At the beginning of the school year, the month of May seems miles away. However, now it’s right around the corner, which means only one thing for high schoolers: AP exams.
If you’re not familiar with Advanced Placement exams, I’d be more than happy to enlighten you. Created by the College Board, AP exams are put in place to test the knowledge of high school students in a particular subject. This is more or less what the College Board states on their website encouraging students to take AP classes during the school year. However, the real truth comes out every year when I receive a letter in the mail stating, “Congratulations on challenging yourself with AP classes, now please pay $90 per test for being smart!”
Nevertheless, whether you take an AP class so it looks good for college applications or because you’re genuinely interested in the subject matter, May is now upon us, and you’re not alone. Here are some helpful tips to surviving what could be the two worst weeks of your life:
- Befriend a review book: My AP United States History review book became my saving grace last year. In a scramble and desperate attempt to learn an entire year’s worth of material in one week, I read 500+ pages from cover to cover. I personally recommend the Kaplan brand of review books. At first they may seem thick and alarming in size, but I promise they’re very friendly. With large spacing, concise and well organized information, and multiple practice tests, these are my #1 go-to for AP studying.
- Practice, practice, practice!: I know it might seem tedious, but practice truly does make perfect. I can’t count the amount of essays I wrote in preparation for my AP English Language and Composition exam; all I know is my hand felt like it was going to fall off by the time I was finished. While no one willingly chooses to write an essay every week, this method made all the difference.
- Form study groups: Chances are, if you don’t know something, someone else will. Study groups don’t have to be huge to be helpful. Grab a couple friends and head over to a local library or coffee shop to discuss free response questions or topics you may be struggling with. Reading and memorizing may seem like the obvious method to acing the test, but having conversations sparks a memory that a highlighter never could.
- Take a practice test and go back to review specific areas: While learning the material throughout the school year, there’s always that one topic that never sticks with you. But chances are, you remember a lot more than you think you do. Take a full practice test in the beginning, grade it, then go back to topics that you missed questions on. It’s not worth re-reading a topic you know like the back of your hand. Instead, utilize your time by reviewing topics you’re struggling with. Try and master those and you’re sure to pass with flying colors.
- No matter how hard you study, you can’t remember everything: If you can’t remember what happened on September 3, 1783, it’s okay! The great thing (perhaps the only one) about AP exams is that even if you get a few questions wrong, you’re still able to receive the highest score of a 5. It’s a known fact that some questions come entirely out of left field; no matter how hard you study, it’s unlikely you’ll get every single question correct. There’s nothing wrong with that, even experts forget a fact or two.
- Relax and get a good night’s rest: On the night before the test, it’s not worth pulling an all-nighter. Sure, brush up on one or two topics you’re still worried about, but please, PLEASE, don’t try to cram every last definition into your head at the last possible second. I find unwinding and going to bed early is much more helpful than staying up late stressing out. In fact, the night before, I put away all my review sheets, pour myself a cup of tea, and watch my favorite Disney film before going to bed early. I’ll be in a much better mindset singing along with Mulan than I would be trying to memorize historical dates.
- It’s only one test, life goes on: Even though failing an AP might seem like the end of the world, it’s really not. If you study your heart out and try your hardest, that matters more than any number you could receive. In the end, it’s only three hours of your life, try your best, don’t burn out (even though it’s utterly exhausting), and look forward to a movie marathon and some amazing Chinese food once you’re finally finished!
“May” the odds be ever in your favor!