For your viewing pleasure, I present a comprehensive list of all the Tips for Success used since the start of this site…
Tip for Success #1: Summer reading, while annoying and generally the bane of all students-enjoying-their-well-deserved-vacation’s existence, is still important. Not because the book will change your life, but because the first couple weeks of school (not counting the arbitrary getting-to-know-you first day) center around it. Make sure you know what your summer reading is, read it, and remember enough of it to get by.
Tip for Success #2: Be prepared. There will always be that one person in your class who just shows up with literally nothing and asks to borrow everything. Don’t be that person. Forgetting things sometimes is human. “Forgetting” everything is just lazy.
Tip for Success #3: Ask questions. You are at school [because the government mandates it] to learn. If you don’t ask someone (the teacher or someone in class who seems to get it) when something doesn’t make sense, it will never make sense.
Tip for Success #4: Friends are good. Remember that most of the books you will study have been in existence since, like, ever. Example: me, my mom, and my grandma all had to read Catcher in the Rye in high school. Not to mention that most teachers don’t really change their syllabi from year to year. Someone will have the answers. Ask around.
Tip for Success #5: Plagiarism is a big deal. Don’t do it. Even if your teacher is really lazy and you know you can get away with it. Don’t. You do not want to be the single story of “the idiot who plagiarized and got caught” that teachers will recite for years to come. You can take F/Acts, but come up with your own Abstracts and Tying it Backs.
Tip for Success #6: Actually read the book. With Sparknotes, Endnotes, etc. just a click away, it may be tempting to just read chapter summaries. 98% of the time, this will work. Then, your teacher will spring the test on you and then you will be screwed. Most of the time, your teachers don’t actually expect all that much work from you. Just do it. It will prepare you for college.
Tip for Success #7: Bring more than one working blue/black pen to class. Especially on an essay day. Teachers will not be forgiving if your pen dies in the middle of an essay. So prepare for it.
Tip for Success #8: Notes are important. However, a jumbled mess of everything the teacher ever said is basically useless. Try to condense your notes to the important things – summarize. You need to understand the material, not be able to recite what your teacher said.
Tip for Success #9: Know your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out what you need to improve on and then actually get to work improving it. Sometimes paying more attention in class and trying stuff out on essays is all you need to do. Sometimes you need more help than that. Check out the CollegeBoard website for practice exams and try them out if you really need the extra practice.
Tip for Success #10: Literary devices don’t just exist in the stuff you read in class. If you’re having trouble identifying specific literary devices in a work, and asking people just isn’t helping, try looking for the same devices in other books – maybe a childhood favorite you’ve read a million times. That way, you won’t get bogged down trying to figure out the plot and can just stick to identifying the device.
Tip for Success #11: Don’t underestimate peer feedback. If your teacher gives you lots of take home essays, have a friend or two look over yours while you look over theirs. Give each other feedback and then revise your essay accordingly. If your teacher sticks with in-class essays, have friend(s) look over those when you get it back and add their feedback along with the teacher’s. Sometimes having the same thing written differently makes it easier to understand.
Tip for Success #12: If you’re really struggling, ask your teacher to have a meeting outside of class. Ask them to help explain concepts you can’t understand or give you more feedback on your essays. Your teacher will be impressed with your initiative and can really help you figure things out.
Tip for Success #13: Become friends with someone who has already taken AP Lit. Especially if they took it with the teacher you currently have. They will have advice about the teacher’s specific preferences and can help you avoid spending loads of time trying to figure out exactly what your teacher wants. Oh, and also help with the actual class.
Tip for Success #14: Vocabulary really isn’t the huge deal teachers make it out to be. As long as you can sound relatively academic and don’t sprinkle your essays with WTF, LOL, Shakespeare was one crazy MOFO, etc. you’ll be fine. It’s much more important to get your point across well than it is to show off your impressive vocabulary.
Tip for Success #15: Try to be different. Don’t write all your essays the same way – don’t use the same three literary devices in your analysis every single time. Your teacher will catch on, but more importantly, you won’t learn as much as you should. Symbolism, theme, and diction are a pretty safe choice, but if that’s all you can do you may be in for a shock come the AP Exam. Try branching out every now and then.
Tip for Success #16: Don’t ramble for the sake of rambling. If your teacher doesn’t assign a number of pages for your essay, writing six pages instead of two makes absolutely no difference if you would have covered the exact same material in exactly the same depth. Write with a point and purpose, and don’t think that rambling will get you any extra points.
Tip for Success #17: Just ask why. In a discussion, an essay, and whatnot, just asking why something happened (or didn’t happen) makes a huge difference in the quality of your analysis. It’s not just “so-and-so did something and something happened.” It’s “so-and-so did something and something happened. And this is why.”
Tip for Success #18: Don’t just stare at the page hoping the magic of inspiration will descend and fill you with untold wisdom. If you get the dreaded writer’s block, breathe. If you’re in class, look around or daydream for a little bit. Just get your mind off of the essay for a few minutes. If you’re at home, same thing but you can move around. Give your brain a little time to catch its breath and then get back to writing. Remember, it’s better to have a half-assed idea than no idea on the page.
Tip for Success #19: AP Lit is not the be all end all of your student career. If you do great, that doesn’t guarantee anything. And if you don’t, it still doesn’t guarantee anything. So don’t stress. Try your best and do the work, and hopefully the grades will follow. But if they don’t, then it’s just an experience you’ll have. It’s not the end of the world.
