Sierra Canyon High School

AP should not equal anxiety: A survival guide for AP students

You’ve heard the stories: choosing to take an AP class means throwing away any chance at a social life and replacing it with endless pages of reading and homework. But, if you take the following advice from fellow AP students, and your AP teachers, you can survive any AP class.

1. Understand the expectations

AP (Advanced Placement) is a program created by the College Board that offers college level curriculum and credit to high school students. This means that teachers of AP classes expect you to act and comprehend the material like a college student.

“I expect my students to utilize what they have learned in their previous science classes and apply that to my class so they can succeed. For example, in my AP class there is a lot of biology so you have to use what you learned and apply it to environmental science,” AP Environmental Science Teacher Bruce Buenaventura said.

2. Keep up with your reading

Whether it be for AP European History, covering 18 chapters, or AP Biology, covering 45 chapters, you must keep up with your reading. While it might seem like reading ten pages for AP Literature will take an eternity, if you sit down and focus, you can knock it out in an hour. The key is to have a non-distracting environment where you can fully focus. Also, it’s a good idea to take notes either in your textbook or in a notebook in order to prepare for the following day’s class. It’s also a good idea to take notes either in your textbook or in a separate notebook in order to prepare for the following day’s class.

“AP classes really are a lot more difficult and the workload is a lot harder. But, keeping up with your reading and homework is very important, more so than a regular class,” AP U.S. and European history teacher Tom Pollock said.

 3. Study for every test and make sure you understand the material

Although AP courses are designed around the AP test in May, you still cannot avoid studying for your unit tests. While of course you want to pass the AP exam, you still get a grade in the class and want a good grade on your transcript. In addition, studying for each individual test will ultimately help you study for and succeed on the AP test. Similarly, make sure that you understand the previous night’s reading and the lecture in class so that you don’t fall behind. Don’t just memorize your notes, make sure you actually know the material.

“To prepare for unit tests I go back over all of my class notes and try to talk through a timeline to someone. I try to stay away from just re-reading the textbook. For math and science: a lot of practice problems,” quadruple AP junior Kieran Gilmore said.

4. Try new study methods

Don’t be afraid to try new tricks for studying. Whether it’s names, dates, or events, trying out a variety of ways to study, might lead you to a study trick that works for you. Used to studying alone? Try getting a study group of five other students together. After all, six brains are better than one. Never used flashcards? Try making them for each unit to quiz yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment and when you find something you like stick with it!

“Don’t just memorize. Don’t ever think you can just memorize the vocabulary words. You really want to understand how they connect with each other, the processes they are a part of, and the context you can use them in,” AP biology teacher Dr. Jessica Ricci said.

5. Learn what to expect from the AP exam

Knowing what to expect when you walk into exam will of course help you succeed. To prepare, do plenty of practice tests and research about past exam questions and grading rubrics. Examples of past questions and scoring guides can be found on the College Board’s website. Also, don’t be afraid to ask older, more experienced students what to expect on the exam.

“For my AP Euro test last year, I wrote tons of mock DBQ’s and essays, used review books and their practice tests, and read and re read the material from the months before the exam,” Gilmore said.

As the college admissions process gets more and more competitive, more and more students want to take AP classes. While it looks impressive to have five AP classes on your transcript, the workload is very heavy and very rigorous. It looks more impressive to do well in one AP class than fail five. In short, AP courses are not for the faint of heart, but, if you chose to embark on this endeavor of the AP track, with these five tips, you can survive any AP class.