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By Rachel Chung, Vernon Hills 

I have only been a sophomore for around a month, and I already hate AP classes. The only AP I’m taking is European History, but it has already gotten to the point where I am in two AP Euro group chats and complain to my friends, my family, and my AP teacher on the daily. I’m not saying that I’m an expert on how to get the best AP score or how to manage a good grade in that class. I’m a beginner to this whole AP system as well; we’ve only just had our first test last Friday. However, I have a pretty steady grade so far, and I’d like to shed some light on what I think are some good beginner tips from my AP Euro class:

1) AP style of testing is very different. I was the girl who thought she was pretty good with social studies. I got an A on every test last year in World History Honors, so I felt that I had it in the bag. I’m fairly good at memorizing places and names, and it has helped me a lot with social studies tests in the past. However, if you are not especially good at that, AP testing might be better for you. It is all very concept-based.

“The College Board has made AP history curriculum more focused to themes, change and continuity, etc. However, it’s definitely important to know chronological events,” said Isabelle Bogojevic (12).

On the test that I just recently took, my teacher gave us “stimulus questions,” which is where you know your previous knowledge to answer questions that are not just clean-cut and dry. There always seems to be two answers that could work (and lucky you) you have to choose the answer that is more right.

Bogojevic said, “The questions are more about analysis than just rote memorization. You’re expected to not only have the information memorized, but to go a step further. They’re also difficult because multiple answers could be correct, but you have to decide which one is the ‘most correct.’”

I left that classroom feeling so confused and doubting myself. Just know that if you don’t get a great grade on the first test, that’s okay. It’s a different style and a new learning curve. Try your best, and boost up your grade with homework points.

2) Don’t let yourself fall behind. All I can think of when I think about AP Euro is “Ugh, primary sources and tons of homework.” We get a lot of homework in Euro – whole chapter reading guides to multiple primary sources to read and APPs (Author, Purpose, Point of View). It’s easy to get behind, but let me be the person to tell you to not do that. Even if you have done that in classes past, and you have been fine; AP classes are a whole different ballpark. Especially, because you are bound to have more homework in other classes, don’t get behind in your AP class. Use your weekend time wisely to get ahead or at least catch up.

Bogojevic said, “Be prepared for a heavy workload. Make sure you really enjoy what you’re taking an AP class in or you’ll probably hate it. If you put in the work though, you’ll get a lot out of it.”

3) Take lots of notes in class. Last year, and this year, both of my teachers have made us take notes outside of class. To be honest, I never feel like I need that much from those book notes. I’m definitely not telling you to not do them. Do them; they are worth valuable points, and it’s important to know a lot of outside material, especially if you are taking an AP class and want to get a good score on the AP test.

“I never have time to take notes from book readings. However, I do think that class notes are more important regardless, because the teacher is highlighting key information,” said Bogojevic. “Since AP textbooks are college books, there’s a lot of content. Class notes can hone in on what you need to know for the test.”

However, in my experience for your tests in the class you can focus more on what they teach you in class. Take lots of notes in class, and do not doze off. It is hard, but stay focused and on top of your game. It will make studying everything later much easier. Just don’t stress the little stuff too much.

“I would say that taking notes from class and from the book are equally important, mostly because you’ll probably get different information from each. The book has the main concepts and explanations you need to know but in class, teachers can give helpful pointers, extra information, things that are emphasized on the AP exam, and how information relates to each other,” said Jessica Nudelman (11).

4) Extra credit opportunities are important to take advantage of. Just like in any other class, extra credit is great. It is especially holy and revered if you are an overachieving, paranoid student like me. There is no bad extra credit, even if it seems impossible, you just have to find a way to do it. I know you might be flooded with homework, but try to make time to finish that extra credit. Usually, your teacher will give you more time to do the extra credit, so make it a second priority. You’ll be thanking yourself when it’s finals time.

5) Study what you have talked about most in class. I’ve often studied the minor details, thinking that they will show up on the test, and waste all my time on different king names. Honestly, don’t bother. I think for tests in general, the teachers want you to know concepts. That means you don’t need to know that Pope Urban VI of Rome and Pope Clement VII of Avignon were the two popes of the Great Western Schism, until Sigismund finally ended the Schism. You don’t need to know all of that. Focus on the names that your teacher talks about a lot, for example different primary source authors. One huge mistake I made on the first test I had was that I was listening to my teacher talk about Renaissance art for three whole days, but I didn’t concern myself with really absorbing that knowledge. Yeah, I took notes, but I didn’t think we would have to know specifics. And guess what was on the test? Art was a huge part of the short answer question. I’m sure you need more outside knowledge for AP tests, but for the ones you take in class, focus on the bigger picture and what you talked about in class.

“Some AP teachers put less emphasis on the book and some put more,” said Nudelman. “If you can get assignments done and get through tests solely based on class presentations and notes, then focus on those more, but if your teacher bases tests around the book, focus on the book.”

6) Prepare ahead of time for the AP test. This doesn’t apply to me yet because I have not ever taken an AP test, but I got some important tips from others who have. “I usually use Barron notecards and the Princeton Review book. Try to start reviewing early in April. Take practice tests and try to memorize as much content as possible,” said Bogojevic. “The more you know, the more you’ll be able to utilize for the multiple choice and free response questions. AP tests demand analysis, which ultimately makes you a better thinker and test taker.”

“When studying for the AP exam, you need to get a designated study book for that specific exam and really go through that. I go through my notes much more than the book. When studying for a test that covers so many details from a whole school year, going back and re-reading all the heavy information from the book isn’t really going to do much for you. Notes will summarize and cover the important details that you need to know,” said Nudelman.

Overall, those are the beginner tips I have for my first AP class. I still have a lot more of the class left, and I haven’t even taken an AP test yet. However, these are the tips I have for trying to get a good grade in the class, not for the AP score. These are good things to keep in mind, no matter what class you are taking. Happy studying!

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