Can I Take An AP Without Taking The Class: Self Studying

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    If you’re a studious high-schooler, your schedule might include several Advanced Placement (AP) courses. These rigorous courses offer potential college credit upon passing a cumulative AP exam. Most students learn AP material in a traditional class setting. However, it’s possible to register for and pass an exam without first enrolling in the class. 

    Should I Self-Study for an AP Exam?

    • Self-study for an AP exam if:  
      • You’re very interested in an AP course not offered at your school.  
      • It’s recommended that this AP be on the easier spectrum of courses offered. For example, self-studying for AP Psychology is more doable than self-studying for AP Computer Science.  
      • You’re taking a corresponding honors or standard class. For example, if you’re taking honors US Government, you need only supplement your in-class learning to pass the AP exam because there is much overlap in material.  
      • Common course types that fall under this umbrella: science, history, and English. (Note: usually, not math.)  
      • You know you’re a very motivated and disciplined student.  
      • Self-studying for AP classes takes sustained effort and time. If you don’t think you can commit to a consistent amount of self-driven studying on top of your usual workload, don’t waste your money on an exam. 
    • A classroom setting is usually a much more efficient and long-lasting strategy for learning a subject.
    • Depending on the subject and your study style, you might be wasting your time when it could be better spent doing something else.  
    • APs aren’t the end-all, be-all of college admissions. In fact, they tend to take a backseat. Instead, it’s important to focus on your GPA. If self-studying will impact your GPA, it might not be a great idea for you. 
    • If you do decide to take this route, the exams that are the easiest and most concrete are the best to self-study.  
      • Meaning: classes without advanced, conceptual material. More memorization-based classes are more doable. 
      • For example, AP Psychology and AP Environmental.  
      • Avoid highly conceptual classes such as AP Calculus and AP Physics. These usually require further explanation than just a textbook or article, and require a teacher to bring deeper understanding.  

    Study Tips

    • Resources abound on the internet! 
      • Use Khan Academy. This resource has a wide range of topics that correspond directly to AP classes.  
      • YouTube is also a great tool. Try Crash Course or Adam Norris videos for AP US History.  
      • A Google search for “Best AP ______ resources” never hurts. For example, Freemanpedia for AP World History. 
    • Find a textbook and a review book. These will become invaluable for learning information and preparing as the exam draws nearer. 
      • Take notes! This will help you interact with the information and become much more familiar with it.  
    • Draw up a schedule—and incentivize it.  
      • This is useful, especially when your motivation starts flagging when the year sets in.  
      • Incentives might include candy or a break after a certain number of concepts learned.  
      • Your studying will be the most successful if it’s consistent and frequent. Think about it: you’re testing with thousands of students who may have attended class every day or every other day.  

    How to Register

    • If your school offers AP exams, it could be as easy as checking off a box on a form and enclosing an additional $92. If you need financial assistance, let your counselor know. 
    • Talk to your school’s AP coordinator—a guidance counselor or teacher—if you need help.  
    • If you’re homeschooled, or if your school doesn’t offer AP courses, call AP services at 888-225-5427 by March 1 to set up your exam.  
      • CollegeBoard will help you find out your nearest testing center and the time of your exam. Contact the testing center by March 15. 
    • It may seem obvious, but please remember to register. Don’t let your hard work go to waste! 

    Angela Qian


    Senior at Dulaney High school. Editor-in-Chief of Sequel literary arts magazine and Baltimore County student council president.


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