Preparing for AP exams? Here are the do’s and don’ts


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Before you take any AP exams, talk to AP teachers and upperclassmen who can offer you some worthwhile advice.

Ariana Chriss, Staff Writer

Adviser’s note: Congratulations to Ariana Chriss for being nationally recognized for writing this story!

Perhaps you’re in just as much shock as I am, but the time for AP testing is quickly approaching.

For those going through this daunting process for the first time, it can certainly be overwhelming.

You may not know what to expect, how exactly to study, what to do, or what not to do. That is okay.

If you’re taking your first ever AP test this year, there are several things you should take into consideration in terms of studying. AP Biology teacher Mr. Verdi said, “Find your strengths and weaknesses.”

You need to figure out what strategies for review work best specifically for you, not for others.

Learning how you study best is a process itself. You will have it down by next year, but be sure to take note of what types of review or what conditions helped you the most. Use those same ones for your next AP exams if you feel they worked.

AP Government teacher Mr. Pubentz said, “I think the biggest thing for students to remember when trying to be successful for the AP test is that routines help us succeed. Whatever has worked in the past, whether that’s studying with some classical music on or studying with some static noise like a fan, that you stick to that routine.”

Again, having a routine you can rely on is essential to good study habits. Another essential component for preparing for the exams is familiarity. You should know exactly how the test will be formatted and how much time you will have for the various sections.

Joe Nidy, who teaches BC Calculus, said, “A big thing for me has always been practicing the testing environment. You get an idea of what it’s like.”

Thus, it is helpful to take a practice exam with similar conditions to the testing room, with the same break time and all.

Moreover, AP World History teacher Michael Hughes said, “See if your teacher will offer an after-school session where you can sit for the whole three hours and actually practice the pacing of it.”

I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a good sense of timing for the test. You must know how to pace yourself, and you should make sure that you can get through the questions just fine. For these reasons, taking a practice test is a great idea.

When it comes to plain old studying, of course you must determine what works best for you personally, but there are some general tips that can really help anyone.

Nidy said, “I think you need to start reviewing a couple weeks ahead of time and just do a little bit each day.”

Truly, you should not leave it all for the night before. Your simply will not remember every little thing by cramming, so what is the point in wasting your time?

He also said, “Go talk with your teacher. They want to help you—they want you to be successful. They’re excited for you.”

Therefore, you should not feel afraid to ask your teacher for some advice or help. They are a great resource for when you are feeling stuck or unsure about something. As you are going through your notes, see if you have any specific questions for them.

Hughes said, “The general advice would be to make sure that you go back through the entire year and spend not just time on the topics you are comfortable with, but the most difficult ones.”

So, don’t try to avoid those chapters you are dreading to review.

Be sure to spend time on those challenging topics in order to have a firm grasp of the content, as anything may appear on the test. Ryan Pubentz said, “Take an honest assessment—a reflection—and go, ‘What did I struggle with?’” before you get down to studying.”

He also said, “We have a luxury of having the AP review books, which are a part of the course requirement that the students pay for. That’s a resource a lot of students don’t realize they can use throughout the course of the year and especially at the end here.”

I am a strong supporter of the AP review books. They are so handy, so concise, and they have practice tests. If you aren’t using yours, you are missing out.

If you don’t have one, you can order one online or even check Half Price Books. They are always useful, so I suggest getting one at the beginning of the year. You can use it to sum up chapters for a unit test, and they can help you study for the midterm as well—they are not just for AP review time!

If you are taking an AP language exam, you may be wondering what exactly you can do prepare.

The truth is, you do not have to do very much right now.

Phil Deaton, a teacher of AP Spanish, said, “It’s one of those tests where you can try to study, but at this point, it’s either that you got it or you don’t. It’s because there’s only so much you can cram. It’s not based off facts, it’s based off your usage and being able to read, listen, understand, and talk.”

There are some things you can do in preparation for the exam, though. Looking over vocabulary words, listening to the music, and simply talking in the language will be really useful before the test. If you can strike up a conversation with someone in the language, that would be great practice.

Thus, overall, you should not worry about a language exam so much since you have come this far in the journey. Deaton said, “It’s not something you can cram for. It’s one of those things that has to be a process.”

In reality, you really cannot cram for any AP exam. Truthfully, you should give yourself a break a few nights before your exam and take it easy.

Plus, getting enough sleep the night before is extremely vital to your success. The morning of, be sure to have a wholesome breakfast that has protein and not so much sugar.

Nidy said, “The week of the exams, have fun and try to relax. Don’t stay up late cramming—get as much sleep as you can. You’ve worked so hard all year, and this is the time to show it.”