It’s easy to get caught up in preparing for the content of your Advanced Placement (AP) exam. You’ve invested hours upon hours in class and on your own doing practice problems, reading required texts, and reviewing the material. Now, here are a few tips to help you ace AP exam day.

The day before the exam:

  • Consider keeping study for tomorrow’s exam(s) to a minimum. It’s okay to review, but last-minute cramming is unlikely to help you remember the content you don’t already know. You may instead increase your stress levels and subsequently avert a good night’s sleep.
  • Go to bed on time! A well-rested mind will perform better than an exhausted one.

The morning of the exam:

  • Wake up on time–no snoozing the alarm! You want your brain to be fully awake when it’s time to take the exam, so this is especially important if you are taking an exam in the morning.
  • Eat a good breakfast. Your brain can’t run on an empty tank! You won’t be allowed to bring any snacks or drinks into the exam, so it’s important to fuel up properly beforehand. If you are taking multiple exams on the same day, pack a healthy lunch you can eat in your downtime.
  • Plan to wear comfortable clothing (i.e. a short sleeve shirt with a zip-up sweatshirt so you can layer to account for variable room temperatures). The last thing you should worry about during your exam is being too cold, too hot, or how uncomfortable your pants are.

Exam time: know your format:

  • Morning exams begin at 8 a.m.
  • Afternoon exams begin at 12 p.m. (exception: Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism begins at 2 p.m.)
  • Most exams last between two and three hours, and are divided into two sections with a short break between them
    • Section I typically consists of multiple-choice questions
    • Section II typically consists of free-response questions

What to bring with you into the exam:

  • Several sharpened #2 pencils with erasers.
  • Several pens with black or dark blue ink.
  • A calculator, if required. A calculator will not be provided for you if you forget one. You aren’t allowed to use your phone or any other electronic device, so here’s a list of appropriate calculators sorted by exam, and when they’ll be used (you may bring up to two).
  • For physics exams, you need a ruler or straight edge (no protractors!).
  • A watch that does not have internet access, does not beep and does not have an alarm.
  • Your six-digit school code.
  • Your social security number/government-issued or school-issued photo ID.
  • Your AP Student Pack, which includes your unique AP identification number.
  • If you’ve been approved for testing accommodations, bring your SSD Student Accommodation letter.

What NOT to bring with you into the exam:

  • ANY electronic devices (laptops, phones, tablets, smart watches, etc.). Leave these items at home or in your locker. Only school-owned recording devices are permitted for the French, German, Italian, and Spanish Language and Culture Exams and the Music Theory Exam.
  • Mechanical pencils, white-out, highlighters, colored pencils, ear plugs.
  • Books, notes, dictionaries, reference guides, scratch paper (proctor may provide scratch paper for Chinese Language and Culture and Japanese Language and Culture only).
  • Food or drink (another reason to have breakfast or lunch before the exam depending on the time!).

These exams are long. You will probably start to feel tired at some point during the test, and that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged! Here are some tips and strategies to help you stay focused and relaxed if and when the fatigue sets in:

  • Take a deep breath between each question. This will help keep your heart rate low and make you feel more relaxed, and also help to prevent you from rushing through the exam and potentially misreading any questions.
  • Focus on your own test–don’t worry about your friends’ pace or how much they’re writing.
  • Check the clock every few questions to ensure you’re on target to finish the section. There’s nothing worse than looking up after a few hard questions and realizing you have half the section left to finish in just a couple minutes!
  • For free-response questions, jump right in by outlining your response after carefully reading the question. Having quick notes of your ideas will make it easier to expand upon them and keep you on track (and keep you from forgetting that one amazing point you want to make!).
  • During the break, have a quick snack and some water to stay energized and hydrated.

When the exam is finished:

RELAX! You’ve just completed one of the most rigorous courses of study for high school students. Take a moment to be proud of yourself.

Additional resources:

College Board AP Bulletin