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5 Hacks for Surviving AP American Studies

May 9, 2018

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As the 2017- 2018 school year comes to a close, students are scrambling to decide what classes to take next year. One major decision is what to take for your English and history classes. Rising juniors have a choice to take AP American Studies, AP History, College Prep English, or Academic English and history.

Many Flucos feel that AP American Studies is the hardest and most grueling class you can take junior year because of its workload and sheer intensity. While AP is very challenging in many ways, a number of students believe it is worth it in the end thanks to the  valuable information and study habits they’ll learn for college. It is a year-long class and consists of two different subjects: AP Language and AP American History.

Currently, these classes switch everyday, except on Fridays where the class period is split in half between the two. AP Language is usually taught by teacher Vicky Zavadsky, while teacher Matt Morrison usually teaches AP American History. “Mr. Morrison makes history–an otherwise boring subject–interesting and he makes me laugh every time I go to his class,” said junior Denise Fierro.

At the end of the year, students have to take both AP American History and AP Language exams. These exams does not dismiss the student from the 11th grade Writing, Reading, and History SOLs. So at the end of the year, AP students have to take five different tests for two subjects. Testers are awarded scores ranging from 1-5. If the student earned a certain score, they may receive college credit. Most colleges will take scores of 4-5.

It is this possibility for receiving college credit is just one reason students may want to take AP American Studies. Other factors are that it is a weighted course (meaning that it is based on a 5-point grading scale, so if you do well it can really boost your GPA), and that it looks good on a college application.

But don’t kid yourself: AP American Studies is hard–one of the hardest classes you can take at FCHS.

So here are five hacks (based on the experience of students who have taken or are taking the class) to help you get through AP American Studies.

Hack #5:  Actually read the books that Ms. Zavadsky assigns.

Yes, I know everyone says “read the books the teacher assigns,” but let’s face it: a lot of students don’t, and just wing it or rely on Sparknotes. However, AP Language is not a class where you can get away with that. A lot of the quizzes involve short answers, so Zavadsky can tell if you haven’t actually read the book. She makes the quizzes as she is reading the book so the questions do center around little details that you wouldn’t catch on a online summary. In addition, you always have to write a paper when you finish each book…and it’s really hard to write a good paper on a book you never even opened.

Hack #4: Turn in your outlines, even if they’re late.

Outlines are one of the most important resources for studying in American Studies as Morrison’s tests are solely based on the history textbook. Your outlines are a summary of each chapter, so you won’t have to go back and read a whole chapter if you do them, saving you a lot of studying time. “You can’t procrastinate because it’s a lot of work and info to cover, but if you do them you can study with them. So it’s important to take them seriously,” said junior Syerra Milliman.

Also, the outlines and notebook checks are the easiest A’s to get in Morrison’s class, so the outlines can save your grade if they are consistently turned in on time and complete. As a result, Morrison always tell students he would rather the outline be turned in late and complete, than on time and incomplete.

Hack #3:  Do not wait to the last minute to do the summer work.

The summer work assigned for American Studies is a good two months of work. Do not be like me and wait two days before school starts to begin your outline, because I was really struggling to get it done in time. The outline takes at least three weeks to finish well and completely. If I could do it over, I would dedicate the first month of summer to the English portion, which is reading two books and doing a hundred double entries for the first one and fifteen for the second one. I also had to do five outlines for Morrison’s class, and these were really stressful. I didn’t realize it takes at least three hours to outline each chapter (not counting the time it takes the read the chapter), so the work took me two long and full days. That’s why I advise you to start your summer work by at least by the first week in June.

 Hack #2:  Buy the AP book.

The United States History AP book is a lifesaver for getting ready for the test. I used the book for the AP American History midterm and it saved my grade. The book also has lots of information condensed into short chapters and will help you get all the historic events in order, a fact which helps your brain to remember their domino effects and how they impact today’s society. The book is $40, but students can find it on Amazon or rent a copy from Morrison.

In addition, a lot of previous students end up selling or giving their books away, so check with older friends to see if they are willing to sell or give you theirs. The benefit of buying a book is that you can write and highlight directly in the book. Whether you borrow or buy it all comes to down to how important it is to you to have the information directly highlighted.

Hack #1: Do not procrastinate.

If I could give one piece of advice, it would be do not procrastinate. Students always underestimate how long assignments will take. AP American Studies is not a walk in the park. Your life will just be so much easier if you just do all the work possible in your freetime. That’s hard if you have sports or extracurricular activities, so my advice is to use your weekends well by getting the work done then. It will be time well spent, and your GPA will thank you in the end.

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