3 Ways to Succeed in AP Courses


Advanced Placement classes are difficult – there is no way around it. Even the most outstanding students sometimes falter in their AP courses, and understandably so. After all, these classes are designed to reflect the rigor of college curricula, and from the first day of the school year you are expected to work hard in them.

As an AP student, then, you may be able to relate to either of these situations: First, you considered dropping an AP class because of your subpar academic performance, but the deadline to withdraw had already passed. Or, second, your AP class is going smoothly but you’re seeking advice to help you stand out. In either case, follow the three tips below to achieve AP success.

Divide To-Dos Into Smaller, More Manageable Chunks

In AP courses, time management is indispensable. Without it, you are bound to quickly fall behind, and if you do, you will need to muster up some serious dedication to get back on track.

Considering the fast pace and intense workload of AP courses, students should prepare to take thorough notes in class and start working on assignments as soon as they become available. Comprehensive notes will serve as a convenient review tool when the end-of-year test season approaches. Also, starting your assignments well in advance will give you time to revise your work and ask your instructor any questions you may have.

To tackle lengthy reading assignments, break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. For instance, instead of reading 40 pages the day before an assignment is due, read 20 pages a day in the two days prior or 10 pages a day in the four days prior.

For long-term research projects, create a reasonable timeline for yourself. For instance, you might create deadlines for each phase of a given project: preliminary research, topic selection, resource gathering, outline creation and so on.

During the summer, when you have fewer academic commitments, you would be wise to get a head start on AP readings and coursework if the instructor posts them.

Thinking of assignments in their entirety can leave you feeling overwhelmed, but tackling them step by step will allow you to advance slowly but surely toward the larger goal.

Combine Your AP Studies With Enjoyable Pastimes

It goes without saying that you should study for every exam you take in your AP course, not just the end-of-year test. But studying does not always have to be done at a table in your local library or bedroom. Not everyone learns best under these conditions. Some people need absolute quiet to study efficiently while others prefer to have some white noise in the background.

The environment where you study could determine the success of your study session. Therefore, you should aim to be comfortable and content with your surroundings – but not so much so that you are distracted from your goal.

One way to create a pleasant study environment is to incorporate a personal hobby. Are you an AP foreign language student who enjoys exercising? If so, upload songs, podcasts or e-books to your phone so that you can practice listening comprehension in that language as you work out.

Meanwhile, AP psychology students with an affinity for the cinema arts can get together, watch movies and analyze the psychological phenomena they observe in the movie characters.

During the summer, when it can be particularly tough to get motivated, move your studies outside. For example, sports fans who are taking AP Calculus AB in the fall can review precalculus content via an outdoor game of HORSE or beanbag toss.

By participating in a beloved hobby while you learn, the study process will feel lighter and be more effective.

Discover Your Learning Style

Every student has at least one learning style that determines his or her optimal conditions for content retention. In the traditional model, there are three learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Kinesthetic learners, for instance, learn best when they move around and engage in hands-on work.

There is no need to worry if you don’t know your learning style or styles, as you can easily find out this information. One way is to reflect on what you did during the study sessions that culminated in especially successful academic performance. Another way is to take a free online diagnostic test, such as LearningStyleQuiz.com or EducationPlanner.org.

The next step is to begin experimenting with study techniques. First, you should practice with techniques that supposedly align with your learning style. If you are a visual learner, for instance, use and create study materials that have plenty of pictures, charts and graphs. Auditory learners can listen to recorded lectures (e.g., TED Talks) and debate course material with their peers.

If a study technique is not yielding favorable results for you, switch to a different one. The idea is to keep trying out options until you find the tools or combination of tools that suits you best.

Excel in your AP courses this year by prioritizing and breaking down tasks, adding personal interests to your study routine, and catering to your learning style.


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