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AP Classes: Tips and tricks from your fellow peers (Humanities edition)


Welcome to your course selection guide part 2, humanities edition! If you have not yet read part 1 of the course selection guide which goes into depth on AP STEAM classes, go give that a read after this! Do you have a busy schedule of hard APs lined up? Are you wondering if you can handle it all? Well, fear not, as we are here to help save you time, socialization, and energy by bringing all the information of these rigorous courses right to the comfort of your screen. So sit back, relax, and get ready to take notes for your future AP humanities courses! 

Just a quick disclaimer before we jump right into this: These AP courses are from the perspective of students with varied experiences, meaning that if a student claims a certain AP is easy this does NOT apply to everyone taking that AP. Please be aware of your workload and what you can handle, not what your friend can handle. 


AP Chinese Language & Culture

(Prerequisite: Mandarin 1, 2, & 3)

Are you a native speaker? Well, if so, this is probably an AP you will take intuitively and will barely have any problems navigating these waters! This AP consists of fun plays and skits throughout the year you can partake in, making the class unique and enjoyable. However, keep in mind that this is an AP course, so there will inevitably be a hefty workload of practice tests, including oral and written exams, nightly homework assignments, and lots of tests. Student polls state: 

“It is an easy course for anyone who is a native speaker, and very difficult for anyone else. It is still doable, however. If you’re a native Chinese speaker, prepare a little bit and then take the exam, and a 5 is nearly guaranteed.”


AP English Language and Composition

(Prerequisite: Honors Language)

Do you enjoy writing and expressing your thoughts in an organized manner? If that’s the case then, we’re sure you will end up enjoying this class! You will not only read some intriguing novels but also discover the rhetoric used to get a certain point across. Then, you will practice writing the first drafts of three types of essays (argument, synthesis, and rhetoric) all while responding to AP prompts. Students’ polls state:

“The easiest AP I’ve taken because it’s all skill-based and you don’t need to memorize anything. You just need to understand the structure of the MCQ and get the hang of writing essays quickly.”

“This class is personally pretty interesting to me. Ms. Silva is really good at preparing you for the AP—you will be taking lots of practice exams/writing assignments, and the course load isn’t overwhelming either. I’ve heard that Mr. Brady gives hard reading quizzes sometimes but that his class discussions are very engaging.”

“I had Mrs. Silva, and her class makes it very easy to hit all the points you need to do well on the AP while not being super time-consuming. The content can be a little dry at times, but as long as you focus in class, you will feel very prepared to take the AP.”

“To be honest, my teacher makes it fun; however, you don’t actually need that much skill to get a 5 on the AP, just practice.”


AP English Literature and Composition

(Prerequisite: Honors Literature) 

Although this class is similar to AP Language, AP Literature requires a lot more reading of outside material. It is somewhat similar to the rhetoric essays written in AP Language but differs as it focuses a lot more on analysis of the source material rather than analyzing rhetorical techniques (as is done in the AP Lang argument essay). It’s also more reading-intensive, as the course focuses on analyzing non-fiction pieces of prose. Student polls state:

“Best AP!! The test seems very scary at first but it gets a lot less scary as the year goes on. There’s also barely any hw :).”


AP European History

AP European History, a lecture-based class, is taken by many juniors at BISV. The class focuses on European History (no surprises there!) and requires essays written every month. (Note from author: It seems that the day the essay is due, more students fall asleep in class from the lack of sleep…) These essay prompts are all given out at the beginning of the school year, so you can get a head start if you are motivated enough. Student polls state:

“Out of everything that AP Euro has taught me, the most eye-opening part of it was learning how many aspects of European history are intertwined across its eras by the beliefs of European peoples and their leaders.”


AP French Language & Culture // AP Latin

We don’t have poll responses for AP Latin, although it is considered an extremely difficult AP, and AP French Language & Culture is slightly easier. However, both of these classes will allow you to explore these foreign cultures more than the grammar of these languages. Good luck to anyone taking these!

AP French was really difficult, probably the hardest AP I’ve ever taken. That’s pretty standard for language APs though, especially if you’re not familiar with the language outside of classes. I was in Mme Pilot’s inaugural AP class, and we were all pretty scared because we had heard that students in past classes had failed at high rates. The homework was about as much as all my other classes combined. However, French 4 (the alternative to AP French) was essentially the same – they had a huge amount of homework too. This might have been because we had to make up for COVID-19 years where none of us had really learned as much as we should have. In the end, it did prepare us well for the AP, and the vast majority if not all of us got 5s and 4s on the AP. I guess it wasn’t as difficult as we were afraid of it being. I’d suggest taking the AP, since the alternative class is just as difficult and you always have the opportunity to opt out of the AP test later on if you don’t feel prepared to take it. Also, prepping for the types of questions on the AP test itself should be smoother now that Mme Pilot has taught it a couple of times and knows exactly what you need to do.”


