A Survival Guide for New AP® Teachers

A Beginner’s Guide for New AP Teachers to Teach AP

“Survival” may seem like a strong word when it comes to education, but experienced AP teachers will tell you that the first year — especially the first few months — in an AP classroom feels like an exercise in career survival.

The responsibilities are daunting and the challenges are continuous, but the rewards that come with AP education make it all worthwhile. There is something special about teaching AP that makes those early “survival days” a treasured learning experience, filled with pleasant memories.

So, for teachers embarking on this new classroom experience, here are some helpful hints that will serve as a survival guide as you work to find your way toward AP success . . .

1. Get Familiar

A key to feeling comfortable in your new AP classroom is getting familiar with the coursework as quickly as possible. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Read the course description from College Board® 
  • Canvas online resources and AP teacher groups (Networking is huge!)
  • Attend AP workshops and attend an Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI)
  • Seek the advice of other AP teachers in your school or district

The more familiar you are with the expectations and rigors of the curriculum before stepping into the classroom, the more prepared you will be in the early and most challenging days.

2. Keep the Big Picture in Mind

It’s easy to get lost in the weeds as you prepare to teach your first AP class, but it’s important (and rewarding) to keep the big picture in mind. 

Know where you want to take your students and determine how you’ll get them there. Provide your students and their parents with this “big picture” on day one. 

Be positive; celebrate student progress. Avoid viewing your class as a “college course.” Instead, remember that you are teaching high school students who have the goal of earning college credit at the end of the course.

3. Make Early Diagnoses

Much of the early work for any AP teacher is diagnosing your students’ skill levels as soon as you can. Once this is done, you can implement the lessons your students need to get them to the levels necessary.

Here are a few practical ways to do that:

  • Provide students with samples of AP questions and student examples to Free Response Questions.
  • Use College Board’s Scoring Guidelines to support students’ free responses.
  • Use examples of your students’ quality work to demonstrate the skills you seek to develop.

4. Avoid the “I Have To Grade Everything” Trap

With so many assignments and so much composition required (namely in AP English Language and English Literature), new AP teachers are often overloaded with grading. This is a common problem that, fortunately, has easy solutions. Here are three suggestions to consider:

  • Have your students keep their longer written work in a portfolio and ask them to identify which one they’d like you to grade.
  • Use peer review so the students can receive feedback from each other as well as you.
  • Identify strong students and enlist their help in working with the students in the class who need additional help.

5. Practice Questions, Practice Questions, Practice Questions

Practice questions are key in preparing your students for regular classroom tests and the eventual end-of-year AP exams. Be sure to utilize past AP questions, as these will serve as a barometer for your students’ exam readiness.

Additionally, look for supplemental resources such as UWorld’s Learning Tools for AP Courses to provide challenging practice questions and detailed answer explanations to aid in the learning process. These tools will not only contribute to student engagement but work to prepare students for the important exam they will be taking at the end of your course.

6. Grow as a Learner

It’s easy for teachers to focus solely on the education of their students, but remember that the best teachers are learners too. This is why it is important to continue to nurture your knowledge in your subject area.

Make time to read about your subject area. Distribute assignments that you are passionate about and that you’ll enjoy grading. Lead classroom discussions centered around topics that you are both knowledgeable and interested in. The more you continue to learn, the better teacher you’ll become.

For districts, schools, and educators looking to enhance AP classes and boost student scores, UWorld offers an innovative AP resource that helps students master the concepts and gain the confidence needed for AP success. With perfectly modeled College Board level questions, concise answer explanations, and easy-to-access progress monitoring, our l online learning tools will help you take your AP education to the next level. Discover how we can help your program today.

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