• Riya

How to Self-Study for AP Exams

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams are incredibly complex, particularly when a student self-studies for them and does not have a teacher to guide them. However, there are a set of steps one can take to excel at their self-studied AP exams. Students tend to self-study AP exams for more credit (for college) or because they have prior knowledge regarding the subject and believe they will be better prepared independently rather than in a group setting.

Which AP Exam Do You Want to Study For?

There are 38 AP exams students can take. A handful of these require prerequisites, and a large portion of these have content that is nearly impossible to learn without assistance from a teacher and classmates.

1. Choose a Course

AP exams range in difficulty and content; self-studying for AP Human Geography is substantially different from studying for AP physics. If the course is too demanding and does not conform to your schedule, it is recommended to hold off on it until you have more spare time. This link has the necessary information regarding each exam, what the course entails, and how much material there is. Factor in your strengths and weaknesses to choose a course that you enjoy and know you will be motivated to study for. Also, pick a subject that you have the proper study materials and work ethic to take.

2. Create an Outline

For example, if you plan on self-studying AP Psychology,

  • Click on AP Psychology

  • Click on the yellow box which says ‘Go to Course’

  • Scroll down and expand all nine units

  • Scroll down and click on ‘AP Psychology Course and Exam Description

  • There are 189 pages of course content and important factors to remember. Write all pertinent information down, including the title of each course and the fundamental factors from each.

  • Take the study material you will be working with and factor the units into the outline you create.

3. Assemble Your Study Materials

There are several books and study guides available for each AP subject. Prominent companies such as Barron’s and The Princeton Review create up-to-date books that can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more. AP Prep books also contain practice tests, study tips, and a recommended schedule.

4. Determine Your Study Schedule

Organize your calendar and determine what days you would like to dedicate to the AP topic you are self-studying. Keep in mind that this will most likely be more rigorous than AP courses in school, as you are not doing excess work or having conversations about the topics. Also, remember that you cannot let your schedule interfere with your other extracurricular and academic activities.

A final tip is to watch AP daily videos. These videos contain tips and tricks that most students do not know about, go over specific topics and past problems, and build onto your knowledge gained from Prep books.

Taking an AP exam without enrolling in the class is difficult, regardless, do not feel unprepared. Take the steps outlined above to aim for a passing grade (3-5).


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Chen, Posted byBy Lawrence. “How To Study for an AP Test without an AP Class.”

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McCammon, Ellen. How to Self-Study for AP Exams: 7-Step Plan,