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9 Quick Tips to Help You Survive AP Classes

No one said your AP classes would be easy—in fact, everyone probably says the opposite. 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 courses, I had no idea what to expect. Was I smart enough for these classes? Would I pass the exams? If you’re new to AP classes, or still just trying to figure out what you’re doing, use these simple tips to get and stay on track.

1. Actually read the textbook

Most courses use a textbook, and some are based entirely on reading—we've all been in a reading-heavy English class. 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 bombing it. Take the time, read the book, and take some notes on what you think might be important enough to show up on the test.

2. 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 get through assignments.

3. Use free time

There will be plenty of times in a class or a free period 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 watching your favorite show. Fill up your spare time in school for less work you have to do outside of school. 

Related: 4 Techniques to Improve Your Time Management

4. Ask for help

Unfortunately, most students can’t roll through an AP class without pushing 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 a tutoring session can make a huge difference. Your teachers and peers are there for a reason, and they want to help you! If you're intimidated asking for one-on-one help, consider asking some friends to make a study group to get help in a more relaxed atmosphere. 

5. Pay attention

In lecture-heavy classes, it’s so easy to zone out. I’ve been there a million times, especially if the class is first thing in the morning. So do whatever you can to be mentally present in your AP courses. If that means loading up on coffee or eliminating other possible distractions, make sure you drink a big cup of joe or leave your phone in your locker. If you don't have assigned seats in the class, try sitting closer to the teacher where it might be easier to pay attention away from other potentially distracting people. 

6. Share notes

If you attend a school that gives you computers, taking and sharing notes with peers is as simple as pushing a button. Sharing notes has gotten me through the times when I zoned out and has kept me on track when I’ve missed a class or two. 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 in a different way in their notes.

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

7. Buy the review book

If you’re planning on taking the AP exams for any courses, an AP workbook could be vital to passing. Kaplan and The Princeton Review have the best AP workbooks out there, but the $15–$25 price tag can be off-putting. Consider looking for scholarships that are awarded to high school students for academic purposes like this. These books are full of all of the information you’ll need to know for the exam and how to approach every section and could give you a leg up.

8. Get organized

I know, this one is obvious, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to stay on top of things and keep track of all your academic materials. 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 as well as all your notes and handouts from class in one folder or binder.

9. Use the internet

We’re lucky in this day and age to have pretty much all the information we ever need at our fingertips online. Websites like Quizlet are great for last-minute reviewing, and Course Notes has easy-to-follow 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.

Related: Put the A in AP Classes With These 5 Simple Academic Tips

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. As a final tip, just try to remember that it’s okay to stress! A little bit of stress is healthy because it means you care about doing well and improving academically. However, it’s also okay to take a break and treat yourself to some “me time” and relax.

If you're looking for even more advice on getting through any classes, find it all in Our Best Advice for Homework, Studying, and Tests.

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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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CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

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