5 Things To Know About AP Exams

5 Things To Know About AP Exams

Advanced Placement (AP) courses let you get a jump start on college while you’re still in high school, but you won’t get credit for them unless you take, and score highly on the AP exam. For that reason, if you’re enrolled in AP classes, or even thinking about enrolling in them, it pays to get familiar with the tests. Here are five important things to know about AP exams.

1. Blank answers can be your friend.

The first part of any AP exam is multiple-choice; this section is based only on the number of questions answered correctly. You won’t receive or lose points for incorrect answers or unanswered questions. Questions left intentionally blank will not hurt you.

2. Some of the answers are “free.”

There are always multiple-choice questions on AP tests, however, there are free-response questions as well. These questions require students to generate their own answers, as opposed to select one. Most of the time, students will be writing their responses in pen in the exam book provided. The free-response questions will need to be answered in essay, conversational, or problem/solution form. The question will indicate which format is required.

3. 3 is the magic number. (Unless it’s 4.)

Scores on AP exams range from 1-5, 5 meaning “extremely well qualified” and 1 meaning “no recommendation.” Many colleges award credit for AP exam scores 3 or better. However, more competitive universities might require a 4 or 5, or they might not award credit at all. In such cases, they often use high AP scores to place you into advanced classes. Dartmouth is an example of this; they use AP classes to place students in higher-level classes freshman year, but not for credit used towards graduation.

4. You only get one chance. (In theory.)

AP exams are offered once a year in May, and it is advisable that students take the AP exams as soon as they finish the AP course. This way the material is fresh in their mind. Students might also want to consider taking the SAT Subject Test on the same topic close to their AP Exam date. Since the SAT Subject Tests are considered high school level, whereas AP Exams are considered college level, students should be well prepared for the Subject Test after studying for the AP Exam.

Students are permitted to take the AP Exam more than once; you’ll just have to wait until the next year. Since scores can be withheld, students can decide which score to send to the university.

5. You don’t have to report your scores, but it will cost you.

Didn’t do so well? You don’t necessarily have to tell anyone. You may request that your AP score on one or more of the exams be withheld from a particular college, or canceled and not reported at all. But keep in mind, there’s a fee associated with withholding scores. Since it’s rare to get credit for scores below 3, it is recommended for students to withhold scores of 1 or 2.

junior year: fall and winter checklist

junior year: fall and winter checklist

Adapted from the Common App

This year is about focus — on your grades, your college entrance exams, your college search, and, of course, yourself. Now is the time to determine the activities you enjoy most and the interests you want to pursue.

This is the year college changes from a distant concept looming in your future to an actual reality to prepare for today.

Your checklist

  • Before you even begin your college search, your school counselor can make sure you’re on track to meet your academic obligations and connect you with resources and timelines. Be proactive! It’s up to you to schedule appointments and get help when you have questions.
  • The PSAT is a standardized exam your high school administers in October. It will prepare you to take the SAT (a standardized entrance exam required by some colleges), but it also serves as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
  • There are lots of colleges and universities out there and just as many ways to learn which ones might be a good fit for you. Start your search by attending college fairs and meeting with college admission representatives who visit your high school or community. Do your research, take notes, and meet with your school counselor to further shape your college list.
  • Standardized tests – including the SAT, ACT – can help colleges assess how ready you are for college-level coursework. Talk with your counselor about what test preparation opportunities may be available, which tests you should take, and how to determine the testing requirements for the colleges you are considering.

    Did you know? More than 1,000 four-year colleges and universities do not use the SAT or ACT in the admissions process. Visit FairTest to learn more and to access a searchable database of test-optional schools.

