• Amba Brown

How to Prepare for and Exceed in Difficult AP and Honors Classes

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

If you’re taking Advanced Placement (AP) and/or honors classes, you have been recognized as a bright student with excellent prospects. Not everyone gets the opportunity to distinguish themselves by earning honors, or even college, credits while still in high school.

The courses will be challenging, but you are more than capable of taking those challenges head-on. Here are some tips on how to survive your AP and honors courses.


Make Friends with Studying

The students who complain about the rigor of studying for normal classes have no idea what is in store for AP and honors students. You will be:

  • Learning at a faster pace

  • Expected to know large amounts of material

  • Taking tests that are more difficult

With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that you will have to be more dedicated to your studies.


It is important to learn how to study effectively and make the most of your time. Some skills to brush up on include:

  • Note-taking

  • Paying attention to the content in your textbooks

  • Paying attention during lecture

  • Relating concepts to one another

In addition to this, you will need to come to terms with the fact that you may not have as much free time as before.


While your studying will need to be more efficient, you will also need to contribute more of your time to it, as well.


Prioritize the activities in your life that mean the most and make you happiest and cut the ones that aren’t so important.


Relieve your Stress

AP and Honors students will be subject to more stress during the entire course.


This stress will be amplified when it comes time for final exams and AP tests.


It is important to learn how to keep yourself from boiling over during these moments. Some things that might help you could be:

  • Being active by playing a sport or working out

  • Engaging in your favorite hobbies, like playing an instrument or watching movies

  • Maintaining a healthy diet

  • Getting plenty of sleep

  • Keeping in contact with your close friends and family

Too often, students faced with high levels of academic rigor sacrifice their well-being in favor of their performance.


That is a fatal mistake; however, as a decline in health and wellness will only negatively impact you.


Space your study time so you can keep doing the things you love rather than cramming at the cost of your sleep, passions, and relationships.


Communicate with your Instructors

One of the most underutilized resources for AP and honors students is right in front of them – their teachers!


Your instructor’s entire job is to make sure you learn the information and pass the exams.


They can assist you with a multitude of things, like:

  • Grasping information that you are having a hard time learning

  • Maintaining your sanity (it’s not easy.)

  • Being an effective test-taker

Many students just think of their teacher as a thorn in their side, but when it comes down to brass tax, teachers are your friends.


You both want the same thing – for you to be successful in the course you’re taking.


Good teachers are also concerned with the well-being of their students outside the classroom.


Teachers are people you should be able to trust, and you may find that your teacher is someone you can come to for personal advice.


Love What You are Learning

AP and Honors classes, challenging as they are, will not likely be classes that you can “float” through.


Since you will be spending so much time with the course material, the AP and honors classes you choose should cover subjects by which you are genuinely fascinated.


There are many ways to find joy in what you learn:

  • For Biology, spend some time in nature and take time to appreciate what you have learned about it. If you are in a History course, visit landmarks and museums and take in the beauty of what you see

  • For Physics, the next time you ride in a car or plane, run through the process in your head

It may sound cheesy, but you will start to like learning more when you observe your surroundings and realize that you understand things you didn’t before.


In fact, you probably know more about those things than many people in the world, and that is an accomplishment worth celebrating.


Conclusion: You’ve Got This!

AP and honors classes are intimidating to anyone who takes them.


While you will experience difficulty the likes of which you never have before, you will emerge from the course better, smarter, and more educated.


You must realize that you have been given an exclusive opportunity not out of sheer luck, but because your school recognizes your potential and wants to see you reach it.

If you take this advice, you will be amongst the select few that triumphed in the hardest classes available and be well on your way to becoming even better in the future.


Written by JASON PATEL, Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University and Founder, Transizion.


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