Advice from a Junior to a Freshman: AP Exams

Congratulations, you’ve almost made it through your first of high school! You’re in the fourth quarter, you’ve learned a lot along the way, and you’re on your way to stepping over the finish line into summer. Unfortunately, the last step encompasses getting through “finals week,” and for students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams, it includes going above and beyond to earn college credit and build experience.  

This can be an anxiety-inducing time for all AP students, but especially for freshmen and other underclassmen who have never taken an exam that was so rigorous and demanding. As a junior in high school, I’ve taken five AP classes in total and have discovered a variety of study methods that are worthwhile. Today I would like to share some advice on preparing for and taking AP exams to  ensure the most successful results possible, while keeping nerves at bay. 

Foremost, it is going to take time and effort. Often, a review for a final is simply a refresher of the material learned in the school year. This, however, is not the case for AP exams in which cramming is not an option, and multiple skills must be implemented to earn the best scores possible. Such skills include reading and comprehension, working under time constraints, and synthesizing based on prior knowledge and provided information.  

Next, find out what your teachers are doing in preparation for the exams. Be sure to fill out any study materials your teachers give you in class, as well as participate and ask questions to ensure clarity on the material. Additionally, find out if your teachers are conducting review sessions at lunch, or an after-school practice exam. Take advantage of as many of these teacher-lead review opportunities possible and use them as a guide for studying on your own. 

If you want to get the best score possible, studying individually is crucial. Do not rely on in-class review or teacher-lead sessions; instead, find ways best suited for you to learn the material. I recommend highlighting and annotating, crash course videos and books, and flash cards (especially for vocabulary.) Spend 20-30 minutes a day going over material to avoid cramming and reduce stress, as well.  

Now comes the day you’ve been preparing for: exam day. Wear something comfortable, and bring a water bottle, a snack, and any other additional supplies. Testing will take several hours, so be sure to pace yourself to expend energy over time. During the multiple-choice section, skip questions you don’t understand and revisit them later. Remember, an educated guess is better than not marking anything on your scantron. If you’re given an essay prompt and just don’t know what to do, take a step back, breathe, and write down the most information you can recall. Just one sentence can add an additional point to your score. 

Hopefully this advice is useful. Best of luck on your exams!