September 27, 2019

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your AP Class?

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Never underestimate the initiative of AP students. They are more than just “smart kids” – they’re smart kids on a mission. Driven, high performers, goal-oriented, and college-bound.

I was reminded of that this week when I had the soul-crushing experience of answering incorrectly during a presentation on AP classes and testing.

Regarding AP students, the presenter tricked us instructed us:

“Raise your hand if you think the primary reason high schoolers enroll in AP classes is because their friends are in those classes or because of pressure from their parents.”

My hand shot up faster than a bottle rocket on the Fourth of July.

But I was wrong. Loud wrong.

When the humiliation subsided, I crawled out from under my chair and looked at the actual data. A study from The College Board shows a common thread that connects AP students – ambition.

When asked the primary reasons they enrolled in Advanced Placement courses, some of the top answers selected were:

  • To earn college credits while in high school
  • To challenge myself academically
  • To potentially increase my chance of college admissions
  • To help save on college costs

This tells us that AP students are motivated self-starters. They are dedicated, determined, enthusiastic and resourceful.

If these words describe you, I’m sure you want to make the most of your AP class or classes this year. To channel Thoreau, you want to “live deep and suck out all the marrow” of your AP experience, right? (Ok, that might be a little much.)

You’re taking AP classes for a reason, and chances are . . .

For you, it’s not enough to just be in the class – you want to maximize your AP experience in order to prepare for college and get that 5 on your AP exam.

With that in mind, here are three easy ways you can get the most out of your AP class, beginning today:

1. Grab Something to Read 

In the same way that outside reading can help prepare you for the ACT or SAT, doing a little extracurricular reading can greatly enhance your AP experience too. For example:

If you’re taking AP US History, pick up David McCullough’s 1776 or Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. If AP Chemistry is your thing, check out Penny Le Couteur’s Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History. If you’re enjoying an AP Art History class, take a run at H. Anna Suh’s work on Van Gogh (Vincent Van Gogh: A Self-Portrait in Art and Letters) or Da Vinci (Leonardo’s Notebooks: Writing and Art of the Great Master).

Reading books that accompany your classwork is a fun and interesting way to maximize your learning experience.

2. Start an AP Study Group

There is an African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Starting, or joining, an AP study group is a perfect way to go far, academically.

This is especially helpful if you are in multiple AP classes with the same students.  Let’s say Sydney, Bruce Wayne, Eduardo, and you are all taking AP World History, Computer Science Principles, and Macroeconomics. You guys would make a legit study squad!

Sydney might have a trick for remembering dates that benefits the group in your World History study. The next day, Eduardo, who never claimed World History was his strongest subject, might be an absolute computer whiz who can explain Computer Science Principles in super helpful ways. And as for Bruce Wayne? Obviously, he brings some serious Macroeconomics knowledge to the table.

Studying with other high-performing, college-bound students is a perfect way to enhance your AP knowledge while making friends at the same time.

3. Go for it! Dive in! Give 100%!

This last suggestion is all about effort. You’ll get as much out of this experience as you put in. The truth is simple: Students who work diligently, improve dramatically.

  • High school athletes who put in the time in the weight room see their performance improve each game.
  • Band members who dedicate themselves to their instrument move up from third chair to first chair.
  • Students who practice for their ACT and SAT with the best question banks score higher than students who don’t.

Succeeding in AP, and scoring a 5 on your AP exam, is no different. If you’ll decide to put your full heart and soul into the opportunity, you’re going to see success. Ask questions in class, take assignments seriously, get that study group going – these are ways you can dive in.

Colleges are looking for students who are passionate and motivated to succeed. Your AP class is a great place to begin showing them that you’re the student they’re looking for!


AP achievements aren’t the only thing that catch the eye of a college admissions officer. Your dream college also requires a dream ACT or SAT score. If you’re ready to start prepping for an upcoming test, see why more than a million students worldwide have trusted their high-stakes exam prep to UWorld.


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