Questions on how to make the most of your junior year? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC


AP action plan for the academic year

AP action plan for the academic year

Follow this action plan to stay on track with your AP courses. And check out the resources…

  • Use the unique join code your AP teacher gives you to join your class section online
  • Log in to your MyAP account to access AP Classroom and start using AP Daily videos to learn and review course content and skills
    • Ask your AP teacher how you’ll be using AP Classroom during the school year
    • If your AP teacher has assigned them, start using the topic questions and progress checks to build your knowledge of course content and skills
    • Track your learning in the My Reports section of AP Classroom to check how you’re progressing throughout the course
  • Follow along with your AP teacher’s lessons and assignments —it’s the best way to stay connected to your course
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way to keep learning and dive deeper into course content and skills
    • Form study groups with your friends/classmates
  • Register for AP Exams for the AP courses you’re taking this school year
    • Ask your AP teacher or coordinator about your school’s registration deadline and any exam fees, as well as if you’re eligible for a fee reduction
  • If you’re starting to think about college, check out the credit policies at the schools you’re interested in—over 99% of colleges have an AP credit policy in place
    • A score of 3 or higher can get you college credit at more colleges than ever before
  • Keep going with your AP course—you’ve got this!
  • Refresh your knowledge and skills by watching AP Daily videos and completing any practice assignments your teacher has created in AP Classroom
  • Explore additional AP courses you might want to take next school year
    • Check with your school counselor to find out which of the 38 AP courses you can take
    • Talk to your school counselor about when you need to decide if you’re going to take an AP course next school year
  • If you’re working on college applications, select the school you want to receive your free AP score report
    • This is an important step to ensure you get the college credit you’ve earned
  • AP Exams are administered every May—find yours on the schedule
    • Taking AP exams shows admissions officers you’re committed to tackling college-level work and motivated to succeed
  • Practice and prepare for your exams
    • Review course content and skills
    • Watch AP Daily videos
    • Practice answering AP Exam questions
  • Use your free score send before the deadline to send your AP Exam scores to the college, university, or scholarship organization of your choice

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC


Time management tools and apps for high school students

Time management tools and apps for high school students

by Purdue Global

Time is a finite resource. By planning ahead and using your time wisely, you’ll be able to accomplish more and enjoy added free time.

Follow these seven time management tips and strategies to ensure that you meet deadlines, are well prepared for tests and assignments, and have time to relax. Check out the apps too!1. Identify Time-Wasters and Set Goals

It’s easy to get distracted. Pay attention to what draws your focus away from your studies and assignments.

  • Are you spending too much time checking social media?
  • Are you prone to texting and answering personal phone calls while studying?
  • Do you find that a lot of time has passed while you aimlessly browse the web?

No matter what is wasting your time, set a goal to not engage in that behavior during dedicated study time. Instead, use those activities as a reward for staying focused and accomplishing the tasks you set out to complete.

2. Plan Ahead by Creating a To-Do List

Identify what you need to do, and then prioritize the tasks based on when the assignment is due and how much time you need to complete it. This gives you a set plan for the day. Whether it’s just a list of priorities or a full schedule for the day, having a plan will ensure that you know what to do and when.

Unless there’s a pressing priority, it’s important to also consider what sort of work you’re in the mood to do.

  • Do you feel creative? You may want to prioritize working on a writing assignment.
  • Do you feel focused? You could spend the day studying for an upcoming exam.

3. Tackle Small Tasks to Start

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large projects and big exams, and the anxiety can make you want to procrastinate. Start with shorter, simpler to-do items and then move on to larger projects or assignments.

  • What can you complete in the shortest time and has the fewest dependencies?
  • What needs more time or has more complicated workflows?

4. Only Do One Thing at a Time

A University of London study showed that those who multitask see a drop in their IQ similar to someone who didn’t sleep the night before. If you’re trying to juggle multiple assignments and tasks, you’ll likely end up being less productive. To combat the urge to multitask, ask yourself:

  • What are your most common distractions? (Email, social media, electronics, etc.)
  • Can you turn off the devices or applications?

Turn off any devices that you can. And no matter what, don’t switch to another task until the one before it is complete. This may be a hard habit to break, but it’s worth it.

