The AP Exam Guidebook

If you’re a high school student, you’re probably starting to think about the end of the year. I hate to break it to you, but AP exams are a lot closer than you think they are. This is my third year taking the exams, and I will fully admit that they aren’t easy. I’m starting to prep for my three exams this year, and thought it would be helpful to share some of my best tips for taking the AP exams.

I know it seems early, but this is about the time you’ll want to start reviewing for your exams. You’ve probably started to forget some of the content you’ve covered back in September, or in previous years from prerequisites. Starting to go through your old notes now, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, will help you refresh on some older, and more difficult topics.

While you’re reviewing, you’ll also want to start to cover some practice questions. Luckily, with the age of the internet, there are thousands of free questions available for almost every test, and you can even go back to old AP exams to look at real questions from the test. AP questions are very unique in nature, regardless of the subject. They are designed to be tricky, and the only way to get better at them is to start doing them. Many websites offer practice questions with review built in, which is a great way to review and practice at the same time.

Multiple choice is the most common method of review question, however, it won’t be the only type of question you’ll have on the test. Every AP test has some form of short and extended response question, the styles of which vary slightly for each subject and exam. Most of the time, there are fewer written responses than multiple choice, and the sections involving open-ended responses are worth a lot more than the multiple choice. In simpler terms, the writing portions are important to practice as well.

Once you’re feeling more comfortable with the content and types of questions, it’s time to take some timed practices. You’ll want to put yourself in conditions like you’ll have on test day, meaning that you’ll want limited distractions. Most people don’t have the time to complete a full test in one day, so it’s ok to break up the sections as long as the timing of each section follows that of the actual test. Once you’re done, you can grade yourself (multiple choice according to the key, written portions as accurately as possible following the charts provided), and plug your results into a calculator online (Google: AP Score Calculator and the name of the test). From there, you can get a general range of how you may score on test day.

While review is important, it’s only half the battle. What’s the other half? Making sure you’re healthy and comfortable on test day. Yes, that means eating a good dinner the night before, going to sleep early, getting a good night’s sleep, and having a good breakfast (but nothing too heavy). You don’t want to feel tired or hungry or anything less than ideal, so just making sure you stay on a healthy schedule before your test is important. Also, be sure to dress comfy and bring water. The test is a lot, so you’ll want to feel as comfortable as possible. I know personally that I get dehydrated easily, so having water with me ensures that I won’t get a headache mid- short response.

The most important thing about succeeding on the AP exams are not stressing! I know this is so hard to do, but the more you stress, the more likely you are to make mistakes. When you’re calm, you can read each question and really understand what’s going on, not just what your mind tricks you into thinking. If you’re not sure on a question, don’t spend a lot of time on it. The test has a lot of other questions, so just go to the questions you feel more comfortable with (and you’re more likely to get right!). By skipping over tricky questions, your brain with think about it in the background, and when you come back to it, the answer might seem simple! If you’re still unsure, just go with your gut (studies actually show your inhibition is right most of the time). Always be sure to answer every question. If you run out of time on the multiple choice, fill in all of your blanks with the same choice (all A’s or C’s, etc.) because then, you’ll have a 20-25% chance of getting the rest of them right. If it’s a writing piece, throw your thoughts down or rush a conclusion, just never leave mid-sentence!

Finally, remember the APs are not the end-all-be-all test. They don’t count towards your grade, as scores don’t come out until July, and whatever you get on them doesn’t effect you in the long run. If you get college credit from the test, that’s great, but if you don’t, you’ll have a head start if you have to take the same class, or a similar one in college.

All APs are different, but I hope this was a good guide that works for all exams. If you ever want more information on your specific test, college board.org is the home of the AP exams, and you can find everything you’ll need there in terms of content and the test itself. Many teachers have also published their own websites with practice for the exam. I am not an expert on the exams, but if you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask me! You’re gonna do great!

See ya real soon,

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