How to Understand AP Texts, Using Owl Eyes

— Kate on

AP classes are tough. For teachers and students both, I’m sure. But since I have the most experience as a student (and zero experience as a teacher), I’d like to offer some helpful tips to students who may be struggling to understand their assigned reading. For the teachers out there, hopefully my experiences will resonate with you and your students to help your classes run more smoothly and help get the most 5s come springtime.

Highlight for Efficiency

When reading my AP classes, I found it difficult to stop the flow of reading in order to write the necessary annotations. So instead, I bookmarked every interesting passage and came back to it later to write up an analysis. Sometimes I would scribble something like “character analysis” or “foreshadowing” on the little sticky notes for later, which made the whole process go by even more smoothly.

On Owl Eyes, we have a handy highlighter tool that lives next to the annotation tool. Similar to using sticky notes, you can simply highlight text that interests you while reading—without interrupting the flow. You can come back to the passage later and click on any highlighted text and make it into an annotation. Try highlighting as you read a chapter at a time, and go through and edit all of your highlights to become thoughtful, insightful annotations. See how much quicker the process is!

Not a fan of e-readers? Try using sticky notes like I did or highlighting your text, if you are able.

Use Tags to Organize

When I was in highschool, I had no way to distinguish between different types of annotations. I realize now, years later, that I could have easily used different colors of sticky notes and assigned meaning to each color. I could have saved myself a lot of grief. But here we are, and here you are, and I am hoping you can learn from my mistakes.

Owl Eyes has a useful tag function that you can use as you’re writing annotations—anything from plot to historical context to foreshadowing. Try tagging your notes as you make them to more easily organize your thoughts. And don’t worry, you can filter your notes before you sit down to read them—more on that in the next section.

Prefer paperback books? Try using different colored highlighters.

Use Filters to Simplify

You can take tags a step further when reviewing your notes by using the filter function. While viewing your annotations, try filtering by tag. You don’t have to scroll through the entire text to view all of your notes either—scroll to the bottom of the reader page to view all of your notes in the footer section. Try it the next time you have to write an essay on character development, and see how much easier it is to find quotes that are already filtered by the “character analysis,” or whichever, tag. This function is especially useful for all you visual thinkers! You could either flip through a book in search of some highlighted text or scroll down a page to do so.

Not interested in computer work? Try writing your annotations on colored index cards, quote and all. Lay them out by color if you want to organize your thoughts.

Read Annotations for Analysis

If you’re needing a little extra push to help understand the text at hand, we’re here to help! On each text’s home page, we’ve got a bunch of handy tabs for understanding theme, historical context, literary devices, and more.

Filtering annotations by tag may help your reading experience, too. If you’re confused on what a certain literary device is doing for one of Emily Dickinson’s poems, for instance, you can try filtering Owl Eyes annotations by the “literary devices” tag to see what we’ve written about the subject.

Below is a list of commonly taught AP texts that we have, on-site and annotated. Browse our library or use the search function to find more texts, and comment with any tips you have to ace AP!

Happy reading!