Nervous about passing your AP exams? Worry no longer. Take a look at these AP Hacks from Audrey Farrell, one of Bridgeway Academy’s AP students! Here are her 4 AP hacks to help you review and prepare for the exams so you can succeed.
Get Review Books. Just like with the SAT and ACT, review books are incredibly useful when studying for AP exams. In fact, I think they are even more worthwhile for APs, since these exams are more content oriented than SAT’s and the books give a solid review of the material. Note that Passive AP classes probably won’t require a review book, but for active classes, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. For my active classes, I read the review books cover to cover, and did at least two practice exams from each. Additionally, each page of those books is covered with notes, highlighting, sticky notes, etc.
When looking for a review book, use trusted brands like Barron’s and Princeton Review. I prefer Barron’s for most classes, because they are generally more challenging than the exams themselves. But I have a friend who swears by Princeton, claiming that they are more readable and more accurately represent the exams in practice. Regardless of which review book you get, try to take all of the practice exams it includes
Make a Study Schedule. Calendars are your best friend when studying for AP exams. Make a study calendar for all of your tests, including tests other than the AP exams. And make sure you STICK TO IT! I designed my study schedule based on the chapters in all my different review books, studying certain subjects on certain days of the week up to the exam. Here’s what my calendar looked like in April this year:
Of course, I was studying for four APs, the SAT, and preparing an All-State Band audition, so my month was a bit hectic. Hopefully your schedule doesn’t look quite this crazy. Whether you’re taking one AP exam or ten, a calendar is extremely useful and one of the most important AP hacks to keep you on track and well-paced. That way you don’t end up cramming the night before the test. I’ve also found that color coating things and organizing your calendar is a great way to get motivated before long nights of studying.
Don’t Freak Out. AP exams are stressful and hard, making it very easy to stress out in the days leading up to the test. Trust me. I know. Just try your hardest to stay calm when you’re studying for your exams. If you prepare well enough, and stick to a good study schedule, there is absolutely no reason to freak out about a test. I know too many people who got really nervous right before their exam, and choked, doing a lot worse than they could have. AP tests are scary. But it’s not the end of the world. Nothing terrible will happen if you get a 3 instead of a 4. In fact, nothing bad will happen if you get a 0 on an AP exam, because no high school or college will take bad scores of APs into account. They only consider good scores. So, in reality, nothing can go wrong. And the experience of taking AP courses will benefit you greatly in college.
Have a plan on test day. All but one of my exams this year were morning exams, and all of them are long and exhausting. But here are some specific AP hacks to help you endure such a long exam.
Wake up early. You won’t perform your best if you wake up 15 minutes before testing begins. On the day of any morning exam, I make it a general rule to be awake for at least two hours before testing starts. This might sound ridiculous, but if I don’t then I will feel drowsy and rushed, not doing as well as I could have.
Eat a normal breakfast. This means that you should eat breakfast, but you shouldn’t have the royal breakfast buffet of your dreams the day of an exam. Eat what you would eat on a regular day of school. You don’t want to go into a three hour test feeling full and gross from a huge pancake feast your mom made that morning. If you usually eat Raisin Bran for breakfast, eat Raisin Bran for breakfast.
Pack everything you need for the exam the night before. Spend a solid half hour or so packing a backpack with everything you need right after dinner the night before your test. Don’t do it before you go to bed when you’re nervous and tired, but pack after dinner, when you’re fully awake. This eliminates risk of forgetting anything essential the next morning.
Don’t cram the night before. This might seem counter-intuitive, but cramming right before an exam hurts you more than it helps. Anything I don’t know by then after months of studying can’t possibly be learned overnight, and it only makes me more nervous.
Go early to the exam. Make sure to use the bathroom before sitting down at your desk and bring a snack to eat during your break. I usually bring an apple and a granola bar to eat half way through each exam. Apples contain a lot of fructose, so they give you a burst of energy that will help you power through the last hour and a half of your exam, and granola bars will keep you from getting hungry, which is especially useful if you’re exam is running a bit late. No matter what you decide to bring, try to keep it healthy and energizing. Avoid foods that will make you sleepy, and foods that will fill you with more sugar than you can handle. I’ve seen a lot of kids eat candy bars during the breaks, and then get antsy in the second half of the exam.
Stretch after the exam. Leaving the exam room is one of the best feelings I have experienced in my high school career, and hopefully it feels good for you too. Take a moment once you’ve finished to stretch your legs and arms, and hands (especially if you took an exam with an essay portion – your hands will hurt). Try not to consult other people about the questions on the test, and try not to worry about how you did at this point. It’s about two months until you can get your scores back for these tests, so it’s not worth the stress. Fun anecdote: I ran out of time on the essays for my AP biology exam and I hadn’t even read the last two questions. I was devastated as I left the exam room, but I still got a 5 on it.
Enjoy the freedom of a post-AP lifestyle, relish in your blank study calendar, and try not to fall behind in your regular school work (which I did 😛 ). AP courses are challenging and stressful, but also are some of the most rewarding classes you can take in high school, and they can really pay off in college. Have fun with your studying and good luck!
To learn more about Bridgeway’s AP courses, click here or call us at 800-863-1474.