The first few weeks of AP World History, I was suffering really bad.
I had a solid C- in the class and was seriously considering dropping out of the class.
But at the end of the first semester, I had a B+, and by the third quarter (start of the second semester), I had an A.
I managed to end the entire year with an A+ and around 97%.
Of course, I didn’t end up with an A+ just by pure luck. I studied strategically and made good use of outside resources.
If you’re also suffering real bad in AP classes right now, I’m here to help. Here are 5 simple strategies and resources I used to survive and eventually thrive in AP World History.
Taking Online Notes
First semester, I spent about 7 hours a week just handwriting notes from my textbook. Mind you, they weren’t even required!
But since this was a college-level class, a lot of the learning we had to do by ourselves, which meant reading the textbook and taking notes.
It was horrible, as our textbooks were literally 900+ pages of tiny text. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was reading or writing. I tried to write down everything that seemed important, which resulted in messy and overall useless notes.
After I started taking notes on Google Docs, everything became so much easier. Typing my notes took a lot less time than handwriting them, and the neat text made scanning through them a lot quicker.
The ability for me to search (ctrl/cmd + F) through my notes was great, too, as it helped me a lot with specific topics.
My online notes helped me a lot at the end of the year, when I was going through all the information, getting ready for the AP test. I could organize everything so much easier!
Teachers on YouTube
I could not have survived AP World History without Steve Heimler, every AP History student’s best friend.
Heimler’s History on YouTube has videos for every topic of every unit of AP World History (and AP US History + AP European History). And he explains how to write good history essays!
Heimler follows the College Board AP history curriculums closely. He hits almost EVERY SINGLE concept/term on the college board KBATs in his videos and explains them, which is extremely useful for essay writing.
Along with Steve Heimler, there’s also good old CrashCourse.
CrashCourse covers many subjects, so it’s helpful to almost all students.
History wise, CrashCourse is great for specific topics (like the Mongols, the Song Dynasty, the Crusades, etc), but not as helpful for understanding overarching themes. That’s why you need to make use of multiple resources.
Ask Your Teacher for Help
Whenever we had independent study at school and a big test was coming up, I gathered a couple of friends and went to my teacher’s room to study.
If we asked, my teacher was willing to tell us a lot of useful things.
She told us the exact structure she expects on essays, important themes across units and time periods, and common errors we made in tests and analyses.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teacher. Most good teachers genuinely wish for their students to do well (if your teacher doesn’t, I’m really sorry) and are willing to help.
If you recently wrote a practice essay and want someone to read and judge it, who else to ask but your teacher?
If you got questions wrong on a test but have no idea why, ask your teacher! In likely cases, your teacher wrote the test and knows clearly what each question is asking. Maybe they made a mistake, and you can get a couple of points back!
A good teacher should be the best resource a student has. So if you genuinely want some help, sit down with your teacher and discuss whatever your worry is!
Form Study Groups
Study groups are SO IMPORTANT!
If you don’t have a study group formed by the end of the first month of school, you are falling behind!
Find 3+ friends (in my experience, anywhere from 4-10 is a good number of people) and form a study group to occasionally meet in the school/local library or someone’s house.
Bring all your notes (this is where having online notes is helpful), all your study guides, any helpful workbooks, and some snacks.
During study sessions with your group, focus on discussions. Or if a test is coming up, work on your own study guides, but together!
Go through each concept you need to study, discuss the connections between terms, and review all the important things you’ve recently covered.
If you had a good study session, you should’ve had at least 1 “aha” moment and left the group feeling like you understand everything.
Also, study groups are fun! Nothing is stopping you from making a couple of TikToks in the middle of the study sessions.
If you’ve been an AP World History student for more than 2 months, you should know very clearly what “D2” is.
If you don’t, here’s my explanation: making deep connections between different concepts/terms/themes/ideas. This includes comparing & contrasting, analyzing deeper meanings, and finding similar occurrences elsewhere.
D2 is an element in a history essay, but it’s also a skill that you should use all the time.
Whenever you learn something new, D2 it. Really think about the causes behind it, the consequences of it, how different objects react differently to it, how a similar process happened in another time/region, etc.
When you D2 things, you connect dots. And by connecting these dots, you’re strengthening your knowledge.
AP classes are difficult. It can seem impossible to pass the class. Trust me, I know how you feel.
But if you follow the right strategies, have the right mindsets, and dedicate enough energy, anything’s possible.
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