AP U.S. History with Rachel Erwin at MEK

AP U.S. History with Rachel Erwin at MEK

AP U.S. History with Rachel Erwin at MEK

MEK’s Advanced Placement Course & Exam Prep classes are opening in January 2023. We’re offering small group virtual classes and private tutoring designed to give students the strategies and skills to ace their challenging AP classes and earn a 5 on the AP exam in May.

This Spring, we are offering AP U.S. History taught by expert instructor Ms. Rachel Erwin.

Ms. Erwin is a graduate of the University of Texas A&M and is the Director of MEK’s Exam Prep English Department. With her clear and systematic approach to teaching, she helps students make huge improvements. She prioritizes helping students cultivate good study habits and routines to excel in the classroom and beyond.

We interviewed Ms. Erwin to get her thoughts on what skills students should have for AP U.S. History, actionable steps students can take to succeed in both the course and the exam, and how students can become confident readers and writers.

Read on to see what she had to say!

Prerequisite Skills & Course Objectives for AP U.S. History

What skills should students have going into AP U.S. History?

Erwin: To succeed, students need a basic understanding of historical concepts. As for writing, students come in at different points. MEK will teach them writing skills from the beginning. On a more general note, students with good study habits and routines will do well.

When students come into MEK, they’re enrolled in either a 1-year or 2-year AP U.S. History class. Since they’ve learned a lot of the content as long as a year ago, we’re essentially reviewing the content with them as a refresher. We give students a lot of practice on the LEQ, DBQ, and short-answer sections of the exam. We’ll go over all the skills and content they need. 

Does having a strong understanding of AP U.S. History help students succeed in other AP courses?

Erwin: In terms of content, AP U.S. History can help you if you’re taking AP Government since you’ll learn about how the government works. AP World History has some overlap, though it encompasses a wider scope. More generally speaking, AP U.S. History teaches you good study habits, how to read founding documents which can help you on the SAT, and writing skills which apply to all of your classes.

Building Confidence

Why do some students find AP U.S History to be a difficult subject?

Erwin: AP U.S. History has a lot of content. MEK can help students with reading and writing skills, but the magnitude of content is the biggest hurdle. If you know the history, you’re set. That’s why study habits and routines are so important.

How do you help students build confidence in their writing skills?

Erwin: Practice. That’s the great thing about MEK classes. High school teachers have a lot to do and so they can’t be grading everything. We give students lots of practice tests and homework. MEK students have 16-18x more practice than they would get in just the classroom. Confidence comes from constant practice and timely feedback. Showing students examples helps them digest the feedback and helps them understand what they should do. 

Progress & Skill Mastery

What are your specific teaching methods for student engagement? 

Erwin: AP U.S. History is more of a lecture-based class. In the first half, we go over the content using PowerPoints. Students are often interested in the content because they’ve learned it before and they’re recalling it. Lectures are followed by weekly quizzes, so it’s much faster-paced than at school. We cover two hundred years in one day. 

Then we go into test review and regular reviews, which are more student-heavy. We show them a slide with a term, such as the 16th amendment, and they have to say what it is. It’s kind of like a game show.

How do you get kids to progress and master skills to succeed in AP U.S. History in both the course and on the exam?

Erwin: I think it’s about the way the curriculum is designed so that it’s strategic. MEK focuses on new skills each week for students to master and then to put them all together at the end. We focus on not just reviewing the test and content, but really helping students form long-term habits which can be applied to the classroom and beyond. 

Actionable Steps to Success & Resources for AP U.S. History

What are actionable steps students can take to succeed in AP U.S. History?  

Erwin: Set up a study routine early and follow it. You cannot wait until the last minute to cram everything. Starting in January is already a little late, but you still have time. Come up with a weekly study routine. Students have to actually study, not just do the homework from school or MEK. This means reviewing content from months ago. 

Have a good organization system to keep track of your text excerpts, notes, PPT, practice packets…etc. Set up a binder to section everything off by time period or type of resource. Remember also to use a teacher as a resource and ask them questions. 

There are many websites for students to practice reading certain types of tests like founding documents. These websites come with analyses. Building exposure to these texts is key.

Next Steps

AP courses are tough and may seem intimidating at first. But with a solid study plan and good study habits, students can get high grades and ace the exams.  

Many AP teachers focus on only the course material, leaving students underprepared for the actual 2-3 hour exam. At MEK, we take a two-pronged approach to AP Prep. Through providing students with both lectures by experienced teachers and practice exams, students gain a solid understanding of the material and learn test-taking skills to maintain their performance under time pressure.

Click here to learn more about our AP Course offerings for Spring 2023!

Interested in registering for AP courses with MEK? Fill out our Registration Form to get started.

Or if you have questions, contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.

Elisa Sung

Elisa Sung is the Marketing Assistant and Junior Content Writer for MEK and is a recent graduate of Vassar College with a degree in English. She is passionate about creating and providing educational resources for parents and students in order to help families make the most out of their academic and admissions experience.

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