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How To Succeed In AP Classes & AP Exams

Last updated February 27, 2022

How To Succeed In AP Classes and AP Exams

Before you start your AP class

Remember that AP classes are college-level classes

The classwork and AP exams will be hard. You should expect to be challenged and tested throughout the semester.

Check out a good AP prep book

For each AP class you take, you'll receive a textbook from your school. However, it's worth heading to a library to check out AP prep guides for the class(es) you're in. While your textbooks provide essential information on the core subject(s), these prep guides will help you better understand themes and concepts as they relate to the overall goals of your AP class. Having this insight will give you a better understanding of what your teacher wants you to understand and what will be on the actual AP exam. 

Thoroughly review the class syllabus

At the beginning of the semester, your teacher will likely review their academic plan for the year and distribute a syllabus outlining topics, assignments, exams, and other important information. This is one of your most important resources to stay organized and on track in the class. Read your syllabus carefully - and note all important assignment due dates, test dates, and the AP exam schedule from the syllabus in your calendar or planner. 

During AP Classes

Keep yourself organized

Staying organized is critical when enrolled in an AP course. During the year, you should take notes in class and complete all assignments to the best of your ability. You'll also want to hold on to all of your graded exams and assignments to review and study before an upcoming exam. All of these materials will be important assets as you prepare for any class exams, the actual AP exam, and to ensure you get an overall good grade in the class. 

Find content review resources

Supplemental resources beyond a prep guidebook can also be helpful. Here are some free resources to find some extra AP study help:

  • YouTube is a great supplemental resource. We recommend CrashCourse's Youtube videos - they have videos for practically every subject and area of study.
  • Khan Academy has free study guides for every AP class and exam - they're thorough and start from the basics. Click “courses” at the top left of the home page to find your AP subject and start studying!
  • Quizlet offers a variety of learning methods - Flashcards, randomized tests, and study games. They have pre-made resources available for most AP subjects, or you can make your own!

Use practice tests and questions

While the textbook for your course will likely include practice questions or tests at the end of each chapter, the best AP practice questions and tests are those created by the College Board—the organization that makes the AP exams. Their materials will be most similar to the actual AP exam you’ll take in the spring. Find your AP class(es) here to get familiar with your subject's practice tests and free-response questions.

Prep for the AP exam

Give yourself plenty of time to study

Depending on classes, the AP exams will take anywhere from 3-5 hours. You will have about 50 minutes to answer 70 multiple choice questions spend the rest of the time writing a couple of essays. Cramming does not cut it for this exam. Give yourself the best chance to secure a high AP score by reviewing your materials from time to time throughout the course of the class, and focus on studying especially about 1-2 months before the exam. Not sure where to begin? Check out our 8 AP exam study tips here!

The day of the AP exam

Sleep and eat well 

Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before the exam. The morning of, be sure to eat a big breakfast and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Making sure your body is prepared for the exam is just as important as making sure your brain is!

Answer every question

There’s no penalty for guessing! Go through the questions that you feel confident about first, and then go back over the exam and answer any remaining questions in the time you have left.

After the Class

Don't stress if you didn't get the score you expected

Most universities will grant college credit based on an AP score of a 3 or 4, and only a small few will require a 5. Even if you don't pass or aren't totally happy with the score you got, remember that you've already done so much great preparation for college! The process of taking the class and studying has only set you up for further success as you start taking college classes - and that's something to be proud of! 

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