AP tests encompass all that is scary about AP courses and unpleasantly shove it into allotted 1.5 to 3 hour time periods. Luckily, we have extensively qualified teachers who provide the much needed information and test-taking tools. They set up the ground work, showing their students, in essence, how to fly, and then trusting them to take the leap from the nest on their own. However, that leap can be terrifying so many desperately search for direction.
Here are a few tips:
Look back at old tests.
When reviewing, students often open up their binders or notepads and re-examine every piece of paper they’ve ever used in that class. This tactic is not only overwhelming, it’s unnecessary. Most of the information in your notes, homework, and quizzes is summed up in your tests. Pull them out and look over everything you missed, but don’t forget to take a glance at those questions you got right (some could’ve been guesses that were by chance correct). If you’re really pressed for time, just skip the small stuff and head straight to the semester exam.
Get a study guide.
You’ve probably seen them: 5 Steps to a 5, Barron’s, Cliff’s, Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc. There will be an entire section dedicated to them at your local Barnes & Noble. As summations of your textbooks, they can be intimidatingly thick books, but they’re written in layman’s terms (i.e. much easier to read) and often have diagrams, pictures, and worked-out examples. In-store pricing can run anywhere from $10 to $100, which can really break the bank, but many past students will try to sell old books on e-bay for as little as five cents. It may be a little late for ordering online, but the reviews, vocabulary, and practice tests they come equipped with can make the difference between passing and failing, which would prove well worth the money.
Try your hand at past tests.
One of the best ways to prepare yourself and build confidence is to get to know your enemy. Collegeboard has provided a detailed site: AP Central with all the AP test information you could ever hope to know. There are articles on test-taking skills and how to study, as well as links to Free Response questions going back decades that include explicit scoring guidelines and past student responses. Though the multiple choice is scant on the site, most AP teachers have past released tests and practice exams they can give to you. Familiarize yourself with as many of AP formats as possible, for the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
Study hard but don’t overwhelm your brain, believe in your test-taking skill, and be sure to come prepared and on time to your tests. Here is the schedule for the next two weeks, good luck!