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How To Succeed In AP Classes and AP Exams

Last updated April 8, 2020

Part 1. Before you start your Advanced Placement class

AP Exam Gif

1. AP classes are college-level classes

The work and AP exams will be hard. You should expect to be challenged and tested throughout the school semester. Hey, you're officially now an AP student. 

2. Check out a good AP prep book

For each AP class, you'll receive a textbook for the class from your school. However, it's worth heading to a library to check out AP prep books for the AP class you're in. Your textbooks provide information on topics the class is teaching, but these guides will help you understand themes and concepts as they relate to the overall goals of your AP class. Having this insider insight will give you a better understanding of what your teacher wants you to understand and will be testing you on. Plus, you'll be in good shape for high AP test scores. 

3. Thoroughly review the class syllabus

On the first day of class, your teacher will likely review his or her academic plan for the year and distribute a syllabus outlining topics, assignments, exams, and other important information. This is your most important resource.

Read your AP syllabus carefully. Note all important dates, assignment due dates, and AP exam schedule – from the syllabus in your calendar or planner. 

Part 2. During the Class

1. Keep yourself organized

Staying organized is critical when enrolled in an AP course. Over the course of the year, you’ll be taking notes in class and completing assignments. You also want to hold on to all those graded exams and note handouts. Try to keep a binder for each AP class. Think of your notes like your lifeline, if you don't take copious notes, it'll just be you and your textbook when the time comes to prepare for tests. 

2. Find Content Review Resources

Supplemental resources beyond a review book can also be helpful. Your textbook for the course likely includes practice questions or tests at the end of each chapter. You can also look for podcasts and watch YouTube videos. Not every class will be the same, reviewing AP Calculus is a totally different experience than AP English. 

3. Use those Practice Exams and Questions

The best AP practice questions and tests are those created by the College Board—the group that makes the AP exams. As a result, their materials will be most similar to the real AP test you’ll take in the spring. Get familiar with the College Board practice tests and free-response questions. Create a College Board login and start checking things out. The College Board is where you'll register for the AP exams as well. 

Part 3. Prep for the AP exam

1. Study AP like you have never studied before.

Depending on classes, the AP tests will take anywhere from 3-5 hours. You will have about 50 minutes to answer 70 multiple choice questions and the rest for a couple of essays. Cramming does not cut it for this test. Give yourself the best chance for a high AP score and study at least three-weeks for each test.

Part 4. AP exam

1. Stay positive throughout the test

If there’s something you don’t know, don’t waste time beating yourself up about it. Just keep telling yourself that you are awesome and will crush the rest of the test.

2. Answer every question

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

Part 5. After the Class

1. Don't stress out 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, only the really prestigious will require a 5. Even if you don't pass, realize that what you have already experienced will aid you when you go on to take the course in college.

Get to College

Advanced Classes (AP/IB)

5 AP Study Tips to Get Through AP Exams [Video]
How Do End of Course Tests (EOCs) Work?

See the whole series

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