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How to Succeed in Your First IB/AP Class This Fall

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As you start moving up in high school, you’ll probably have the opportunity to take more advanced AP or IB courses. These are good classes to take because they will give you a brief insight into the rigor of college courses and may even get you some college credit to use in the future.


However, AP and IB classes are no joke. You’ll need to adopt new study strategies and learning techniques in order to succeed in these tough, fast-paced courses. If you’re entering into your first AP or IB class next semester, here are a few helpful tips that will help you succeed this fall.



Take Copious Notes

The days of teachers giving you powerpoint slides or paper handouts with everything you need to know for the exam are probably over once you enter advanced courses. AP and IB teachers, like college professors, often like to teach lecture-style, where they stand at the front of the class and talk to you about a topic for the entire class period. They may or may not have visual aids or notes for you, and you could be tested on any of the material they talk about.


It’s hard to remember an hour or so’s worth of material during the exam weeks later, so you need to take very detailed notes during lecture that you can study as the exam gets closer. You’ll also find that writing down notes helps you retain the information, so this is also a great learning technique.



Do All The Readings

In non-AP or IB classes, you can still do well in the class without ever reading a chapter of the textbook. In fact, the class may not even bother with required readings. In AP and IB courses, this is certainly not the case.


In AP/IB classes, the readings are required homework, and you can bet that the concepts in the readings will be tested on the exam. In fact, the material presented in the readings may not even be the same material that is gone over in lecture. Thus, it’s imperative that you keep up with the readings and make sure you know what was covered on them before the exam.



Don’t Fall Behind

AP and IB classes rarely cover one topic for more than a day or two, and they will likely not go back and review the material during class, even if you don’t understand it. It’s up to you to make sure you know what is going on in each of your AP/IB classes every step of the way. If you don’t understand something or need help, you need to get help from your teacher after school or go to a classmate or tutor to get your answers.


All of this should happen sooner rather than later, as the material in these advanced courses usually builds upon itself. This means that if you don’t understand one concept, you may have trouble understanding the subsequent concepts in the course.

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Do All the Assignments On Time

This may seem trivial, but with AP and IB classes, you will be assigned so many readings and work that it can be very easy to let a few assignments slip here and there. The main reason you want to try and avoid this is because every worksheet and assignment is going to serve as a study tool for not only your class exams, but also the AP exam. So you’re going to want as many of those assignments and readings as possible to be done on time and correctly.


Secondly, you want to make sure you’re finishing all of your assignments, even the small worksheets, because your teacher might grade those and use them to boost your overall average in the class. Many teachers do this, as they know that their exams are difficult and don’t want to completely tank your GPA.



Don’t Get Overwhelmed

With all the readings, assignments, and projects assigned in each AP or IB class, it’s very easy to feel like it’s too much work and stop trying. A great mental trick to get you through the mountain of work is to not think about or even consider the volume of work you have to do as a whole. Simply compartmentalize your work into each individual assignment or task, and take it one assignment at a time. If you focus on only one thing at a time, your workload will seem less stressful, and slowly yet surely you will be able to finish everything.



Keep Yourself Organized

AP and IB classes love to give you handouts, project assignments, and other worksheets, and they expect you to keep track of them for almost a whole year. At any point, you can be expected to refer back to a worksheet that you did weeks or even months ago, and you’ll definitely need to refer back to all of your old material in order to study for the AP or IB exam at the end of the year.


Thus, you should keep a folder or binder for each AP or IB subject that you are taking, and organize your materials within that  folder/binder so that you can find anything for the course at a moment’s notice. Unlike some lower level classes, your AP/IB teachers will probably not specify what organizational tools you need, so it’s up to you to organize the materials in a way that makes sense to you.



For More Information

Want to know more about AP and IB classes? See these previous blog posts from CollegeVine:


How To Choose Which AP Courses and Exams To Take

AP Exam Scores: All Your Questions Answered

How To Make a No-Fail Study Timeline for Spring AP Exams

Top Testing Tips for IB Exams


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!