Character growth in Final Fantasy VII Remake comes in a few different forms - there's leveling up, there's learning abilities from all the weapons, and there's materia growth through acquiring AP.
Ability Points, or AP, is how Materia grows and improves, and it's a system lifted right from the original FF7. Basically, most materia in the game has multiple levels - so level 1 of the Fire materia lets you cast level 1 Fire magic. Getting enough AP to push the materia to level 2 will unlock Fira, a more powerful elemental spell, and level 3 will unlock Firaga, the most powerful fire spell in the game short of the Ifrit summon materia.
The same is true for most materia. Generally, a materia unlocks a more powerful version of its core spell, but some others have multiple functions. The healing materia unlocks three Cure spells as it gains AP, for instance, but it also unlocks the Regen spell that gradually restores health over time.
We've got a full list of Materia levels, spells and skills on another page if you need that - just hit the link - but on this page we want to talk about AP Farming and how to earn a shed load of AP quickly if you want to level up a specific materia. For broader help with every other aspect of the game, check out our FF7 Remake guide & walkthrough hub.
How to earn AP to level up Materia in FF7 Remake
The core conceit of the AP system is nice and simple - like the EXP that governs your character level growth towards the level cap, every single battle you complete in FF7 Remake will give you an AP reward.
AP is then applied to every materia you have currently equipped to any characters present in the battle. It's important to make sure the materia you want to level up and improve are equipped to characters that are currently in your party, otherwise it'll be AP wasted. This can lead to difficult decisions, too - like if you take in a max-level, 'mastered' materia with useful spells you can use in battle unlocked, or if you swap it for a lower-level one.
Different materia have different AP values to level up - so magic materia will hit level 2 relatively quickly, but more powerful things like elemental materia or magnify materia might require a whole lot more AP to level up. Sadly, there's no one outright best way to really easily farm AP in a particularly time-effective way in FF7 Remake - but there are a few tips and things to consider if you're trying to level up a few specific materia quickly. So, here's some thoughts on AP farming...
Using the Pedometer and AP Up Materia to boost your AP Farming Gains
The very first thing you'll need to know about AP Farming is that there is one must-have item that can improve the rate of AP you gain: the AP Up support materia.
To get the AP Up Materia, you'll have to wait until Chapter 14 - which is late in the game, we know. At this point you'll leave Aerith's house, and on your way back to the Sector 5 Slums, your next objective, there's a new piece of shiny blue support materia in your way: the Pedometer.
This might seem useless, but you should equip the Pedometer right away. It counts your steps, and when the Pedometer hits 5000 Steps it'll evolve and turn into an AP Up materia. Those 5000 steps should zip by if you're tackling Chapter 14's side quests.
The AP Up Materia doubles the amount of AP recieved by any materia it shares a linked materia slot with. While this means you can only double the AP gains of one materia at a time, it is boundlessly useful and is a must-have.
AP Farm Methods for FF7 Remake
With an AP Up materia in hand, it's now time to think about how to AP farm. There's one piece of key advice we want to get across right off the bat: you gain triple AP in the postgame, once you've finished chapter 18 and seen FF7 Remake's credits roll.
Once you've experienced the end of the game, you can use chapter select to replay any chapter on any difficulty, or begin playing through the entire game again on Hard. All your EXP gains are doubled and AP gains are tripled in the postgame, so our recommendation is absolutely to complete FF7 Remake with the tools you have and then go AP grinding in the postgame to build your characters and materia up for hard mode and the endgame VR challenge battles.
It's worth noting that the postgame AP boost also stacks with AP Up, meaning you can get six times the AP on one materia.
AP Farming using Arena Battles
Beyond those AP boosts, the two most reliable places to AP farm in the game are the Shinra VR Combat Simulations available in chapter 16 and 17 and the Corneo Colosseum in Chapter 9.
Each of these arena-like battle settings is easily repeatable and the enemies are guaranteed to respawn every time, which streamlines the AP farming process when compared to wandering around areas of the map hoping for enemy encounters. It's still not as blazing fast as farming can be in some games, but this is optimum in FF7 Remake as these battles can provide you with a lot of enemies you can defeat quickly, and they're easily repeatable.
AP rewards aren't exactly evenly spread - you're better off fighting lots of enemies rather than a few. Once you've completed each level of Colosseum or VR battle you'll be able to see which enemies are in each. We suggest you equip materia both for AP farm purposes and to exploit weaknesses, then blast through the battles with the most enemies - since AP is rewarded per-kill, you'll earn a lot more that way.
The best VR Simulator and Colosseum battles can earn you hundreds of AP each round through. Which exact arena battle is best for you will depend on your play-style, so we encourage you to experiment. Even lower-level challenges have great AP gains, especially when paired with the new game plus bonuses and AP up.
As an aside, you can also do Chadley's summon battle VR Simulations anywhere he appears, although his generally have more modest AP gains as you only fight one enemy, and each takes a little while - it's not the most optimal use of time as far as AP farming goes. One of Chadley's VR battles is the best place to increase stagger to 200% and 300% for a trophy, however.
AP Farm using early Chapter 16 in Chapter Select
Early on in Chapter 16, you'll be clearing out a garage full of Shinra mooks, Riot Troopers, SOLDIERs, that whole lot. Pretty much the whole lot is weak to Fire, so Magnify paired with Firaga (and First Strike), along with crowd clearers like Triple Slash should make short work of pretty much all the enemies easily. Do this in Hard Mode with AP Up attacked to those high-cost materia like Elemental and you'll be able to grind out levels pretty quickly. Simply restart the chapter before heading up into the main lobby of the building.
Simply playing Hard Mode for huge AP Farming Gains
The other method for earning AP is simply to start playing through hard mode, start to finish. The triple AP boost and the fact that the more hardy enemies on this mode give out a little more AP means you'll very quickly be leveling up. On hard mode you can take a magic materia from level 1 to level 3, mastered, in a chapter or two - the gains are that significant. You'll earn Manuscripts along the way, so you'll be killing two birds with one stone. No point maxing out your materia and then going for Manuscripts and allowing all that earned AP to go to waste.