I took AP World History during my first year of high school and it was definitely one of the hardest (if not the hardest) class of my high school career. Taking such an intense class as a freshman was hard for a lot of reasons, but, specifically, it was challenging because I had not completely learned “how to study” yet. I was not completely in touch with my learning style, nor was I sure how to approach such a comprehensive test. There was so much material to learn, yet so little time! Well is there really only a little? That brings us to the most important tip of all…
Do not procrastinate. The extra time to watch Scandal is not worth the all nighters (and self-hatred). Stop admiring your own selfies and get to work. Since you will be taking this class early in your high school career, it will feel weird studying so early for a test, but it is completely necessary. Take it little by little, so that you can take it easy and get a good sleep the night before the test.
The next tips are specific to AP World History, but surely can be applied to other tests, particularly history tests.
Focus on themes. While details are important, overall themes are at the heart of the World History test. In order to write the (dreaded) change over time essay, you will need to recognize trends. For example, you may need to think about how the role of religion changed in various regions. The value of studying based on big ideas is significant for the other essays as well. Above all, there is no doubt that you should not sacrifice big ideas for details when studying for such a wide-range exam. A good method to study would be to create a basic timeline for overarching topics such as gender roles in India or religion in Europe. Then fill in the specifics and those change over time essays will not be as dreadful.
Study by leader. So there are different ways you can break down the large amount of information on the test. You can study by chapter. We saw in the last tip that you can study by theme. Another way to study is to study by leader. When I was studying for the test, I made a list of every leader we discussed and 2-4 details about that historical figure. As you can imagine, this is a long process. I only suggest doing this if you start studying early and you can afford the time. I used a review book as a guide: I went through and used the bold words to help me find the leaders and their accomplishments. Limit yourself to writing minimal information about each to avoid spending too long making the list. After all, the more important part is actually studying the list. You can organize the list by region or chronologically.
Make outlines. The essays make up a significant portion of your grade and it would be irresponsible to avoid studying and preparing for this portion. First evaluate how much preparation you need. How often did you write AP style essays in class? How well did you do? How is your writing in general? Consider the answer to these questions and decide how much preparation is required for your success. Set aside that time (separately from other studying). To prepare for the essays, make outlines using old essay topics (you can find them online). Write a thesis, topic sentences, and basic details. You can even humor your friends’ predictions about this year’s topics and write outlines for the potential essays. If you need help with the actual skill of writing, talk to your teacher. Bring him or her an old essay and they can instruct you how to organize essays, write with fluidity, and present an argument effectively. Don’t be too hard on your writing skills though. Keep in mind that these essays will be graded as drafts.
Stay calm, prospies! You got this. And if you don’t, that’s okay too. You’ll have many other tests to wow admission officers with your brilliance. Yay…