3 Things You Can Do to Rock Your AP Courses

Will Ortiz
Considering taking AP Courses? Here are three things that will help you perform well.

The rumors are true—AP courses require a lot of work. If you’re thinking about adding one or two (or five) to your schedule, you may be concerned about whether you can keep up with the rigor. AP courses are not for everyone. They are designed to challenge the academically gifted students with college like courses. So, it’s important to consider your other commitments when choosing your course schedule. You may not want to pile on AP courses if you’re highly involved in extracurriculars or working part-time, for example. Talk with your school counselor to create a schedule that works best for you and your priorities.

By taking AP courses and passing the exams, you’re whittling away at your college course requirements.

What are AP Courses?

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college-level courses that “align with the standards and expectations of leading liberal arts and research institutions,” according to College Board. Meaning, greater breadth of content and, of course, more work! One of the greatest benefits of taking an AP course is the opportunity to earn college credit. Year-end exams assess the student’s aptitude in the subject on a grading scale of 1–5. Most colleges will offer college credit for qualifying exam scores—usually a 3 or higher

Two Great Reasons to Give AP Courses a Try

Are AP courses worth all of the hard work? Consider this. Only 19 percent of full-time students at most public universities earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, according to a report from Complete College America. On average, it takes over five years, reported the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. By taking AP courses and passing the exams, you’re whittling away at your college course requirements. Ultimately saving you time and money. AP courses are available at no extra cost, and although you do need to pay an exam fee (CCA covers this cost for students), fee reductions are available for students with financial need. Still, even with the cost of the exam, you’re paying significantly less than you would be if you were paying tuition, for essentially the same content!

Now that you’re ready to dive in, here are a fews tips to help you perform well in class and on the exam.

Three Tips to Help You Ace Your Courses

  1. Choose courses that interest you.
    This is huge! With all the extra work that AP courses require, you’re going to have a difficult time staying motivated if the subject doesn’t interest you. Review the courses available for your grade level and select courses that genuinely interest you. If you hate math, you probably shouldn’t sign yourself up for AP Calculus. If you can’t find a course you like, College Board has partnered with certain providers so that students may take courses that aren’t offered at the school. Talk to your school counselor to see what options may be available to you.

  2. Utilize free resources.
    College Board provides free resources that students can use to prepare for the exam, such as previous scoring guidelines, free response questions, and complete practice exams. These resources give students an idea of what the testing materials are like. Practice exams provide vital insight into your knowledge of the content and can reveal to you which subject areas you need to revisit. Study books with practice exams are also available for purchase for most AP subjects.

  3. Space out your study time.
    Don’t wait until two weeks before your AP exam to start reviewing material! Instead, space out your studying throughout the course of the year. “So-called ‘spacing’ improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found,” says a NY Times article. Set aside a couple of extra hours each month to skim through the content that was taught in class. You can also make a point to do a couple of questions from a practice exam and then review your answers each week.

Give It Your Best Shot

Learning, critical thinking, and expanding your interests are more important than passing a test. So, don’t let AP exams intimidate you from challenging yourself. Work hard, study, and do your best. If nothing else, you’ll have gained a more thorough knowledge of a subject and dipped your feet into what college courses are like—better preparing you for the next step in your academic career!



Will Ortiz currently serves as the Lead School Counselor at Calvary Christian Academy. He along with his wife and children attend Calvary Chapel Plantation.

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