5 Ways to Prepare for AP Exams
This weekend, I was whiling away my time watching shows, chatting with friends, and procrastinating like I always do, when it hit me—I have an exam in May. I know what you’re thinking: That’s three whole months away; you might as well worry about your retirement plan!
But this is no regular exam. This is an AP exam. The risks are far too high: Either I get a passing score and colleges love me or I fail and colleges don’t even count the class. A year’s worth of classwork, homework, tests… all gone to waste.
I’m used to being a grasshopper, but as the consequences of waiting until the last minute dawned on me, I decided I needed to be an ant and start collecting food in preparation for the harsh winter.
Of course, I was unsure how to do so, so I referred to websites such as The Princeton Review and College Board to gather information about getting ready for the AP exam. Here is what I found:
Before you start studying for the exam, take note of when it is and how much time you have left to prepare. All AP exams happen in May or June. If you don’t know the exact date of your exam, refer to this link: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/exam-administration-ordering-scores/exam-dates. Also, keep in mind the number of exams you will be taking.
Next, note what resources you will have at the time of the exam. For example, there are several students (myself included) whose AP courses will end months before the date of the AP exam. For me, this is because my school goes by block schedule (a type of schedule in which classes alternate between the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th quarters of the school year). Therefore, the first half of my AP Human Geography class ended in mid-October (the end of quarter 1) and the second half will end in mid-March. If this is true for you, it means you will not get to ask questions regarding the material during the months leading up to the exam date.
Once you have this information, you can begin preparing using the following methods/resources:
1. Make a study schedule.
Count the number of weeks you have left until your AP exam(s).
Set a goal for how many lessons you want to study each week.
Leave a few weeks before the exam date to go over the lessons again—studying something just once is never enough.
Like me, you may find it helpful to use a spreadsheet to plan out your schedule more thoroughly. Below is a sample schedule I created using Google Sheets:
2. Watch recap videos. Here are a few websites that offer videos on AP topics (some of these are links to helpful Youtube channels).
If you want more videos, you may be able to find some that are specific to your AP course on Youtube (but be sure to check that they are credible before watching them).
3. Use flashcards. Vocabulary is likely a huge part of your AP exam, and flashcards are known to be useful for memorizing terms. In my experience, the waterfall method is an incredibly efficient way to study vocabulary using flashcards.
4. Find practice exams (or exams from previous years).
Visit this link to find practice exams for some popular AP courses.
College Board provides a large document that contains sample exam questions, scoring guidelines, and other useful information about the AP exam. To access this document, visit this link, click on your AP course, and then click on the left-most box, called “Course and Exam Description.” (Keep in mind that you need to be signed in to access this resource.)
5. Take it slow! Pace yourself when studying for your exam. Rushing will only make it worse because you may not learn all the information you need to. It might help to try some de-stressing methods every now and then. Here are some ways to de-stress:
Meditate or do yoga. This includes breathing exercises.
Go for a walk.
Run a hot bath.
Engage yourself in creative activities such as painting and drawing.
Watch a funny Youtube video (or a show/movie if that’s more your thing).
Don’t dedicate your entire weekend to studying. Weekends are a break from the monotony and rush of weekdays, so use them to relax and have fun.
AP means a level of independence we high schoolers don’t get in other classes—and that can be difficult. As an AP student, you sometimes have to study and learn without the help of your teacher, especially when preparing for that looming exam. But we are all in the same boat, so don’t be too overwhelmed.
Just remember that with 3 months left until the exam, now is the optimal time to start studying, if you haven’t already. It is understandable if you are anxious, but as long as you work hard, don’t procrastinate, and prepare as best you can, you will be fine!
SOURCES (excluding the links provided throughout the article): https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/ap-exams