Admittedly, it’s a bit more complicated than the title suggests, but I promise all the effort I put into obtaining a 5 on the AP Psychology exam culminated into one class and $3. A few life circumstances led to those two key things:
- I was an angsty kid and remained angsty in my teenage years.
- I love to read.
- My dad likes to save money.
- I am introverted.
I promise it’s all relevant.
To elaborate on my self-proclaimed angst I was terribly shy and sensitive in my elementary, middle, and high school years. I did what unconfident people do and made it so I would push people away before I knew them and save myself the embarrassment/hurt of rejection. This manifested itself in wearing all black, bad eyeliner, and believing I was a misunderstood soul.
I started wanting to understand why people acted the way they did. Why I was so shy, why I didn’t just stop being shy and hid instead, why it seemed others didn’t like me in the first place. This wretched-sounding childhood lead to my interest in psychology, and when I was given the opportunity to take AP Psychology, my desolate soul snatched that opportunity right up; I wanted to learn about people and what better way to do so than spending 40 minutes a day in a class all about that? I had a drive to learn from those 40 minutes every single day.
I did well. I volunteered answers. I read the textbook before each class. I asked questions to clarify the reading. I did the work. I stayed awake during the movies (mostly). I participated in discussion. Despite my good grades, I realized the exam wouldn’t be just any teacher-made test. I had to do additional studying outside the classroom.
One weekend, my dad relented and brought me and my siblings to the mall, but not before stopping at Barnes & Noble first. Remembering the upcoming exam, I went straight to the test prep section. I picked out a AP Psych prep guide and presented it to my dad, who immediately responded with a deeply thought-out “no”. (I didn’t have money of my own at the time.) At the sight of my dejected face, he explained: “Alice, you don’t need brand new books to study. Use what they give you in class. Go online. It’s all there. You don’t need to spend this money.”
We continued on to the mall, my bitter, angst-ridden soul leading the pack. I became significantly less angst-ridden at the sight of the annual book sale in front of JcPenney. I browsed for more books to read that would save me the trouble of communicating with people at school. What do I find there but a $3.00 AP Psych review book? It was a couple years old, but I figured it would serve as basic review and my dad seemed to agree that $3.00 was a small enough amount of money to part with for this basic review.
A few nights later, I mustered up the courage to finally open the book. I just sat down, and read. When I came across something I didn’t fully understand, I referred to my class textbook. It went on for a couple days: sit, read, refer, repeat. I finished the review information. I read through the actual test strategies, paying attention to the grading methods. I did practice tests on the weekends and reviewed the answers I got wrong. And that was it.
On the day of the exam, I ate breakfast and dressed comfortably. I wasn’t stressed out. The act of taking the test was easy; my tortured soul has no problem sitting in a room for an extended period of time in near-silence pretending I’m alone. The exam content was what I expected. I finished early. Once dismissed, I went on with my life.
When I got my score, I was surprised to see a 5. I knew I did reasonably well, but I didn’t expect to get a perfect 5. I posted it on Facebook because I wanted everyone to know how brilliant I was, then I went on with my life again. That’s all.
I didn’t have an AP tutor. My class didn’t have study group sessions. I didn’t even get a recent AP review book. I took advantage of a class and its resources, carefully read a $3.00 book, and had an interest in the subject.
See, my four points became relevant:
- Angsty me = interest in AP topic
- Love of reading = preferred method of learning
- Frugal father = limited resources
- Introversion = stressless exam-taking
I had stuff to work with and I made it work. I didn’t need anything more. I’m not saying it’s a waste to find a tutor or study with friends. I’m also not saying everyone can get a 5 by wearing black and finding book sales. I’m just saying it’s possible. Taking the AP is just another part of life: you need to have a drive to do the task, ability to see your resources, and the desire to do the task well.