Advanced Placement exams offer a way for high school students to gain college credit at a lower cost, and to enter college already having some courses under their belts. The exams can be difficult, but we’re here to help you feel confident and prepared on exam day.
Start Studying Early
Instead of cramming the week before the exam, start studying a month ahead of time. Begin by taking a practice exam about a month before your exam date, and determine which areas you need to focus on. Spend the next three weeks reviewing the content you’ve learned throughout the semester chronologically, focusing on those areas of weakness and practicing Free Response Questions each week. The week before the exam, take one more timed practice test, and review any areas you are still trying to master. The College Board gives you a lot of information on what will be a part of your exam and even provides some practice problems or example questions and responses from previous tests. If your teacher uses the AP Classroom, you may also have access to practice problems there.
By starting early, you’ll save yourself time the week before the exam, reduce stress, and allow time for the material to really sink into your brain.
Study Weaknesses, Not Strengths
Make sure to focus on reviewing material you feel is challenging instead of content you have a good grasp on. These are the areas where you need the most help. By taking practice exams, available on the College Board website and in exam prep books, you can identify areas to focus your review on. If you’re having trouble identifying how to work on these areas, seek the help of a teacher or tutor.
Look Into Cost-Saving Measures
Between the cost of the exam and study guides, Advanced Placement exams can get pricey. To help reduce the cost, look into getting a reduced exam price, purchasing used study guides, or borrowing study guides from friends who have taken the exam in previous years. There are also a plethora of blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to helping you review course content for free.
Practice Free-Response Questions
Free-Response Questions (FRQs) vary in structure for each AP course, but there are guidelines available on the College Board website. These handwritten portions of the exam can be challenging for students, since most standardized testing focuses on multiple choice questions, and students aren’t typically used to being timed as they write by hand. To practice, look up sample questions on the College Board website. Don’t focus on the sample questions themselves, but look at any student responses if they’re provided. Take the time to analyze the critiques the grader mentioned for each response, and focus on the examples that scored lower in addition to the perfect scorers. This will help you get a feel for what is expected of you. Once you’re comfortable with how to structure your responses, set a timer, grab a pen, and start writing! By practicing with these conditions, you’ll be prepared when exam day comes.
Be Prepared and Relax
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous on exam day. To help reduce your stress, try not to study the morning of the exam. Pack your bag the night before, and make sure you have #2 pencils, pens in an appropriate ink color, and an approved calculator if your exam allows one, as well as your AP student number and any photo identification your school or testing location may require. Eat a breakfast with some protein, and take a few deep breaths – you’ve got this!