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Two Secrets to AP Success

If you’re taking AP courses this year and want to know how to be successful in the class and on the test in May, you’re not alone! In the fall, your main focus should be on learning the material your class is currently covering. Targeted studying for the tests should usually wait until you are familiar with more of the material. However, there are two key things you can start doing now to set yourself up for success throughout the year and on the test in May. 

Familiarize yourself with available resources

First, it’s a good idea to make sure you know what resources you have available before you need them. Then, if you later find yourself frustrated with a problem set or staring blankly at an essay not sure how to make it work, you will already know where to look for help! Even with a standardized curriculum, every class is different, but here are some common resources: 

  • Check out AP Classroom: Spend some time poking around AP Classroom and familiarizing yourself with what is available for your classes. In addition to allowing teachers to give virtual assignments, AP Classroom has a course outline for each course and short videos explaining most topics. If something doesn’t make sense in class, sometimes watching it presented in a different way can help! If your class isn’t using AP Classroom, it is worth asking your teacher about getting access.
  • Open your textbook: Does your class have a text book? Most high school students won’t touch their textbooks unless they are given a specific assignment from it, but your textbook can be a useful resource beyond homework problems. In STEM classes, your book most likely has lots of worked example problems that can be helpful guides. It can also be a good source of extra practice if you aren’t sure if you are quite comfortable with a concept yet. In history classes, skimming through the relevant chapter can be a good way to make sure you haven’t missed any key people, dates, or events.
  • Know the rules for formula sheets and calculators: For STEM tests, make sure you know whether the tests you are preparing for will give you a formula sheet and whether or not a calculator is allowed. In some cases you will need to make sure you are comfortable doing the problems without a calculator and in others you will need to make sure you know how to use your calculator effectively. Practicing these skills throughout the year will make things less stressful when it is review time.
  • Get the edge with a tutor: Whether you want to be proactive and stay ahead of the game or find yourself struggling or falling behind, Applerouth can help! Our AP tutors have the experience to give you the edge you need and forming a one to one connection with a tutor they’ll make your time in the class more enjoyable and beneficial.

Find an organizational system that works for you

AP tests are in early May and most students will spend a few weeks in April reviewing material from the whole year. If you make a point of staying organized from the start your future self will thank you! What “organized” looks like varies in different classes and for different students, but here are some things to consider:

  • At the end of each unit, when you are studying for the unit test, make a 1-2 page review sheet and have a designated place to store all of your review sheets throughout the year. This will help you prepare for the unit test and also be a valuable resource when you are reviewing the material several months later.
  • Clearly label problem sets you might want to review with the topic and keep them organized in a binder.
  • If you take notes or do assignments digitally, make sure you give the files descriptive names that will make sense to you in the future if you want to find them again. You might also consider making digital folders to help keep your files organized and make things easier to find.
  • Start a doc (or notebook) to keep a personal glossary of key terms with definitions written in your own words. You could organize this glossary entirely alphabetically or sort it by topics.
  • If organizational skills aren’t your strength, that’s ok – and quite common in high school! Consider an Applerouth Executive Function Coach who can help you stay organized in just 15 minutes a week.

Most importantly, don’t feel that you have to do everything on this list. You don’t! Every student is different, so pick the top few items that seem most important and helpful to you. Taking small steps now will make a big difference when exam time is here. If you’re looking for more study tips and expert guidance on finding the ones that work for you, be sure to grab a spot in our Academic Success Series with Dr. Jed Applerouth.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.