Tip for Success #20: Keep your work. Keep some random folder or shoebox at home and stick all your old essays, worksheets, etc. in it. Sometimes your teachers may make a mistake (el gasp!) and you’ll have to produce the work to get credit for it. So, don’t throw your work away, burn it, shred it, etc. until the very end of the year. Make an event out of it, even, but don’t do it before the end of the year!
Tip for Success #21: Talk in class. No, I don’t mean lean over to your friend to ask them if they’ve watched the new episode of that one show because did you see that one guy who was so hot?! I mean, participate. Ask your teacher questions, answer your teacher’s questions, generally prove that you are paying attention. Teachers like it when you pay attention, and will be much more likely to help you get your grade up if you show that you care.
Tip for Success #22: No matter how boring, irritating, or ridiculous the class is, do not fall asleep. Just don’t. Do whatever you have to do to stay awake, even if that means watching the second-hand on the nearby clock. Zoning out is much more acceptable than falling asleep. Paying attention is preferred, but this is AP Lit. You’re bound to get bored sometime. Just at least pretend to pay attention.
Tip for Success #23: You don’t have to memorize everything. Really. Even if your teacher throws novels, plays, poems, literary devices, and assorted vocabulary terms at you every single day, you don’t have to remember all of them for the AP Exam. Stick to the basics, the ones you really know. Don’t try to cram all sorts of knowledge into your head the day before the test. It doesn’t work that way.
Tip for Success #24: Ask for help when you need it. Not everyone is an extrovert, and asking for help doesn’t come easily to everyone (believe me, as an extreme introvert, I know). But, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” So ask.
Tip for Success #25: Figure out what resources are available to you. Does your teacher offer office hours? Do you have a study group? Do you have a few websites you always turn to? In short: do you know how to get help when you need it? If you don’t know, find out! Ask friends how they get help, ask if you can form a study group, etc. AP Lit doesn’t have to be an individual effort. You can get help. In fact, you should.
Tip for Success #26: The best way to test your knowledge of something is to explain it to someone else. As a test prep strategy, explain the plot/main themes/literary devices in a text to someone. Even if that someone is just your reflection.
Tip for Success #27: Do your homework. It seems self-explanatory, one of those “Do I really have to write this Tip?” type things, but really. Just do your homework. If you have to read a terrible book that makes you want to bang your head against the nearest hard object, that doesn’t matter. Still read it. BS can only get you so far, and you decided to take this class because you wanted to succeed. When you get college credit for this class, you’ll be glad you forced yourself to sit down and do the work.
Tip for Success #28: When you get an essay back, regardless of the grade, go talk to your teacher about it. Ask what you can do to do better — even if you got an A. Listen, and then try to do it next time. It shows your teacher you care.
Tip for Success #29: A blind character is like the goldmine of symbolism. Are they psychic? Are other characters blind to the truth? Are they feeble? Are others blind to weakness? etc. etc. so deep much meaning wow.
Tip for Success #30: Procrastination can be an excellent motivator. The pressure of a looming deadline may be the final straw that forces you away from the wonders of the Internet and back to the dreaded book or essay you’ve been actively avoiding. So, contrary to all teachers everywhere, procrastination can be great. Just as long as you actually finish your work before class starts.
Tip for Success #31: If you have a particularly bad teacher, my most sincere apologies. No matter how much you may want to just do nothing to stick it to the man, you’re still getting a grade and hopefully college credit for the course. So, try and focus on the work and not how bad your teacher is. This can be really difficult. My advice is to keep a running note of all the things your teacher does that irk you — a sort of “How Not to Teach 101” if you will. It sounds weird, but whatever works that keeps your mind on the class and not storming out the door.
Tip for Success #32: Silence is deep and meaningful. Both literal — “they sat in silence” — and abstract — “what isn’t being said? what’s hidden in silence?” And, of course, a wild symbolism appears. Silence is the great void, nothingness, we are born alone and we will die alone, we’re all dust in the wind, etc. The things that are said are just as important as the things that remain unsaid.
Tip for Success #33: This class tends to assume a lot of “common knowledge”. It is assumed that everyone knows the basics of Christianity, of sports, or politics, and of the stuff that “normal” people would read in the newspaper. But I, and I think maybe a lot of you, are much more interested and invested in “non-news” — aka: social media, Netflix marathons, and all those feels. And this doesn’t really help you analyze literature in a way your teachers would appreciate. So, it may be a good idea to get a basic handle on “common knowledge” you may be lacking in.
Tip for Success #34: Proofreading is important. Even a final glance at a paper at 2am before printing out the paper. It’s still important. You can still catch some stupid error error just by slowly reading over your paper. And this holds true for in-class essays too. When there’s only five minutes left, stop writing and reread what you’ve already read. You can make a side note with an asterisk and make something more clear or fix a stupid error.
Tip for Success #35: Take a break. Breaks are great. You refresh your mind and stop getting annoyed about your stupid assignments and instead spazz over adorable kittens doing adorable things. Breaks are awesome. But make sure to still do the work at some point.
Tip for Success #36: It’s been long enough that chances are you’ve forgotten some of the books you’ve read this year. Make a list – title, author, plot (in a sentence), and a literary device used in the novel. Update this list after every book and memorize it before the exam. It will help you so much. So. Much.
Tip for Success #37: You’re almost there, and you know what that means. Not, like your teachers think, that you’re filled with enthusiasm and working hard. Oh, no. Nope. You’re completely done with this. Summer is coming. Your care levels are dangerously low. But keep going. You didn’t spend all this time in AP Lit to give up at the final sprint. Keep going. The college credits are worth it.