Getting Ready for Upcoming AP Exams


By Jahfreen Alam| Writer   &   Kelsey Morales| Writer

March 10, 2016

San Clemente High School offers a variety of courses: regular, honors, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate in order to guide students individually based on their preferred level of college preparation. Those who decide to be placed in AP classes are greatly encouraged by staff to take the AP exams that begin in May. Although intimidating, passing an AP test will allow a student to skip general education classes at the beginning of their college career and take courses directly related to their major sooner rather than later. Scoring a three or higher on an exam will, for most schools, give you the college credit for having taken the course and passing the exam as a high school student and give you a head start on getting a degree in a field of your choice.

Here are some strategies to improve your chances of scoring a three or higher on an AP Exam.

Ask questions. Contact your academic advisor and devise a class schedule that is right for you. Whether that includes all AP classes or just one, be careful that you don’t take on more than you can handle. It’s also important to take into consideration the cost of AP exams. Each exam requires a $97 fee, however fee waivers and financial aid is available for those who qualify.  

Buy an AP book. Trade in your social life for your new best friend: the AP exam prep book. Among the most popular books among students are The Princeton Review and Barron’s test prep. Each book includes practice multiple choice, ideal for both course tests throughout the school year and for the AP exam, and practice essay prompts with potential answers.

Mrs. Compean, who teaches Algebra 1 and AP Calc AB, believes “doing practice tests” are the best way to study for math. Continuously practicing problems allows you to practice concepts, anticipate similar problems on the real AP test, and further build your skills.

Begin studying well before May. Cramming is a beloved study technique among the AP student population, however, you can save yourself from the stress and sleepless nights by planning your study sessions as early as the fall. Remember, you don’t have to start off intense from the beginning– take it slow by reading over material from the beginning of the year. Studying a little everyday will ensure that you remember the material thoroughly, and makes the task less daunting.

For history classes, this is especially important. Break out your pens and highlighters to create timelines listing important dates, because while the test is about knowing the information, you must be able to “make connections and synthesize” relationships between significant people and events throughout history, as encouraged by the phenomenal, life-changing, inspirational Ms. Sisca-McGuire, who teaches AP US History.

Study in groups as well as on your own. Although being a solo act can be a good thing, by studying with others you can uncover new perspectives on how to remember information or tips on how to write the best essay. Particularly important for science courses where labs are a major component during the school year, collaboration and discussion is crucial. From talking through Sigmund Freud’s main theories for AP Psych to the characteristics of biomes for AP Environmental, study groups are key to reviewing concepts outside the classroom.

Teach someone else the material. Whether it be a fellow classmate, friend, or even your dog, talking to someone about the material helps you to easily condense the concepts into something explainable. More importantly, it helps you realize whether or not you really know the information.

Design a Quizlet, personalized study guide, or make flashcards. Staring down at a massive book for hours on end is more than time consuming—it’s boring. You’ll find yourself having a much harder time absorbing crucial information when you’re constantly zoning out, tempted to skim, or caught playing around on your iPhone instead of practicing.

Flashcards are especially great for classes such as English, where you must know a variety of terms in preparation for the AP test. The only way to really know the difference between a paradox and an oxymoron is through repetition and writing down examples in a personalized study guide. Figure out where your weak spots are, whether it be multiple choice, grammar, or critical reading questions.

Still worried? After years of taking AP tests, senior Kyle Coughlin has figured out the trick to dissolve any pre-test anxieties:

“Study what your teacher tells you to. The test isn’t designed to ruin you. You will know all the material, or at least recognize it. Be calm, be prepared, and also budget your tests. You will need to study, but you can’t study for 4 or 5 tests equally– so, budget and chose the tests you care about. Remember, it could be one less class in college.”

With AP exams beginning May 2nd and concluding on the 16th, it’s high time AP students hit up their favorite study spots and keep caffeine available at all times . Don’t fall back on your tendency to procrastinate; take the initiative and start early with review whenever you have free time.

As long as you begin familiarizing yourself with the information early, when May comes, you’ll have nothing to fear and can rest assured when scores come out this summer.

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