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How To Succeed In AP Classes & AP Exams

Last updated September 29, 2022

How To Succeed In AP Classes and AP Exams

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are specialized classes that you can take in most high schools. These classes, which are offered through The College Board, are designed to give you the experience of an intro-level college class without having to pay for college tuition and fees. Taking an AP class can also prepare you for the AP exam, which allows you to earn college credit and potentially skip taking introductory courses when you start college.

It’s important to remember that because AP classes are college-level, the classwork and AP exams will be hard. It will be challenging, but we want to set you up for success! Here’s what you can do to succeed in your AP classes and pass the AP exams:

Before you start your AP class

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 be sure to 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 - like 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

    Register for your AP exams and pay required fees (or submit a fee waiver!)

    Make sure to register online for your AP exam(s) ahead of time. The deadline to register is typically in the fall, but some schools have a specific deadline, so make sure to check with yours first. You will also need to pay a fee in order to take the exam. Currently, the 2023 AP exam fees are $97 per test, which can add up if you plan to take multiple exams. You may qualify for a fee reduction and, depending on your state, there might also be additional funding available to reduce your costs even further. We encourage you to check with your school for any financial support that may be available to you.

    Know when AP exams are offered and how they’re formatted

    AP exams are typically offered in May and usually take 2-3 hours to complete. The first half of the exam consists of answering multiple choice questions, and the second half of the exam consists of free-response questions. Depending on the type of exam, these free response questions may require you to write an essay, provide a solution to a problem, or give a spoken response.

    Give yourself plenty of time to study

    It’s not recommended to cram for the 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.

    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!

    AP classes can be intimidating, but we’re here to help! Text #Hello to 33-55-77 to speak with one of our college advisors!

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