How to Survive AP Exams
As the end of the year approaches, students are excited for summer vacation and warm weather. Freedom is just out of grasp, and most students just want to fast forward to finals and escape. However, for AP students, there’s still loads of work to worry about. AP Exams are always a source of stress for students. With so many resources at our fingertips these days, many have trouble deciding the best method of studying and additionally the best way to calm down enough to focus. Fortunately, scholars that have already taken AP exams before are here to help all the newcomers, and reflect on what they’ll do differently this year.
Emily Ariza, a sophomore currently enrolled in AP World History, is about to take her second AP exam of her high school career. Last year, she did well on her AP Human Geography exam, but still plans to do some things differently for preparation this year. Last year, she began studying two and a half weeks in advance to the test by using a variety of review methods such as reviewing notes, worksheets, and handouts from class, Baron’s Study Book, which included practice quizzes and tests, an app that quizzed her, and review sessions of the course. Although all of her resources helped Ariza get a good score on the exam, she plans to help herself feel less anxious beforehand. “This year I am planning on being more organized and structured so I don't feel as panicked that I missed anything. I also plan on studying with my classmates this year to help gain more points of view on the topics,” she says. “ I also plan on not being so worried and to be more confident in myself.” She advises students taking AP exams for the first time to be organized and to not procrastinate on studying or allow the anxiety of the test to overwhelm you. “I let it ruin a lot of my days because I felt so anxious. The only thing that really helped was studying more so I felt more prepared,” she comments. “Don't let it get to you too much, one test isn't worth being unhappy, especially since it doesn't go toward your grade.”
Two senior, who have each taken five AP exams so far, offer more insight into the best study methods. Nick Albanese, who is taking two AP Exams this year, has learned over the course of the past three years that retaining information in class and knowing the topics rather than simply getting good grades is the best thing he could do to prepare for the exam at the end of the year. He has found that studying a few nights before has not been nearly as effective in getting good scores on the exam then paying attention throughout the year. “I tried studying a few nights before for my freshman year exam, and it didn’t help me at all because by then I already knew what I knew,” he recalls. In sophomore year, he began trying to pick up on the smaller details and concepts throughout the year and found that it helped him at the end of the year a lot. However, his biggest piece of advice for review methods now, at the end of the year, is to go on Khan Academy. “This year, taking two AP Maths, I think I’ll go on Khan Academy because they have a ton of review on there,” he says, regarding his study methods for this year. “Obviously, like any other course, I forget things throughout the year, so I think by doing that, it will help me pick up on the little things that I will have to remember when it comes time for AP Exams. Surprisingly, Khan Academy has review for subjects you wouldn’t expect them to as well. They offer an AP World History Review, AP Physics, AP Art, I think, and a lot more. So, it’s a good idea to check it out no matter what class you’re in.”
Aryana Khun, a senior at LHS, adds that study methods will change based on the nature of the class. “I’ve taken five exams thus far and they were either social studies (Human Geography, World History, and U.S. History) or something else (Biology, English Language). The history exams/geography exam require a lot of review and preparation through practice exams and review sessions whether with friends or with the teacher who arranged after-school options. The skills for the exam type were usually built throughout the year, but I had a lot of information to remember,” she says. “The AP Bio Exam that I took was a bit different in studying since it was a topic heavy in layers and concepts. This was personally more difficult to me than recalling material and I had to work on making sure I understood material through concept maps to connect key ideas on top of the review.” Her biggest piece of advice is to not procrastinate. Khun finds that many AP students will be too hard on themselves, and cramming only leads to exhaustion, which only leads to a worse score. “Study properly, and remember that everyone studies differently because our brains work differently,” she advises. “ Do what works for you. Even if you don’t get a five, be happy to know you tried your best. That includes that one night you gave in to weakness and binged a show instead of studying. Sometimes we need that.”
On the topic of stress, Khun and Albanese both find it very important to take care of yourself. Albanese found that he really doesn’t do much studying the night before in order to be well-rested for the next day. Reminding himself to eat a nice dinner, a good breakfast in the morning, and even small things like a hot chocolate or a tea help calm his nerves. Khun agrees and says that even in the week leading up to it, it’s important to remind yourself to eat and drink lots of water. She reminds herself that extra stress at this time leads to a weaker immune system and depriving oneself of food and water will only make matters worse. “I don’t want to get sick and I use that as a reminder so that even if I’m really stressed I don’t make it worse since I also see a little stress as something helpful and otherwise I really wouldn’t study,” she adds. “If the stress overreaches that “healthy” amount, however, I usually try to take a breather and do something fun that distracts me. Not Netflix or I’ll be too tempted to give up studying but silly music-blasting sessions in my room or a long shower. Personally I love to write so I might do something I love like writing.” All three AP scholars agree that it’s extremely important to not overstress since this can lead to worse test scores, anxiety, and even sickness. All three also want to remind students that most students in your class are just as nervous as you, and a study group is always helpful in both retaining information and calming nerves. So, to all the AP students struggling this month, we’re all rooting for you and good luck.