AP Exam Prep: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

AP exam prep is a marathon, not a sprint. Let C2 help get you on track for high scores.

If you’re taking AP classes, it’s time to start thinking about AP exam prep!

But wait, you think. AP exams are still months away! I’ve got plenty of time!

It’s true that AP exams are still more than two months away. Just remember that AP exam prep is a marathon, not a sprint. AP exams cover an entire year’s worth of material, which is an awful lot of stuff to study. If you’re really going to ace your exams, you’re going to need plenty of time to master all that material. We always recommend that students start AP exam prep by March at the very latest.

Here are our best tips to help you train for your AP exam prep marathon:

Create a realistic study schedule.

You’re busy – we know. You’ve got plenty of homework and studying to do, extracurricular activities, and a social life. How are you supposed to fit yet another thing into your schedule? Consider what your day-to-day looks like now, and find a way to schedule small bursts of AP studying in. Even 20 minute blocks of exam prep will help, so long as they’re scheduled frequently and regularly. Be realistic with your scheduling – there’s no sense scheduling an insane amount of study time if you won’t really be able to make use of it!

Break each exam down and create a to-do list.

Get a good exam prep book or check out the exam descriptions on the College Board’s website to create a list of the topics you’ll see on each of your AP exams. Fit those pieces into your study schedule so that you have a good idea of how to pace your studying. Make sure to build in plenty of practice sessions, especially for free response questions.

Get real practice.

The College Board publishes old exam questions online, and these are your best starting point for AP exam practice. Realistic practice will help you prepare for the exams – you’ll know exactly what to expect from the exam, and you’ll feel a lot more comfortable on test day. Once you’ve exhausted the practice questions available through the College Board, look for some good AP exam prep books to get more practice.

Invest in a good AP exam prep book.

A good AP exam prep book will be your best friend – it’ll give you a good review of all of the biggest topics on the exam and it’ll provide plenty of practice through both individual questions and full-length exams. Any of the major AP exam prep publishers will do the trick. To pick the right book for you, look at the balance between topic overviews and practice. For subjects that you feel really insecure about, you might be better off with a prep book that focuses on deeper topic overviews; for subjects you feel fairly good about, you probably want to focus more on the quantity and quality of practice questions.

Do some intensive review in the weeks before the exam – but DO NOT CRAM.

Throughout the next few months, spend a little time each day studying for your exams. This will build a broad and thorough base of knowledge to draw from on exam day. In the final weeks leading up to the exam, your teachers will probably give you a pretty intensive review of the biggest topics you’re likely to see on the exam. You can supplement this with your daily study sessions (which you should definitely keep up in the weeks before exam day!) by spending time each day doing a thorough review of at least one big topic each day. But whatever you do, do. not. cram. Cramming in the final days before the exam will increase your stress and decrease your test performance – it won’t actually help you learn anything new.