Six Tips for Prospective AP Students

By Kaleb Hedman

AP (advanced placement) classes are the double-edged sword of high school. On one edge, you can earn college credit while in high school at a discounted rate. A semester class in college at in-state tuition rates will cost you an average of $435. If you go to a private school or an out-of-state school this number could be even more. But for $90 you can get a semester of college through high school AP classes. On the other edge, these classes require hard work. I have taken quite a few AP classes and through the experiences of my peers and myself, I think I can offer some tips regarding these demanding courses.

Study early and study often. Studying for AP classes is a bit different from the average high school class. As an underclassman, you might have been able to get away with studying the night before or not studying at all for an exam. Good study habits might not have been needed in your life, but I promise you that will not work for AP classes. There is simply too much content. Start studying a week before the test, at the least. Don’t just go over your notes, either. Reviewing past assignments and doing practice problems will also help. I know that Dr. Farrar doesn’t have her AP Chemistry students do every single practice problem in her notes, so when test time comes around, try a couple. Mr. Thovson gives out worksheets and jeopardy before his AP Government tests, which are both great study tools. Do as much as you can to prepare for these exams. These exams will make or break you: it’s the real deal. Students usually find that they either excel or fail in these classes. Don’t let that deter you, but keep it in the back of your mind. By the end of the year you will have college level study habits, which is just as useful as the potential college credit.

The second step to success is finding a study group. Junior year, I took the hardest class at Central High School, AP Chemistry, and without my study group I would not have done as well. Studying for hours on end is more bearable when it’s with eight other people whom you are semi-fond of. If you feel anxiety over a class, you’re not alone. Pick out some people you wouldn’t mind seeing three to four nights a week, and study.

Next, get as much homework done as you can the first night it’s assigned. Do not wait until the second night to do it all. For one, the material you learned will still be fresh in your mind the first night. Also, if you are struggling with a tricky problem, you can get help the next day without being penalized with a late grade and you still have the second night to complete it.

Missing as little school as possible will also help things go smoother. We all have those days where sitting at home and watching Netflix or gaming sounds more appealing, but I would highly recommend fighting the urge to stay home and instead toughing it out in the classroom. Going to school at 80% is better than not going to school at all and accumulating make-up work. Your teachers will teach new concepts whether you are there or not, and no one likes to play catch-up.

Being sensible about what classes and how many you take will also help you. Taking a full schedule with AP classes can be done, but I would not recommend it. Having one or multiple open blocks is very beneficial to getting homework done, or even decompressing from the toll of the day. My junior year I took only one AP class, because I knew that it would take up a good portion of my time and I wanted to do well in the class. However, senior year I am currently taking three AP classes and doing just fine in all of them. You have to know yourself as a person and a student, then rightfully choose what you can and cannot handle.

Something that was hard for me to grasp and still is, are grades. With these harder classes comes harder content and sometimes, lower grades. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a B or a C in an AP class. Plus, AP classes are weighted on a 5.0 scale, not a 4.0. A B in an AP class is the equivalent of an A in a regular class. This challenging path is not the easiest, and sometimes not the most fun, but it is worth it. The day you walk out of the final exam, actually knowing the answers to the questions, I can promise you, it’ll be worth it.

Photo credit: “study.” by Bill Selak on Flickr