AP Exams are quickly arriving! The first administration starts May 3 and the other administrations shortly after. Here are some tips for preparing in the weeks before.
By now, you should have studied most, if not all, of the topics that will be covered on you AP exam(s). You should have also completed at least one full test either in class or on your own. The goal in the weeks leading up to the test is to review rather than to re-learn and also to become more familiar with the structure of the exam.
While cramming can seem like an easy solution to prepare (especially if you’re busy with other things), you won’t retain most of what you’ve studied last-minute and you’ll end up more stressed. Set a realistic study plan in place so that you know what you’re going over each day. If you finish reviewing before your test date, use the extra time to focus on trickier topics.
Focus on Your Weaknesses
If you’re taking more than one exam, allocate more time for the subjects that you struggle with. For example, if you’re taking AP Biology and AP Language – and you’re more confident in Language – spend more time reviewing Biology vocabulary and practice FRQ’s. Don’t spread yourself too thin – use your time wisely.
Practice with Purpose
Many students believe that they can improve their performance just by working through as many practice tests as possible, but this isn’t an effective approach. Practicing with purpose means actively identifying your mistakes and, more importantly, the reason for them. For example, did you miss a question because you forgot an equation or the general process? In that case, make a note to go back and review those topics before trying another test.
When using full tests for practice, also strictly time yourself so that you become better accustomed to the timing restrictions you will experience during the real thing.
Remember that Other Classes Still Count
AP exams are important and can earn you college credits, but don’t forget about your non-AP classes. These classes affect your GPA, so while you want to do well on the AP exams, make sure that you’re submitting assignments for other classes at the level of quality that you normally would. Keep this in mind when putting together your study plan.
Take Care of Yourself
While studying for your exams and during the exam weeks, getting enough rest should be a high priority. Staying up late and/or getting up early to prepare may seem like a good idea, but lack of sleep can adversely affect your performance. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep per day so that you’re in optimal test-taking condition!
Eating healthily can also make a big difference. In the weeks leading up to the test, eat three healthy meals a day so that your body and brain have the nutrients they need. It may seem not seem intuitive, but this can help improve your score more than cramming facts at the last minute.
When you’re studying, also take a break every once in a while. This can be a walk, bike-ride, yoga, etc. – anything that gets you up and moving and that takes your mind away from studying for a bit.
At the end of the day, AP exams can be stressful and exhausting, but always remember why you are taking them. Whether it be to get university credits or to be competitive at top schools, knowing why you’re putting in the work can be motivating when you’re feeling overwhelmed.