These tips can help students be ready for the end-of-year Advanced Placement exams, by Tiffany Sorensen
Over the next few months, high school seniors will be looking ahead to prom and graduation. Amidst these milestone events, school sports and other commitments, May’s AP exams tend to sneak up on those who do not plan for them well in advance.
Below is a practical study schedule that Advanced Placement students can follow to stay on top of all their commitments this spring.
Reflect and make positive changes. Even if you did not perform in an AP course as well as you had hoped to during the fall and early winter, there is still hope that you can catch up and finish both the course and exam with a satisfactory grade and score. However, you cannot afford to wait any longer. Identify what went wrong in the previous semester so that you do not repeat those mistakes. Learn from the past and look to the future with optimism, realizing you still have more than three months of AP material that you can approach differently and master.
Review problematic content from previous units. Most AP courses are cumulative, meaning that the course material builds on itself. In other words, you must understand the foundational information from the first half of the course to excel in the second half. If there are topics you still have not grasped, now is the time to master them. Start by looking over past test questions or assignments you struggled with, and limit your review to those topics only.
Focus on the now. Most schools do not have official breaks or even days off scheduled for March, unlike other spring months. That, coupled with March’s usual location in the middle of spring term, makes it arguably the most intense month of the year in AP courses. You will face a great deal of new and difficult course material, making it essential for you to stay focused on the present for most of March. Remain diligent in class and complete all assignments to the best of your ability.
Start cumulative review. Toward the end of March, begin reviewing all AP course material starting with the earliest information, which tends to get forgotten as new material is covered. It is important that you look over even the content that you feel comfortable with because there may be peripheral points from those topics that you have forgotten. Once you have revisited each unit and determined your strengths and weaknesses, develop a more personalized study plan based on your academic needs and schedule.
Expose yourself to practice tests. As the last full month of classes before AP exams officially begin, April is high time to buckle down with AP prep. This month, begin taking full-length AP practice tests under genuine testing conditions so that you get used to the content, format, timing, and environment you will encounter on test day.
Capitalize on spring break. With spring break falling in mid-April for most high school students this year and lasting roughly a week, you can make the most of this time off from school by kicking your AP test prep into high gear. If possible, set aside 1.5-3 hours per day for review, or aim to complete another full-length practice test or two. Also, consider holding serious study sessions with classmates who will also have time off and want to get a leg up on AP test prep before classes resume.
Tie up loose ends. With just a few days or weeks remaining until AP exams begin, you still have enough time to make significant headway in your test prep. At this point, however, limit your studies to your most problematic areas. In doing so, do not forget to incorporate both content that is old to you – because it has been stored farther back in your memory – and new content that you may not have mastered yet.
Take care of yourself. As the date of your AP exam approaches, taking care of your mental and physical health becomes critical. It is easy to become sick or experience burnout when you are not sleeping enough, eating too little – or too much of the wrong things – and allowing yourself to get too stressed.
Prioritize your sleep, diet, and mental well-being so you can score as high as you can on your AP exam. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, May is a perfect month to get outside, breathe some fresh air and blow off steam with activities that recharge your batteries and allow you to soak up some Vitamin D from the sun.
Follow these tips to ensure that you excel on AP exams during the ultra-busy spring semester.