5. Establish Routines

A set routine can also help you accomplish the things you need to do. Is your best time to study immediately after school or after taking a break? You may want to get in the habit of regularly using that time to study or read. The more often you do this, the less you’ll have to think about when you’ll accomplish the tasks you need to finish that day.

6. Use Breaks Wisely

People who use the Pomodoro Technique, developed in the 1990s, study in short intervals and take short, regular, timed breaks or “Pomodoros.” For example, you might use a timer to work in 25-minute sprints, broken up by 5-minute breaks away from your workspace. Every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break.

7. Take Time Off

It’s important to take time for yourself. Long study sessions or chunks of time working on assignments should be broken up with time away from screens or textbooks. You need to give your mind a rest.

Many scholars have studied the effects of meditation on reducing effects of stress-induced conditions such as back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and insomnia. The National Institutes of Health gathered these studies and published them in “Meditation: In Depth,” which includes one study that suggests meditation makes the brain’s ability to process information more efficient.

Check Out These Additional Time Management Resources

To create and manage lists:

  • Any.do–This easy-to-use mobile app keeps your to-do lists and calendar in one central location and syncs between devices and platforms.
  • Remember the Milk–This is another fun mobile app that helps you manage to-do lists across multiple devices and users

To increase productivity:

  • RescueTime–This app runs in the background of your desktop computer or smartphone, tracking how much time you spend on various sites and apps, and then provides a detailed report on where you spent your time. Use this information to tweak your browsing habits and work more efficiently.
  • Toggl–Use this free web-based time-tracking app to create tasks and then track the time you spend on them, so you can see where your time is going and adjust if needed.
  • Freedom–Reduce distractions and improve productivity with this app that blocks websites and apps on your smartphone or desktop computer.

To set goals:

  • Learn how to set SMART goals—those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  • Learn more about goal setting from The Balance.


20 Indispensable reads for high school students

20 Indispensable reads for high school students

Summer is here, a time to relax, spend time with family, engage in fun/interesting activities, and … read! Here’s a list of 20 great books that we recommend for high school students:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s seminal coming-of-age story set in the fictional southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: racial injustice, moral and spiritual growth, courage and integrity, innocence and experience.

2. Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian future, not long after the Atomic Wars have reduced the geopolitical map to three superstates: Eurasia, Oceania, and Eastasia. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: totalitarianism and state power, surveillance, individual freedom, the nature of truth, the power of propaganda.

3. Lord of the Flies
William Golding’s tale of child castaways who establish a violent social order on a deserted island. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: civilization and governance, social and moral order, savagery and primitivism, cruelty, leadership, injustice.

4. Animal Farm
George Orwell’s allegory tracing the formation of Soviet Russia. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: totalitarianism and state power, individual freedom, the mutability of historical truth, the power of propaganda, the cult of personality.

5. Catcher in the Rye
The reclusive J.D. Salinger’s most popular novel, told through the eyes of the notoriously irreverent teenager Holden Caulfield. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: unreliable narrators, individuality and identity, social alienation and rebellion, social mores and rules.

6. The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic, which follows the travels of impoverished Dust Bowl refugees as they flee westward to California. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: wealth and poverty, injustice, social and political policy and governance, biblical themes such as judgment and redemption.

7. Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison’s meditation on the effects of race, told from the perspective of an African American narrator rendered invisible by his skin color. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: race and racial injustice, identity, ideology and belief systems.

8. The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho’s tale of a Spanish shepherd who hopes to find his destiny on a journey to Egypt. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: adventure and courage, hope, destiny.

9. Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut’s dark, absurdist comedy centered on the devastating firebombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: nonlinear narratives, unreliable narrators, existentialism and absurdism, the true nature of warfare.

10. The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel depicting the rise, in the United States, of a theocratic government dedicated to the oppression of women. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: totalitarianism, patriarchy and misogyny, surveillance, politics and governance, gender roles.

