If a year in high school is a marathon, then AP Exams are the finish line. Expect this finish line is located at the top of a hill fortified by a medieval castle fully equipped with cannons. Okay, that might be somewhat of a stretch, but regardless, AP Exams are not the ideal way to end the taxing school year. Thus, I’ve complied some of the knowledge and tips I’ve learned from my experiences during my high school career:
How to Prepare for the Exams
1. Buy/borrow a prep book for your exam. There are a plethora of publishers out there that make books for all of the exams, whether that’s AP Computer Science or AP Literature. While getting the current year’s book will be the best, as long as any significant changes haven’t been made to the exam itself, obtaining a book that’s from a previous year will also suffice. Finally, you don’t have to buy a new book: ask upperclassmen who might have taken the exam before if they still have their book!
2. Familiarize yourself with the test. Understandably, it’s imperative that you understand the format of and content covered by the exam. Think of AP Exams as a game of Pacman. You (the Pac-Man) are trying to get as many questions (the pac-dots) as possible, while the enemies (CollegeBoard) are doing their best to prevent you from doing so. You can withstand a few hits from your enemies, but if you fall into their traps too many times, then you’ll get a low score (just like you’ll get a low score on your exam). As a result, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the map (exam itself) where this struggle is played out; if you’re able to maneuver around the map with ease because you’ve studied its layout format beforehand, you’ll have no trouble collecting all the pac-dots while successfully avoiding your enemies. That might have been somewhat of an extended metaphor, but you get the point – acquaint yourself with the test (i.e. the sections of the test, the format of the multiple choice and free response questions, the topics that are tested), which can be done by taking practice tests or past AP exams, and you’ll do great. Go to CollegeBoard’s website for material that will help you do so.
3. Do well in class. Hopefully, your course and teacher will be able to prepare you for the exam. By performing well in your class, you’ll get a head start on the review/studying that you’ll need to do before the exam (I would recommend that you start studying for exams at least a month or two before you take them). Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have trouble understanding any concepts, as they are likely going to be covered by the exam. After all, the purpose of these exams is to ensure that you’ve mastered the material that you were supposed to have learned in the classroom.
After the Exams
1. Forget about the AP Exams (but not the content covered by the exams). Unfortunately, you can’t worry your way to a 5, so there’s no point in stressing out about something that is now out of your control. On the other hand, it’s important not to forget what you studied in preparation for the exam for two reasons: you might have to recall everything that you learned for your final exams or you might need to remember the material for when you take another course in high school or even college.
2. Understand the scoring system. Remember that a 5 is the highest score and that a 1 is the lowest score; a 5, 4, 3, and 2 are supposed to correlate to an A, B, C, and D in an equivalent college course. Most colleges will give credit for a 3 or higher (if they give credit for APs at all), but you should check with the college(s) you’re interested in beforehand just to check.
3. AP Exams and College Applications. If you happen to get a low score (1 or 2), don’t break a sweat. Scores on AP exams are nowhere near as important as SAT scores in the application process, so a 1 on the Calc BC exam won’t shoot your chances at getting into a university. Finally, when it comes time to self-reporting the scores that you received, I would highly suggest that you report all of your scores, regardless of how well you did or didn’t do. Considering the fact that colleges will see that you’ve taken the class in high school, they generally expect to see what you got on the AP exam for that course, and you failing to report your score might raise some eyebrows. And at the end of the day, honesty is the best policy.
May the odds be ever in your favor (you know, because you want to get a 5)!