5 Tips for Succeeding in Your First AP/IB Class

Today’s article was written by David White.

Whether one is looking to improve their chances of getting into the college of their choice, or just looking for a greater academic challenge, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes can be a great way to get ahead.

AP and IB classes are college-level courses for high school students that can be taken in addition to other classes or as a substitute for a high school-level course. For example, if you have a strong interest in world history and feel unchallenged by your current history class, you could look into whether or not your school has an AP World History course to take instead. What classes are available and whether or not there are fees associated with that class depends on your school.

There are many different reasons why someone would pursue either of these types of classes, but it’s typical that a student would take AP or IB classes to make themselves a more attractive candidate for college admissions. Successfully completing these courses suggests the student is intellectually curious, motivated, and committed to their education.

If you think that AP or IB classes are right for you, consider how the following could help you succeed in these advanced courses:

1. Organize, organize, organize

The most important thing to keep in mind is that AP and IB classes are college-level courses. This means that they will likely be more challenging and have higher standards than your other classes. College courses typically involve more complex concepts and require strong critical thinking skills, both of which involve more organization than you might be used to.

Everyone has their own approach to organization, so if you know what works for you, stick with that. Otherwise, purchase separate notebooks or binders for your AP and IB classes, with tabs that will allow you to keep items like notes and handouts in order.

2. Take notes

As previously mentioned, these types of courses can require a much higher level of thinking and analysis than high school students may be accustomed to, including many new and overlapping subjects or concepts. In order to ensure that you’re staying on top of everything and meeting requirements, you’ll probably want to take as many detailed notes as possible, especially when prepping for tests or exams.

If you’ve set yourself up with separate notebooks and a system for organization, make sure you keep notes on each subject separate from the others. As you review those notes, keep an eye out for things that overlap or provide insight into other subjects or topics. This is especially important for areas like history, sociology, and psychology, where topics can be very complex and might require you to look beyond the scope of the subject to understand the entire context.

3. Complete your work on time

AP and IB classes can add a considerable amount of stress to a student’s life because the standards and expectations are usually higher than they might be for other courses. For example, you might be expected to write a five page essay for a high school English class, whereas in an AP or IB class, you might be expected to write a ten page paper addressing theory and content.

In order to stay on schedule and not fall behind the rest of the class, try to prioritize your assignments and begin work on AP or IB homework as soon as possible. With proper organization and good notes, you should be able to complete the assignment in the given timeframe and avoid a seriously stressful situation. If, on the other hand, you notice that you’re starting to fall behind, ask for assistance as soon as possible.

4. Locate prep materials

Like all things academic, the more prepared you are, the better you’ll do. Taking good notes and keeping up with the class material is essential for success, but you can also look elsewhere for additional study materials to increase the odds of a positive outcome.

Study guides and exam prep materials will offer additional analysis and insight into a given subject, often broken down into easily accessible chunks with very straightforward explanations. These can be found in most online or local bookstores.

5. Be confident

Due to the advanced level of the work, students can easily feel as though they’re out of their depth when it comes to the class material and homework. It’s important to remember, however, that you were good enough to get into the class, so you certainly possess the skills necessary to complete the work.

You should never hesitate to ask questions and to contribute to classroom discussions. Just as important, you should always feel confident and comfortable asking for help if you find yourself struggling with a particular subject or assignment.


David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.