Top AP Exams to Self-Study

By
Eva Mckinzie
Published on
September 22, 2021
Boy sitting at desk studying at a computer

If you don’t have room in your schedule to take a certain class, or if you simply want to take more tests to increase the amount of college credits you could obtain, then self studying for an AP exam could be the right path for you!

Self studying for an AP exam can be a great idea as you can work through the course essentially at your own pace. However, there are some things to note: not all AP exams will allow for an easy path towards success on the test.

Some of the exams, such as math or science ones, will prove to be extremely difficult without the guidance of an instructor. You may find yourself struggling to understand the material or what will be expected of you come test day.

On the other hand, there are some exams that are amazing for self studying! This article will provide 3 of them, but keep in mind, if you are considering self studying for an exam that isn’t discussed here, you can certainly still go for it!

1. AP Environmental Science

AP Environmental Science is a science related course that covers ecological processes, human impacts on the earth, resolving and preventing natural and human-made environmental problems. This exam is popular for self studying because the test itself has a reputation for being easy and doable: it only consists of multiple choice and free response questions (you won’t need to write long essays or anything of the sort).

You also don’t need to know anything about environmental science prior to this course, which is good as it shows that the class isn’t dependent on any outside knowledge that would allow some people to succeed and others to not succeed.

It never hurts to have more resources though. Use this free APES study guide to study for the exam. Overall, this exam is perfect for someone that is looking to study for an exam, but doesn’t want to struggle too much.

2. AP Psychology

AP Psychology is a great exam to self study for as there really aren’t any enormous equations or processes you need to know. Rather, your success will be determined based on whether or not you simply know the required psychological concepts, vocabulary words, and accomplishments of important scientists. All of this can be found in the course outline on the official CollegeBoard website.

Also, the test for AP Psychology is pretty short and sweet- it’s only 2 hours long with 100 multiple choice questions and 2 free response questions. The free response questions have the reputation of being pretty simple and not too complex at all. Here's a free study guide to help you study for this exam.

3. AP Human Geography

AP Human Geography focuses on studying patterns and processes that have our understanding, use, and adjustment of Earth. While this exam isn’t quite as straightforward as AP Environmental Science and AP Psychology because it requires more in-depth analysis of the issues you’ll be studying.

However, by analysis, I don’t mean anything even close to the analysis required for success in classes like AP US History or AP European History. AP Human Geography relies a lot on memorizing facts and dates, which is ideal for self studying.

There are also many resources for this course and exam that can be found on YouTube! In addition, the test is fairly short- it clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you decide to take the class in the future, use this in-depth study guide to help you ace that exam!

Other APs to consider:

1. AP US History

I took this class sophomore year and did not learn much throughout the actual school year due to the way my class was set up. This was when the coronavirus hit and altered all 2020 AP exams. Had we been forced to take the normal test (which is notorious for being very difficult), I would have probably gotten a not-so-great score.

However, with the altered form, I studied for a month leading up to the test and taught myself the entire course, in addition to how to write a great DBQ. I ended up getting a 5, and if I can do it, so can you- I’m NOT a history person at all! There's tons of great resources on the internet that helped me study including this AP US History study guide.

2. AP Biology

AP Biology is definitely not regarded as an easy exam, but if you are in an honors biology class, it can be doable. Biology is generally more focused on memorizing than classes like Chemistry and Physics, which are much more conceptual. Use our free AP Biology study guide to review and study for the exam.

Which APs to avoid:

1. AP Calculus AB and BC

I’m currently in Calculus AB and while I am loving the class and learning so much, I can definitely say that I’d be lost without a teacher. Calculus is different from all prior math courses, and a good teacher is needed to ensure success. I would recommend using our AP Calculus BC study guide for both of these classes. I use it as extra material along with my class notes.

2. AP Chemistry

The class itself is notorious for having a heavy workload, and needs a good teacher for guidance. This exam also relies heavily on conceptual knowledge; it’s not just pure memorization. Use our AP Chemistry study guide to learn the basic formulas and concepts.

3. AP Physics

DON’T do it. Many students who receive A's in math and science find their AP Physics classes at their schools to be very challenging; it is extremely difficult to get a score higher than 3 if a teacher is not there to keep you on track. If you decide that you want to self-study for this course, feel free to use our AP Physics 1 study guide as a resource.

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