and sharing notes with peers is as simple as pushing a button. Note sharing has gotten me through the times where I zoned out and has kept me on track when I’ve missed classes. It also helps to read your classmates interpretations of the lesson! Your peers may be able to help you grasp topics you didn’t understand from the teacher by explaining them a different way in their notes.

Related: How to Take Better Notes in High School and College

Remember, stress is okay!

When you sign up for an AP course, you’re not necessarily signing your school year away to 24/7 stress and work, but there will be times when it can all get overwhelming. It’s okay to stress! It’s also okay to take a break and treat yourself to some “me time” and relax.

Buy the review book

Kaplan and The Princeton Review have the best AP workbooks out there. The $15–$25 price tag can be off-putting, but if you’re planning on taking the exam, they’re vital to passing. They’re full of all of the information you’ll need to know for the exam and how to approach every section.

Get organized

I know, this one is obvious, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to stay on top of things. Everyone has a different method of organization, whether you use a planner, a calendar, or an app on your phone, it's important to keep all your due dates and tests in one place. It's also a good idea to keep all your notes organized in one folder or binder.

RelatedHow to Put the “A” in AP Classes

Use the internet

We’re lucky in this day and age to have pretty much all the information we ever need at our fingertips. Websites like Quizlet are great for last minute reviewing, and Course Notes has outlines for just about any textbook. YouTube has great content for AP classes like Crash Course and Overly Sarcastic Productions. There are also plenty of online forums like eNotes geared toward helping students.

Got more advice to share? Tweet us all your AP-surviving hacks! Just tag @CollegeXpress!

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About Tayler Butters

Tayler Butters

Tayler Butters is a high school student with a passion for music, photography, and writing. She loves spending her time in church and with her golden retriever, Lilly.


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