AP Music Theory

Considering taking this seemingly easy AP? We would just like to warn you to be humble when considering your music knowledge as it proves to be one of the hardest AP humanities courses out there. If you are one of those brave soldiers planning on taking this, make sure you have a substantial background of musical knowledge. Or else, you may end up spending countless hours after school to understand the basic concepts on top of finishing the assigned homework. Make sure to review the AP material by yourself when it is not covered in class. Student polls state: 

“The homework assigned took me about as long as the homework for all of my classes combined.”


AP Seminar

Are you looking to develop your presentation and research-based skills? You’re in luck! This class is the perfect fit for you as the presentations will build both your vocational skills and your confidence. This will definitely prepare you to conquer any future presentations you may need to give for an interview or job. Student polls state: 

“I took Seminar because I thought it was a chill, discussion-based class with no tests and that was … not entirely true. The workload was a lot more than I expected and there is still a final exam (although it is mostly project-based). Still, AP Seminar is a pretty useful course in terms of teaching you useful skills like research, writing, presentation, etc.”


AP Research

(Prerequisite: AP Seminar)

AP Research is a fully project-based class! It’s only for seniors, and it will replace the senior final project. For this class, your teacher cannot directly help you but will provide resources for your research; thus, this is an entirely self-motivated class. Since it is seniors-only, we do not have much feedback on this course.


AP Studio Art: 2-D Design // AP Studio Art: Drawing

AP Studio Art has recently changed from physical submissions to digital ones. The Required final portfolio must consist of the Sustained Investigation (60% of your score)—15 pieces that show the discovery of the chosen topic and may depict details or progress photos—and the Selected Works (40% of your score), which are five detailed works that may or may not be part of the Sustained Investigation. Usually, this means that students draw 15 (or more) pieces for the Sustained Investigation and choose the most technically advanced ones to put in the Selected Works (which is graded more harshly). All of these must revolve around a singular theme, so make sure to choose a broad subject that you can draw 15 pieces about. Plan them beforehand, as it would be difficult to change a theme in the middle of the school year. On top of the creative class structure you’ll experience, this class will fulfill your art credit. This is a fun class for art lovers, and BISV offers a similar course without the AP if you are unsure of your skills! Student polls state:

“Either be creative (and get away with being mid at art) or be good at art. [AP 2D Art is] time intensive, [so] start planning early (I don’t have much experience with the new system, but back in my day, I would suggest having a couple of super technical pieces—which used to be the physical submissions—and then the creative stuff can go in the sustained investigation part).”

“[It] helps to have art experience but it’s really the thought and creativity that one really needs.”


AP Spanish Language & Culture // AP Spanish Literature & Culture

(Prerequisite: Spanish 1, 2, & 3)

Spanish is the language learned by the largest number of BISV students. This AP world language class will allow you to learn a lot about Hispanic culture. Additionally, it may even provide you a world language credit at college/university if you get 4 or 5 on the AP, which is a prerequisite for some majors.

“Take AP Spanish because even if you get a 3 it’s worth it!!!”

“This class focuses a lot more [on] global issues and Hispanic culture than the previous grammar-based Spanish 1, 2, and 3.”

“It’s better than AP French/Latin/Mandarin bc we study all the countries in the world that speak Spanish (20+) which is objectively better than studying provincial France/China and dead Romans.”


AP U.S. History

(*Required course)

APUSH at BISV is a required course that you will be taking in 10th grade, so buckle up! This course is content-heavy and you could either end up getting copious amounts of homework or barely any at all, depending on the teacher. Overall, this course can seem intimidating at first, but with the organization of periods in sequential order, this course builds off patterns identified throughout American history that all connect in some way to form present-day America. So, if you can figure out this connection, you’ll be sure-set for the AP exam! Also, don’t stress about remembering dates! A common misconception held with APUSH is that one must remember every date, but in reality, the prominent patterns between periods and the significant influences certain presidents had on shaping American policy are often more useful. Here we will categorize between Mr. Ross’ class and Ms. Settles’ class*. Student polls state: 

Mr. Ross: 

“I am very blessed to have Mr. Ross for this class since he assigns very little homework and his lectures are engaging. However, I hear that my comrades in Ms. Settle’s class are plagued by guided readings. I do feel quite prepared for the AP.”

