Five Things To Know Before Taking APUSH:


Paige Rassey, Staff Writer

Taking an AP (Advanced Placement) class can seem daunting at first, but useful tips from previous students can help you prepare for and adjust to the course framework. AP U.S History—often referred to as APUSH—is traditionally  the first AP class highschoolers take during their sophomore year, expanding their world of academia and pushing their academic boundaries. Below, I’ve compiled advice from several of the top APUSH students of the 2022-2023 school year. 

  • Preparing Yourself for Slow Burn Success

Do not expect APUSH to be structured similarly to your previous history classes. It is essential to understand the major differences between APUSH and previous courses before embarking on summer assignments. An example of these distinctions are the deadlines in APUSH, which are given out further in advance and sometimes overlap. Know that your teacher structures the course with the amount of time each assignment requires in mind and that every standard is attainable if the course instructions are followed as presented. For example, if you are given a longer chapter reading due in two weeks and a shorter reading due in one, it is important to work on them simultaneously to stay ahead of your work and file the information from both readings together in your mind; the knowledge from one will often enhance the reading experience of the other. 

  • Individual Accountability, Consistency, and Dedication

There are three types of assignments you will be standardly tasked with in APUSH. First is the shorter reading assignment—often in preparation for a debate or graded discussion. Second is the textbook assignment, a longer reading expected to be completed parallel to shorter assignments. Even though this reading will not be officially checked in class, it is necessary for success on assessments, including pop quizzes. Last is the outside research-paper assignment that will test your knowledge accumulated from class (and the textbook), as well as your time management. The timeline of these papers is given months in advance, informing you on the deadlines for research, the first draft, (possibly) the peer edit, and the final submission. Every mini deadline leading up to the final submission must be planned for as rushed research in earlier stages of the paper can impact the timeline of your work and final product. 

A great deal of individual accountability is needed to succeed in APUSH as keeping up with short readings along with the textbook is expected of you, even if it is not directly graded. Students commonly take shortcuts to learning the material by watching review videos or reading notes and chapter summaries online. While these may seem like an alternate solution to the course work, they have proven to not be a sufficient replacement for reading the textbook. Two helpful resources used by APUSH students are Heimler’s History and Crash Course on youtube. In the grades of this years’ students, reading the textbook vs. not reading commonly means the difference between a B and B+, or a B+ and an A-. 

  • Understanding the Exam Before Learning the Material

With the many demands APUSH makes of you, it is important to understand the end goal: a good A.P. exam score. A major difference between APUSH and previous history classes is that APUSH requires the interpretation and analysis of historical events through argumentative essays. It is suggested that the structure of the exam is studied before taking the class and learning the material as to filter the information gathered throughout the course into what is most useful towards the exam. Barron’s A.P U.S. History Premium prep book is recommended. 

  • Preparing for Class and Utilizing Class Time

As time-consuming as reading the textbook can be, reading ahead and learning the material before class proves the most efficient use of time since class then turns into a review session. Since the textbook is commonly referenced during class lectures, class time can be utilized effectively through pre-reading. When not understanding a concept in class, studying this concept outside of class and seeking help from the teacher and internet resources is important. 

  • Staying Organized

With so much information thrown at you at once, APUSH can seem overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to contextualize the material learned in class right after it is learned so that you can keep your historical knowledge organized and ready for assessments and the A.P. exam later on. Make sure to learn the dates of events THROUGHOUT the first semester as compiling knowledge will often get jumbled up and dates are easy to forget. It is important to organize the events in your knowledge bank so you can directly and timely answer the prompts on pop quizzes and tests.


All advice credited to EZ Matanza, Emma Kaiser, and Isie Hinrichs.