Staying on top of AP classes

Tips for the stressed student


At the Wilson Wyatt Debate League Tournament, two Manual students diligently take notes as their opponent gives a rebuttal. Photo courtesy of Manual Photojournalism Classes.

Isabella Bonilla

AP classes have become a major component of many American high schools, giving students the chance to receive college credit as early as freshman year. According to the College Board’s 2018 Program Summary Report, around 2.8 million U.S students were enrolled in at least one AP course. Manual itself boasts a selection of around 30 courses and is known across the district as having a high passing rate. 

AP courses are known for being rigorous, time-consuming and rather stressful for students. With instructional time cut to only 80 minutes per week due to NTI, students are expected to grapple with an increased study load and independent learning.

However, this change in learning structure doesn’t eliminate the many methods and resources still available to aid students in their educational careers, helping them to maintain adequate grades and exam preparation.

Utilize your Collegeboard account and AP classroom

Few others will be able to give better information about the test than the creators themselves.  Check out the course descriptions for every AP class you’re taking and highlight the main ideas or topics from each unit. Take special note of how much each unit is weighted in the exam. It may be useful to emphasize studying certain units over others, depending on how much weight they hold. Teachers may also be more likely to emphasize these units.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be blunt

Your teacher understands the material and understands students. If you don’t get what they’re talking about, ask them. If you think they’ve made an error, tell them. Have an index card nearby when you’re studying and write down any questions that pop in your head; make it a goal to think of at least five in-depth questions per unit to ask about. This may help keep you engaged in the material and form a useful school habit. Talking to others who’ve already taken the class or collaborating with other classmates may also be useful, in order to learn new tips or information.

Use every resource that may be available and beneficial to you

A plethora of other resources exist beyond note-taking and the issued textbook. These come in many various formats such as websites, prep books or videos. It’s recommended, but not required, by Collegeboard to buy an AP prep book. Buy first or second hand off websites such as Amazon and Ebay, go to the bookstore, ask former AP students if they have any prep books leftover or check out the Louisville Free Public Library. Aside from prep books, websites such as, and Khan Academy can help students practice or further expand on their course knowledge. 

Keep yourself organized in order to limit stress and maximize efficiency

Even though students aren’t physically in the school building, it may be beneficial to simulate the school environment when studying, which means attempting to have an environment that’s tailored to your specific needs and distraction-free. Use flex binders, highlighters, index cards, sticky notes or whatever materials you need to stay well-conducted. Compile an online study document with links to practice problems, worksheets and need-to-know information for an easily accessible resource. Sharing the online document with friends and other classmates may also be beneficial. Some AP courses, such as chemistry, have test resource materials accessible on the Collegeboard site. These should be noted and either printed out or copied online to review. 

At the end of the day, AP exams can be cost-beneficial, look nice on transcripts and help students get ahead in college, but they don’t define your worth. How little or how many AP courses a student takes will never be a true measure of how intelligent, successful or happy they are in life. However, knowing they tried their hardest and were equipped for these exams can boost self-esteem and sharpen life skills such as organization or critical thinking.