Ms. Settle:

“For me personally, APUSH wasn’t that bad other than guided readings.”

“OK, this class isn’t actually as hard as it sounds. Definitely a lot of work you have to put into it (guided readings, reading quizzes, etc.), but it’s actually not too hard to understand. Lots of information you have to remember though.”

“A lot of content. A lot. Use practice tests on the textbook because I have not and it may have been a detriment to myself. Don’t cram. Be good at connecting past events to current events and HIPPO analysis.”


AP World History

Are you finally ready to break away from the 2 (or 3 if you were here in 8th grade) year-long streak of some type of American history?! Well, congratulations, rising 11th graders, as this is one of your history options for 11th grade. If you take this course, be ready to expect the essays from APUSH last year in class again! If you have taken AP English Language or will be taking this course, it will provide great support in developing a strong-sounding argument for AP World History, helping you to express your point in a confident yet intriguing manner. This class doesn’t overload you with too much homework except for the occasional readings and essays! Student polls state: 

“Dr. [Van Dusen] is really nice and is good at explaining things. The class content does jump around units though (especially at the beginning of the school year), so keep that in mind. AP World doesn’t have much outside work you have to complete, other than occasional essays every 3ish weeks. It also has a really high 5 rate on the AP exam! So definitely take it if you want a relatively manageable history AP.”


AP U.S. Government & Politics

(*Required course)

AP U.S. Government & Politics is one of the required courses for the freshmen at BISV. Most who have already taken the course before claim it is not too bad! We’ll let the polls do the talking for this one.

“It’s fairly okay once you get past the initial roadblocks. Really work on your test-taking skills in this class.”

“Also seemed very intimidating at first but eventually everything gets easier somehow idk.”

“‘The enemy can’t guess your plan if you don’t have one’ – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.”

“It’s a required course here, and it’s honestly great. I know Parson kids think Leuder’s kids will fail and the same vice versa. I’ll conclude that both teachers are great teachers!”

“Honestly I think this was a really helpful and interesting course, and now I can flex random gov knowledge on my parents and constantly question how they even passed the US citizenship test.”

“You have to take this because it’s a required course, but personally I found it sort of cool, although there was definitely a lot of work you have to put into it. Also apparently the class grades are graded really harshly now, but I think Dr. Parson prepares you pretty well for the AP.”

“Dr. Parson gives out a schedule for notes at the beginning of the year, print that out and tape 3 copies of it over your locker so you can actually see it, sometime in the morning (preferably before you go to school), take any amount of notes from the textbook you wish—even 1 paragraph is fine, and this will ensure that you will have a start into your notes for the following days. However, these notes may not be necessary when reviewing for the AP; I personally did not use them and instead used a 2015 study guide online.”

“If you are doing [badly] on FRQ don’t worry you can retake them an infinite number of times, but if you do then take it as soon as you get your test back because if you procrastinate until the last week, there will be a lot of other people and you may not get to retake the FRQ before the time limit.”

“If you’re ever feeling that you are having a hard time in the class, don’t worry, you’re not alone, if you feel like nothing is going right in the class, there will be help somewhere. Try asking any upperclassmen (instead of Dr. Parson).”** 

“You’ve probably heard nightmare stories about this class. It’s really not that bad. Once you get past the initial phase of failing note checks, as long as you pay a bit of attention to Dr. Parson’s lectures (especially starting from March when he reviews for the AP), you’ll be set to get a 5. This class also has lots of fun projects like the midterm website project and the amendments rap. While you’ll suffer for a bit, it will be fun in the end!!”

“Fun class sometimes?? Don’t stress about the AP too much because of Dr. Parson’s quiz grades.”

“I don’t think I would’ve chosen this class on my own accord; however, I do think that taking this class is very beneficial towards my understanding of real world things. Definitely very hard but I guess it’s worth it.”

**Feel free to Ask Dr. Parson any of your questions as he is a certified and validated AP U.S. Government & Politics teacher. However, if you feel more comfortable asking past students by all means go for it, although keep in mind your teacher should be one of the first people you talk to (unless stated otherwise)! 


Of course, by definition, no AP classes will be a walk in the park. It’s completely normal to struggle in these classes! However, for each student, some will definitely be more difficult than others; this guide only provides advice, and the difficulty level of each AP will vary with your strengths and weaknesses. Good luck with your classes next year, and we hope to have quelled some of your curiosities about these courses!


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