Pushing through AP US History

A guide to surviving and thriving in APUSH your sophomore year

The first day I walked into AP United States History I sat down with a bunch of kids I didn’t know and nervously awaited the arrival of my teachers. What if the work was way too much for me and I flunked out? What if I failed the exam and wasted my time and money? Looking back on how nervous I was I can’t help but laugh. I met some of my best friends through APUSH, I learned a lot about myself and about the US and I did perfectly fine on my exam. There were times when it felt like a burden, but I can honestly say that toward the end of the year I always looked forward to going to class and I miss it now that I’m finished. Here are the tips I wish I could tell sophomore me, my very own guide for surviving and thriving in APUSH. 

1. Take good notes from the textbook; this is super helpful for test corrections. 

Whether your teacher is using predesignated note packets or having you take your own from the textbook, it’s important to take quality notes. Write down the things you think are important and the connections you make with them. Additionally, whenever you have the opportunity, do the chapter review questions. These notes and the comprehension questions will help you if your teacher is offering unit test corrections. Corrections can greatly improve your grade and will help you to understand the content better moving forward. Understanding is very important in APUSH because all of the units intersect with and impact one another. 

2. Participate in class discussions. 

As scary as speaking in front of your peers can be, the discussions held during class are great resources. Not only can you reinforce your own understanding but you can also see other people’s perspectives and connections. History is a subjective class; point-of-view is very influential to students’ comprehension. In AP courses where you have to display critical thinking, sharing your perception and taking others into account will immensely increase your knowledge on the subject, which will come in handy when it comes time for SAQs, LEQs and DBQs. 

3. Try different studying styles for the first few tests to prepare yourself for the exam.

Everyone learns differently and the same can be said for studying. Some people prefer to watch videos, some like to read over notes, others prefer flashcards. All of these are good ways to study – it’s all about finding which combination works best for you. In APUSH you’ll have several period tests before the exam. Use these period tests to practice different studying techniques and create your perfect study routine. Knowing how you study best will be useful not just for the APUSH exam but also for every other class you take in your academic career. Furthermore, look at your teacher’s syllabus for the resources they recommend! For example, I used Mrs. Cervi’s recommendation of Heimler’s History and I credit that channel with helping to improve my final grade. If you can’t find any on the syllabus your teacher will be happy to provide some for you if you ask. 

4. Follow the given study guide for the exam. 

In the last few months of the year your teacher will start to tell you that you should begin reviewing for the AP exam. They’ll tell you what periods to focus on at what time to stay on track. As this can seem very overwhelming as this usually starts during periods 8 & 9 (the largest periods) and it feels easier to push the exam to the back of your mind. Don’t do it. Your work will pay off in the end, the amount of stress you will feel at the start won’t compare to how mortified you’ll be when you realize the exam is in 3 weeks and you haven’t looked at period 1 since September. Trust me, your future self will thank you! 

5. Make friends!

APUSH is fun but it’s also scary. This might be your first time taking an AP class, the workload and class structure might be different than your used to. But this is supposed to be enjoyable! You’re learning about yourself as a student and a sense of camaraderie with your peers will only make this experience more memorable. Further, having people around you will help you in the class, it’s always good to have a group of people who are willing to read over your work and remind you of due dates. Working together takes some of the stress off of you because you know they have your back! 


When it comes down to it, APUSH is one of the best classes I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking. Work hard and have fun and you’ll be fine! Your teachers and classmates are here to help you if you get overwhelmed. I hope these tips help you this year and I hope APUSH is as great of an experience for you, just like it was for me!