high schooler with notebooks

For hundreds of thousands of students, the first two weeks of May mean only one thing: AP exams. Some students might only take one exam, others might undergo a marathon of five or more exams during the two-week testing period. Whichever camp you fall into, we’ve got some AP exam day tips for you:

#5: Come Prepared

Review the AP exam policies in advance. Don’t bring forbidden items (cell phones, for example) and be sure to bring everything that you will need for the exam (such as pens, pencils, and identification). Nothing will ruin your scores faster than not being allowed to take the exam because you’re missing something vital (like your ID) or because you violated an important policy.

#4: Know the Test Format

If you already know what kinds of questions you’ll be asked, how long each section of the test is, and how long your breaks will be, you’ll be able to relieve some anxiety about test day. A big chunk of testing anxiety can be chalked up to the unknown – we’re less likely to worry when we know exactly what we’ll be facing. Knowing the test format can also help you to plan out your time better while taking the test, which brings us to tip number 3.

#3: Manage Your Time

Know how many questions you have to answer and how long you have to answer them. This will help you to better manage your time. If, for example, you know that you have four or five passages to read on the multiple choice portion of your AP Lit exam, you can make sure that you don’t spend half your time on the first passage. If part of the test is taking too long, move on. You can always go back if you’ve got time, and you will be able to answer more questions if you don’t spend too long on questions you find overly challenging. Don’t forget that there’s no guessing penalty on AP exam multiple choice sections, so if you find yourself running out of time, try to make an educated guess on as many questions as possible.

#2: Plan Your Essays

In a timed setting, it’s really tempting to just jump right into writing on essay sections. Resist the temptation! By setting aside five minutes or so to plan each of your essays, you’ll be able to create a better, more organized essay in a shorter time. You won’t need to sit there staring at your test booklet because you don’t know what to write next – you’ll have a plan! You won’t write an essay that meanders all over the place before finally making a cogent point at the end – you’ll have a plan! Taking time to plan is an excellent use of your essay-writing time.

#1: Sleep

This is our number one tip for good reason: A well-rested brain is a functional brain. Sleep is the time when your brain processes all of the information you learned that day, which means that if you stay up all night studying the night before the test, your brain never has time to consolidate that information before it needs to recall it. Learn more about the importance of sleep and other test day tips here.