If you’re in an AP class, you’re probably well aware that AP exams are just a month away. You probably fall into one of two camps:
A whole month? I’ve got plenty of time to study! I’ll start next week.
Only a month?!? I’ve been studying for weeks, but I’m nowhere near ready for the test!
Bet you can guess which camp we think you should be in.
For most students in most AP classes, AP exam prep is a marathon – never a sprint. These are intensely rigorous 3 hour exams, and many students will take two of these tests in a single day or several tests in a single week. Unless you’re a lean, mean testing machine, that’s a whole lot of really tough tests to take in a pretty short amount of time. For that reason alone, AP exam prep should be done over the long haul.
If you’ve been studying all along, you’ve done well in your classes, and you already started taking practice tests, you’ve got a great foundation for AP exam prep. If you’re doing okay in your classes and you haven’t taken a single practice test, you really need to start your test prep ASAP. Either way, we’ve got some AP exam tips to help you survive the next month:
Tip #1: Start now.
You wouldn’t start training for a marathon just a couple days before the race, and you shouldn’t start studying for your AP exams with days to spare either. If you haven’t already started your AP exam prep, there’s no time like the present. Go get some pens and pencils and highlighters. We’ll wait.
Tip #2: Gather your materials.
Most AP exams cover a TON of information. You’ll need a few important things to be able to condense a whole year’s worth of stuff into something you can reasonably study in just a few weeks. First, get all your class notes. Hopefully you took really thorough notes (or perhaps a really generous friend took very thorough notes and will share them with you). One great way to start studying is to condense your class notes into a homemade study guide – basically, take notes on your notes. By rearranging and summarizing information that you’ve already written down once, you’ll help to cement it in your brain.
Next, get a good prep book. For most courses, C2 has its own custom books that we use with our students. Our teachers also pull from many of the same prep books you might see on the bookstore or library shelf. Look for a book with a couple of full-length practice tests and thorough chapters on all of the main topics covered on the exam.
Finally, get your hands on as many official practice tests as you can. The College Board typically publishes several years’ worth of practice material – both full-length tests and free response practice questions. You might also ask your AP teachers for any practice tests they might have on hand.
Tip #3: Take practice tests.
One of the hardest parts of AP testing is simply surviving the rigor of the test. For most AP exams, you’ll be doing A LOT of reading and writing – about 3 hours’ worth. Taking plenty of timed practice tests will help get you ready for the testing marathon ahead. Just as you would build endurance before running a marathon, you’ll want to build endurance before AP exams start.
Practice tests also offer a great way to review information and can help alleviate testing anxiety. The more you test yourself on the information, the better you’ll remember it. And the more familiar you are with the test format and question types, the less worried you’ll be on test day.
Tip #4: Focus on weak spots but maintain strengths.
It’s natural to focus your AP exam prep efforts on the weakest areas, but it’s equally important to maintain your strengths. Let’s say you’re prepping for AP US History, and you feel really good about the post-WWII material that you just finished covering in class, but you can barely remember anything pre-Revolutionary War. If you focus exclusively on pre-Revolutionary War history, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to forget a lot of that post-WWII stuff in the process. When it comes to knowledge, use it or lose it. If you never review or test yourself on the stuff you know well, you might not remember it on test day.
Tip #5: Build a support system.
You’re not in this alone. Your fellow AP students, your AP teachers, your parents, and your local C2 Education center are all pulling for you. Use these resources to help you through the next few weeks! Put together study groups with classmates, ask your AP teachers for review sessions or testing pointers, get your parents to do flashcards with you, and consider visiting your local C2 Education for some expert AP exam test prep sessions.
Get some first-hand AP prep.
C2 hosts a webinar series to assist with students’ AP exam prep. Feel free to watch and learn from the recordings below.