7 Keys to AP Success

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AP success

7 Keys to AP Success

Advanced Placement or AP classes have become commonplace at most US high schools, and Massachusetts is leading the way with the highest percentage of graduates in the nation scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. However, many students are overwhelmed when they take their first AP course because they haven’t developed the underlying skills or habits necessary to manage the increased workload and higher expectations of these college-level courses. Fortunately, these skills and habits can be learned and developed, and there are lots of terrific resources to help your student get and stay on track.

The team at Open Door Education has spent thousands of hours helping students succeed in their AP coursework. During that time, we have identified the most crucial skills and some tips for helping students be more effective and efficient in the classroom and beyond.

Get Started Early

AP courses cover a LOT of content, and many AP courses require summer reading so that students establish some important baseline knowledge before the course begins. Some students save this reading for the end of summer, which often leaves them without enough time to complete it, making the end of summer feel rushed and stressful rather than calm and restful.

The best way to conquer AP summer reading is to start early and have a plan. When students set specific deadlines for themselves, they are better able to manage their time and reduce last-minute stress. Creating a reading schedule and sticking to it ensures that they have ample time to digest and understand the material, setting a strong foundation for the school year.

Manage Your Time Effectively

Time management is critical for success in AP courses. These classes demand a significant amount of independent study, and students must balance this with their other academic and extracurricular commitments. Developing a weekly schedule that allocates specific times for AP coursework can help students stay on track.

Using tools like planners, calendars, or time management apps can be very effective. Breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks makes studying less overwhelming and helps students stay organized and focused.

Set Incremental Goals

Setting strategic incremental goals helps students stay motivated and make steady progress throughout the course. Instead of trying to master an entire unit at once or complete a hefty project by a specific date, students should set small incremental goals that help them build momentum and feel an ongoing sense of progress. Manageable goals could include reading and taking notes on one section, learning a set of 20 vocabulary words, or completing a set number of practice problems.

Check out our YouTube video for more tips on setting SMART goals that will help you rise to the challenge of AP-level coursework.

Take Thorough Notes

Effective note-taking is a crucial skill for AP success, and students need to be able to take useful notes during lectures, while reading class texts, and while watching videos. Note-taking does not come naturally to many students, and it is common for an AP student to either try to write down everything, which is overwhelming and ultimately impossible, or to write down just the names, dates, facts, and figures. This emphasis on rote information leads students to miss the bigger picture, which is a crucial component of most AP tests.

An important part of taking effective notes is learning what information is important and developing a system that makes sense to the student. Some students use lots of arrows, symbols, and abbreviations; some students rely on color-coding to categorize their notes and keep track of themes or patterns; other students prefer a more formal note-taking style such as Cornell Notes. High school is the perfect time for a student to experiment with different styles to find what’s best for them, but it’s important to do this in a thoughtful and intentional manner, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t and making improvements along the way.

Use Color-Coding to Study Strategically

Color-coding can be extremely helpful because it enables us to see patterns and connect ideas that we otherwise might struggle to integrate. When students color-code their notes, they make it easier to identify, categorize, connect, and ultimately retain crucial information. Color-coding notes and grouping ideas by theme is, for many students, a very effective way to study.

Another helpful use of color coding is part of the process of identifying priorities. When a student has to study for a big test, it can be very useful to first go through the study guide and color-code the content according to comfort. Green means ‘I know this,’ yellow means ‘I need to review this,’ and red means ‘I really don’t know this.’ Once a student color-codes their notes, they have a clear study plan: start with the red, then the yellow, then the green. This helps ensure that students don’t avoid studying content that they don’t know by forcing them to study that content first.

Use a Variety of Resources

AP students should take advantage of the wide array of available resources. Textbooks, YouTube videos, online study guides, and even their classmates can all provide valuable insights and different perspectives on the material. Engaging with multiple resources helps students deepen their understanding and exposes them to new ways of thinking about the content, which ultimately helps them to remember it when it counts. Even if a student feels like they have a great understanding of a concept, hearing it taught in a new way can open the door to new questions and different ways of looking at things.

Ask for Help

It’s important for students to know that they don’t have to go it alone, and it’s okay to ask for support when they need it. Whether a student is struggling with just one concept or a particularly tricky unit or is falling behind altogether, it’s always okay to need help, and seeking assistance can prevent small problems from snowballing into major obstacles.

At Open Door Education, we are here to support students through every step of their journey to success in their AP classes. For personalized guidance and expert tutoring, contact us today!

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I was referred to Open Door by friends for SAT/ACT test prep for my child. Travis was the instructor and he was great. Their diagnostic process, tutoring and practice testing really helped my student focus on key areas for development, resulting in a significant improvement in actual test scores. I highly recommend their service.
-Acton Parent
I was referred to Open Door by friends for SAT/ACT test prep for my child. Travis was the instructor and he was great. Their diagnostic process, tutoring and practice testing really helped my student focus on key areas for development, resulting in a significant improvement in actual test scores. I highly recommend their service.
-AB Parent