How To Tackle AP Season Like A Pro

May has arrived, bringing with it spring flowers, Asian-American heritage pride and the promise of summer– as well as a slew of AP exams.

AP exams– short for Advanced Placement exams– are the dreaded culminations of AP courses: college-level classes that are offered to students in high school. Not only do AP courses significantly boost high school GPAs and look impressive on resumes, but they allow motivated students to explore subjects they’re passionate about at a higher level. Students can elect to take AP courses in subjects that range from Chemistry to Art History.

However, the notorious exams, administered over two weeks in May, can become an enormous source of stress for high school students. AP tests are mentally and physically exhausting: they last for multiple hours, require both multiple-choice and essay responses, and cover a year’s worth of college material. Students who are enrolled in multiple AP courses might find themselves faced by a veritable deluge of testing.

AP exam review, when coupled with school finals, exam absences, and summer plans, is undoubtedly a perfect storm for stress. But with the right preparation, high school students can handle AP Season like a pro. Here are three tips to consider in the week before your AP exams.

  1. Prioritize Your Prep. Determine which of your AP subjects you’re weaker at. That way, you can focus your time and energy on reviewing– even re-learning– material from the classes you need help with. I’ve personally observed that some subjects (hello, AP Physics!) required me to put in serious prep time, while I was able to pass other exams just by skimming the review book the day before. By assessing which exams you need to invest more time into, you’ll be able to prioritize your time. When it comes to AP exams, it’s equally important to work smart and work hard!
  2. Use Your Network. Talk to students who have taken the AP exam in past years. Past test-takers will be able to offer unique advice on what to expect and what helped them pass the test! Additionally, talk to your teachers and ask them for personal feedback, especially if you have done practice exams in class. Beware of Googling for input, however– lots of online communities will get sucked into speculating on the exam content, even preparing “predicted free response questions,” but any topic is fair game on an AP exam.
  3. Focus on FRQs. Free Response Questions, or FRQs, are essays that require you to write insightfully about a particular topic from the course. They’re far more in-depth than multiple choice questions. Therefore, many AP exams offer open-ended questions, or provide options of topics to write about. For example, the AP Literature exam allows you to choose any work of literature to discuss in the final prompt (within reasonable parameters, of course). That means that you can pick just a few favorite books from the course and study them in enough detail that you can reliably use them to answer any prompt. The best part is that you won’t have to stress out about remembering details from every book you’ve ever read. While this strategy doesn’t work for every exam, it also comes in handy for AP History exams, which allow you to choose between two prompts for the long-essay question.

Be sure to keep calm, take breaks and remember that AP exams do not define your worth. Whether you get a 1 or a 5, it is still an impressive feat to survive the course and the test.

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