11. The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lyrical, Jazz Age novel about the idealist James Gatsby—and the nature of the American Dream. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: the Jazz Age, the American Dream, wealth and class, idealism.

12. The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison’s story of Pecola Breedlove, a young, often-abused African American girl who dreams of having blue eyes—a tangible sign of acceptance in a world dominated by white conceptions of beauty and belonging. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: identity, race and racial injustice, the effects of abuse, beauty and ugliness, insanity.

13. Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck’s story of an unlikely—and tragically fated—friendship between two men of remarkably different intellectual abilities. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: friendship and loyalty, character, cruelty and mercy.

14. Macbeth
Shakespeare’s portrait of an ambitious Scottish warrior who wants to be king—and is goaded to murder to achieve his goal. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: the nature of evil, power and ambition, insanity, chaos and disorder.

15. Brave New World
Aldous Huxley’s slim novel envisioning a future “utopia” with perverse qualities—as the human race succumbs to overdoses of pleasure, amusement, and hedonism. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: genetic manipulation, state power, drug use, individualism and society.

16. The Road
Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel about a boy and his father seeking safety in a post-apocalyptic world. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: good and evil, death, apocalypse, cruelty, hope and hopelessness.

17. Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston’s heavily vernacular novel depicting the life of Janie Crawford, an African American woman in the Jim Crow South at the turn of the 20th century. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: gender roles, race and racial injustice, the effects of abuse, the representation of American dialects, the nature of love.

18. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky’s epistolary, coming-of-age novel about an introverted, emotionally scarred high school freshman named Charlie. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: introverts and extroverts, teen romance, alcohol and drug use, the effects of abuse.

19. Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, an autobiography that describes growing up in Tehran, Iran, during the era of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: graphic novels, Iranian culture, politics and religion, war.

20. Night
Elie Wiesel’s spare memoir-novel based on his experiences in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: good and evil, the Holocaust, faith and faithlessness, the Jewish experience.

The New Priority: Independent Learning

The New Priority: Independent Learning

Adapted from Bright Knowledge

The last six months have changed every aspect of life. While these shifts aren’t forever, they are central to our lives now. Education has had to adapt especially quickly and we understand that student stress levels are at an all-time high.

Recent studies show that for students to succeed in this new environment they need two things: continuity and independent study skills. 

What is independent learning?

Independent learning is when an individual is able to think, act, and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support you receive from a teacher at school.

In other words, you need to be able to do your own research instead of expecting a teacher to give you all the background material you might need.

To become a good independent learner you need to be:

  • Motivated
  • Resilient, to overcome challenges
  • An excellent time manager
Why is independent learning important?
Independent learning is not just important to become a good student. The skills you gain are transferrable to most jobs. These include:
  • Motivation
  • Independence
  • Initiative
  • Time management
  • Organization and multi-tasking
  • Strong reading and writing skills
How can I become an independent learner?
  • Read actively: You will need to be an active reader, paying close attention to the words you are reading and their meaning.
  • Skim read: Speed read or skim material before reading it in detail and then summarising the text in your notes.
  • Go solo: Practice working on your own for long periods of time without seeking the help of an adult.
  • Different sources: When doing research, try to draw from a variety of different sources.
  • Be persistent: If a task is challenging, don’t give up. Keep at it until you understand what you need to do.
  • Seek help where necessary: Asking for support and advice is an important part of independent learning. Unlike school, you are unlikely to be spoon-fed all the information you need at work or at university. If you need help, ask for it!
  • Discussions: If you want to expand an argument but are stuck for ideas, get a debate going with friends or peers. This could help you think about an element you hadn’t considered before.
  • Set goals: A good way to keep your motivation up is to think about what you want to get out of your work and remind yourself next time you’re flagging.
  • Effective time management: In work or uni studies, you’re more than likely to have several pieces of work to juggle at any one time. Break each project down into the relevant tasks, work out how long you will need to spend on each part, then allocate time in your diary in order or priority.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC