There’s less than a month remaining until the dreaded first two weeks of May arrive. If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are that you haven’t started studying yet, or your teacher hasn’t even taught all the information that’s going to be on test, or you’re just super stressed. Maybe this is the case for all seven AP classes you’re taking (in addition to the two that you’re self-studying), and you’re beginning to wonder whether that passing score (and the college credit that accompanies it) will be attainable. Well, it’s clichéd to say it, but better late than never. Here are some strategies that I found helpful during the weeks leading up to AP exams.
Make a Schedule
Sit down, click on Excel or even just pull out an agenda, and plan out your time. First of all, make sure you know which days you have which exams. If you’re taking AP Chemistry, your exam is on the morning of the first day of testing. On the other hand, if you’re taking AP Human Geography, you have almost two extra weeks to study!
Next, count the days until your particular AP exams, and count the number of units you have to study. I usually did this by enumerating the chapters in my AP prep book (which is highly recommended but, of course, not necessary), but if you have organized class or textbook notes, you can count those instead. Then allot time for studying each unit–if you’re particularly confident in one area, skimming might suffice, and if you’re really bad in another, consider spending more time with that one.
If you’re taking multiple AP exams, this is especially helpful to avoid feeling overwhelmed and cramming on the penultimate day. Nevertheless, make sure that you actually study when you’re scheduled to!
Make a Study Group
While this has its risks and isn’t for everyone, I think making a study group can be a great way to prepare for AP exams. Not only does it give you a group of people who will keep you accountable, but it also can allow you to learn the information better. It’s one thing to learn how to find the interval of convergence of a power series from a teacher, but hearing it explained by a peer, perhaps with a different perspective, can solidify your understanding. Also, teaching concepts to other people–being able to break them down so that they are easily comprehensible–is one of the best ways to review them yourself.
Take Practice Exams
Besides knowing the content, the best way to do well on a test is to know how it works. Already knowing the instructions for portions of the exam can save you time that you can spend actually working on the problems. Your school might provide a time when you can take a mock AP exam. If not, there are often practice exams at the back of prep books, and a quick Google search will provide you with links to plenty of past AP exams. Regardless of how you get the practice exam, I recommend that you take it as seriously as you would the actual exam–that is, time every section and don’t look at your notes for help until after you’re done with the entire test. When you’ve finished, you can easily identify what areas you’re weak in and concentrate on those.
Furthermore, CollegeBoard provides free response questions from past exams (as well as their grading rubrics), which can be an invaluable resource. You can know both how questions are formatted and how they will be graded. This can be particularly helpful because sometimes students may know how to do a problem and get the right answer, but they get points off because they didn’t fully show their work or answer the entire question.
Study to the Test
It’s not the noblest thing to do, but when you’re crunched for time, it’s ideal to focus more on doing well on a test and leave a more holistic education for after May. This means knowing what’s kind of things are going to be on the exam and focusing on those. For instance, there will be topics of a subject that historically appear more frequently than other topics.
I have also found that REA’s Crash Course books generally do a good job of concisely covering information that has been included on past AP exams and excluding that which is often not tested. This is good if you’re taking AP US History just to get AP credit, but might not be best if you also want to learn history more completely.