Last Minute AP Exam Study Tips

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Don’t panic but… AP exams start next week. Yes, you heard that right: next week. I feel like we all have a love-hate relationship with APs: we love the idea of taking the classes to boost our own resumes, but we hate the idea of actually sitting for the long exams. And yet somehow, we return back to them every year.

Am I the most qualified to write something on AP testing? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll give you the quick run down on my past and upcoming APs. Sophomore Year: AP Statistics and AP World History. Junior Year: AP United States History and AP Language. Senior Year (get ready for a mouthful): AP Environmental Science, AP Microeconomics, AP Literature, AP Calculus BC, and AP Government. Please pray for me this year – sitting for five exams is going to be tougher than I thought when I signed up for the actual classes.

I typically only start officially hitting the review books until one or two weeks before the exams start – before that I’m too lazy (and to be honest, from three weeks out, AP exams still seem far far away). So this is really go time….

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Buy a review book – and buy whichever one YOU think looks the most user friendly | Buying review books seems simple but can actually be a tricky process when it comes to finding one that you think will help you the most. I typically listen to what my teachers suggest, but I make sure to flip through it first and find the one that seems to give the most information. I always look for books that balance content summaries and practice tests (although, if I’m being 100% honest, I never really do the practice tests because most of my teachers administer ones in school). 

Utilize the weekends | When it comes to AP exams, the weekends are your best bet to actually sit your butt down and STUDY. I have three exams in a row the first week and I know I’ll be burnout after each exam and it will be hard to absorb more information the night before (although really, studying the night before probably won’t help that much). Budget your time and actually sit down in study. I’ve read in multiple places that if you stay in pajamas, you don’t feel as awake/prepared – so when you get up, take a shower, put on clean clothes, and commit to studying.

If you have an e-reader, put it to good use! | If you’re feeling like you don’t know enough about a certain subject, and don’t have enough time to head to your local Barnes & Noble, download a Crash Course book on your kindle, iPad, or other e-reader device. My friend did this for World History and she said that book detailed one of the exact topics that was an essay on the exam. If she hadn’t read the book, she wouldn’t have known the topic – so you never know!

Engage in the content readings | But don’t highlight everything. I’ve learned over the years that one of the best things to do is to ACTUALLY read and then go back and highlight what was actually important from what you read. Don’t highlight as you go, because you have no idea if what you are highlighting is actually going to be important in the long run.

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“Any tips on the essays?” -Renee, @gimmeglamour1 | No matter how you slice it, essays and short answer questions are often difficult, especially because one can never truly know what to expect. Definitely utilize the planning time. Take a deep breath, and write down everything you know about the topic/time period. Don’t freak out if the question seems foreign to you – just re-read it until you get a better understanding. Remember that a solid thesis can take you very far, even if you are bit off on the time period, so spend time crafting that to perfection. Write what you know and supplement it with the most educated guesses you can make.

“Tips on choosing the best answer?” -Cathleen Slagle, @classycathleen | This is a cliche, but after you read the question, cross out exactly what you know isn’t right. BUT – instead of crossing out the whole answer, cross out the part that is wrong so when you go back to check your answers, you know exactly what you thought was wrong so you don’t second guess yourself. Also, always always always go with your first choice – in my experience, my first choice answer has typically been right.

Pace yourself | If you teachers haven’t provided you with time suggestions, then ask them NOW how you should keep up with test. Make sure to pace yourself and don’t RUSH – but, slightly hypocritically, do work at a fast enough pace to try to get to all the questions.

And that’s all! If you have any questions, send me a tweet!

xoxo, Jamie

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