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! 

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