How Do I Self-Study AP Chinese?

4 min readoctober 2, 2021

Catherine Liu

Catherine Liu

AP Chinese 🇨🇳

53 resources
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Overview 🇨🇳

大家好! If you’ve been on the fence about self-studying for AP Chinese, you’ve come to the right place! On the test, you'll be expected to be proficient in understanding, writing, and speaking Chinese. Keep reading if you're interested in self-studying 👀

Pros and Cons 🎭


  • You go at your own pace. You can decide what, when, and how much you want to study.
  • No required homework or projects. Especially if you're someone who already has a good grasp on intermediate Chinese, you might prefer self-studying to avoid assignments.
  • It might be your only option. AP Chinese isn't offered at most AP schools. If you want the credit, you might have to self-study.


  • No classmates or teachers. It'll be harder to practice your conversational skills and get feedback.
  • It's harder to stay motivated. Without the motivation of peers and a letter grade, it can be difficult to keep yourself on track.

Factors to Consider 🤔

  • Your experience. If you grew up speaking Chinese with your parents, self-studying for the test won't be too difficult. If you're a nonnative speaker, consider how much Chinese you already know. Keep in mind that classes like AP Spanish are usually taken after 3-4 years of experience in the language. If you have a few years of Chinese classes under your belt, then go for it! If you don't, or if you feel under-prepared, you might want to spend at least a year studying Chinese before you tackle the AP course.
  • Your other classes. If your schedule is already loaded with difficult classes, you should think about how much effort AP Chinese will take. Is that effort is going to overwhelm you during the school year? If so, you might want to avoid self-studying.
  • Your motivation. Do you struggle with meeting deadlines you set for yourself? Can you stay motivated without a traditional classroom setting?
  • The people around you. Without a class, it's more difficult to immerse yourself in the language. Try to find someone who can talk to you in Chinese and help answer your questions, like a friend or a family member.

Making a Study Schedule 🗓️

If you've decided to self-study for AP Chinese, you should definitely make a study schedule. There's no one-size-fits-all schedule, but there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
  • How much time do I need? You should give yourself enough time to cover everything, but you should also be reasonable. If you can fit the course into a semester without too much stress, then there's no need to make a schedule that spans the whole year.
  • What do I need to focus on? Maybe you already know a lot about Chinese family structures. If so, then you should spend less time on unit 1 and more time on the units you don't know much about.
  • What else am I involved in? If your debate season runs from November to February, then lighten the load during those months. Concentrate your studying during the weeks when you have less going on.
Lastly, make sure to be flexible! 🤸🏽 If you're making a schedule over the course of a few months, then you should give yourself space to move things around in case other obligations come up.

Where to Study 📍

  • Textbooks and prep books.
  • ChinesePod. They have free YouTube videos for all levels of Chinese learners, and it's a great way to practice your listening comprehension. If you like their videos, they also have a self-guided course you can pay to access. It includes vocabulary exercises, practice tests, and grammar blocks.
  • Chinese Language Stack Exchange. You can use this forum to find answers to any questions you might have.
  • Movies and TV shows. Don't forget about the fun ways to study! Listening is a key part of the test, so watching your favorite Chinese dramas will still help you. Just make sure to supplement your binge-watching with some more formal Chinese studying. Check out Us and Them, Meteor Garden, The Rise of Phoenixes, The Untamed, or Put Your Head on My Shoulder on Netflix.
  • News articles and short stories. Reading comprehension is another important skill. If you want to branch out from your textbook, read some media in Chinese and write English summaries of them. Use these lists from My Chinese ReadingHSK Reading, or Just Learn Chinese for reading practice ranging from beginning to advanced.

Closing Thoughts 💭

Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of self-studying. Everyone is different, so what works for someone else might not work for you. That being said, many people do successfully self-study for AP Chinese, so if you feel ready, don't be afraid to try it yourself! If you stay motivated, follow a schedule, and keep practicing, you'll rock the exam 🎉
For some extra tips on how to get a 5, check this guide out!
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🔬Unit 4 – Science & Technology in China
🏠Unit 5 – Quality of Life in China
💴Unit 6 – Challenges in China
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