According to a recent report published by the College Board, more than 1.2 million high school students took at least one AP exam in 2020. That’s a 27% increase from the number of students who took the exams in 2010.
There’s a lot of good reasons to take an AP Exam. A strong score can help students stand out in college applications, earn college credit and save on tuition.
There are plenty of study tips that can help you prep for these challenging tests. Here are ten of our favorites.
It might go without saying, but it’s smart to start thinking about exam prep as early as possible.
As anyone who’s ever pulled an all-nighter knows, you’re groggy, sleep-deprived, and unfocused the next morning. Students who are busy with sports or extracurriculars might be tempted to put studying on the back burner. With the AP exams, start preparing early because an all-nighter won’t be much help.
Halfway through the school year is a good time to begin reviewing course materials and ensuring you understand the format of the AP exam you intend to take. By this point, teachers should have covered a solid amount of information in class and students can begin thinking about how that material will figure into the ultimate exam.
Make a Schedule
To help maintain focus, create a test prep calendar and assign each day a reasonable amount of materials to cover. Then stick with it. Alternate between review of materials and mock test activities. For instance, plan to practice free-response questions (FRQs) for 30 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and review your coursework, flash cards or keywords on Monday and Wednesday. Schedule other activities and obligations around study times whenever possible.
Prepare Before You Prep
When you’re ready to sit down, it pays to create a plan of action like a study guide beforehand. Knowing the exact material you need is a critical first step.
An experienced teacher can point you in the right direction, so start by asking your instructor where he or she thinks you should focus. There are a few places to check on your own.
Start by reviewing the syllabus for the AP class. This should cover core concepts and learning goals. Then, assemble your former in-class tests or research papers to better understand the topics covered over the course of the year. This is especially useful if your teacher creates tests or assignments based on past AP exams.
Finally, the College Board’s AP website is an excellent resource. Here, you’ll find a thorough description of all topics the exam will cover, including important skills and concepts, as well as information on how the exam is scored and even practice tests.
Take a Practice Exam
Doing well on the AP exams requires more than content knowledge. You’ll need to effectively cope with the pressures of a timed test. There’s arguably no better way to simulate the test day experience than taking a practice AP exam.
Practice exams are available on a variety of platforms. The best place to look is the College Board website’s AP Course and Exam pages. Each course section includes tests from years past and sample FRQs (and responses).
While the testing material will understandably differ from year to year, taking a timed practice test is an excellent way to see if you can effectively communicate key AP course concepts in a time-limited manner before test day. To help a practice exam emulate the real thing as much as possible, don’t forget to set the stage. Clear your desk, minimize distractions, set a timer and try to keep to the time limit.
Study to Suit Your Learning Style
Are you a visual learner? Studies show that about 65% of the population falls into this category.
If so, don’t listen to recorded lessons about the study material. Instead, strategically adapt your approach to your unique learning style.
For instance, visual learners might prefer to draw brainstorming maps to get their thoughts out on paper. Or they may benefit from watching videos that cover the concepts they need to know. Those who learn best by reading or writing might find it beneficial to re-read course materials and make in-depth study guides, transcribing the information as they go.
Allow Time for Breaks
It might seem impossible, but there truly is such a thing as too much studying. People who are required to stare at material without a break can soon become burned out, overwhelmed, and frustrated.
When you pencil in time for a breather, you not only relieve weary eyes and minds. You also prevent studying from turning into a dreaded task that must be endured. Instead, one can learn to appreciate and even enjoy the test prep journey.
While there’s no tried-and-true rule around timing, aim to take a five-minute break after every 30 minutes of studying. Get up, stretch, walk around, or grab a snack before heading back to work.
Maintain Physical Wellness
Mental and physical health are closely intertwined, especially for teens. When we’re getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and eating well, our brains are sharper, clearer and better-focused.
On the night before the test, get plenty of rest. It’s also smart to hydrate well and eat foods rich in healthy fats leading up to the event, such as avocado and mixed nuts. All of these steps can nourish your brain so it can all that studying to good use!
Make It a Game
Why not inject a little fun into your AP study prep? There are plenty of resources online. To get started, simply type in the name of your AP exam, followed by “games” or “study games” and see what you can find! Make sure the material is from a trusted, reputable resource to ensure useful learning is going on while playing.
Keep At It
It’s human nature to experience a surge in confidence once you master a new task. If you finally understand a particularly difficult AP concept, there’s a natural inclination to move on to the next challenging one. Instead of rushing from section to section, review the material more than once. The more frequently terms and concepts are covered, the more apt they are to be recalled when it matters.
Hire a Tutor
One internet search will reveal that there are many different programs available to help prepare for the AP exams. Instead of wading through all of the materials solo, it’s often easier and more effective to hire a tutor experienced in AP exam prep.
Taking an AP exam can help in multiple ways. At Tungsten Prep, we offer comprehensive tutoring and standardized test preparation services for both middle and high school students. The one-on-one environment allows us to provide high-quality, individualized support that caters to the unique learning style of each student.
Together, we’ll work with you and your child to set study goals, and we’ll give them the tools they need to learn independently in between sessions. Along the way, you’ll also have direct access to our Parent Outreach Coordinator who can help you navigate and support your student’s academic goals.
Our tutoring approach is flexible and encompasses a range of resources. Our tutors take the individual’s needs into account when creating a custom AP exam prep program. Get in touch with us today!