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AP Exam Study Tips

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

Are you interested in giving AP exams next year? Have you been struggling to self study yourself for that dreaded month of March for AP exams? Well, this is the perfect article for you. AP exams can be quite daunting, however with the right guidance and motivation, you’ll be scoring 5’s in no time! Here are tips from experienced students ranging from all grades in high school:

1. Think Ahead; Don’t let day to day operations drive out planning: This is the most strongly recommended tip! Often times, students find themselves procrastinating in the first half of the year. By January, they start cramming, and often do not have time to, since it also clashes with school exams and other activities. It is very important to set certain goals and targets for each month, and remind yourself that all the days you put off, will add up and come back at you in the end.  Measuring monthly/ weekly progress will help you stay on track, while getting balancing work done efficiently, as well as leaving you time to focus on extracurriculars, and leisure activities.

2. Read the textbook, if you are under confident/ completely new to the subject: Some students tend to be overconfident and jump straight into the review book, for a subject that they have not been exposed to before. A review book is a shorter, condensed version of the complete textbook, usually meant for last month studying. It is necessary to read and absorb the concepts in detail from the textbook, to not only hurriedly memorize, but also to understand in depth. This is especially relevant for someone planning to self study.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask: There are plenty of resources that an AP student can utilize, if they cannot fully comprehend or are having difficulties with a particular topic. Questions on the AP exams do not come straight from the text, a majority of them are application and thinking based questions. Therefore it is important for one to get a grasp of the concepts being taught. With my personal experience, online AP groups, podcasts, and youtube videos were extremely useful and they helped constantly, throughout the year. Take help from your teachers in school, asking them questions or make an appointment to go over something with them.

4. Balance work: It is important to study for your AP exams, however it is more necessary to make sure to focus on your school life and academics. Learn to balance your work between academics and AP studies. AP exams are enrichment, however are not at priority. Focussing on school subjects is crucial, an is what matters the most, out of all extracurriculars. Dedicate some time to studying for AP when you have relatively light days. Otherwise, prioritize a test or assignment that you have coming up.

5. Don’t overload; At the beginning of the year, many students tend to make the mistake of taking on to too many AP exams, thinking that they would be able to self study easily. This is rarely the case, especially with studying by oneself, since as I mentioned before, it can be quite hard to juggle so many parts in your life at the same time. There’s no problem to do so, if you are familiar with the subjects and confident that it will be easy for you. Students have suggested talking to seniors first, and comprehending the difficulty of the subject to judge if you could handle it.

6. Study in groups: Find out who else is taking the same exams as you are, and contact them to collaborate and study together, for some comparatively hard to understand chapters. Plan study sessions with classmates to talk about the full content, test one another, and outline ideas and responses for practice essay questions. Start with a weekly study group, and as the AP exams come near, meet more frequently during a week to review notes and give mutual support.

7. Do it NOW: Do not procrastinate! This is a terrible vicious circle, and very hard to break out of. Do not delay work until later or the next day, or month, or year. Finish reading whenever you have spare time and stick to your schedule. I’m not telling you to do more than what you planned if you have extra time, you could if you want of course, but relaxation and leisure time is necessary too! Plan out the number of AP’s you would take each year in your full high school career, and don’t forget to also take into consideration the school courses workload.

8. Take Notes: This does not apply to everyone, since each individual has a differential way of learning and absorbing. However, his is a highly recommended tip from AP exam takers. It will help you use your study time efficiently, by allowing you to look back at your notes and revise. Writing important concepts will also help register the material better in your brain, and counts for better memory. You could even make something more fun, like flashcards or mind maps! The important thing is that you are making a record of the significant information as you learn it, to help you retain it and to help you review.

9. Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!: I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Start practicing with mock exams, online or in the review book/ textbooks, around halfway towards your designated study time. You will learn more from taking tests, than you will if you keep revising blindly. Practicing with past year exams helps you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, i.e. what you need to focus on for the rest of the time uptil the exam.

10. Relax and don’t stress out!: It won’t be the end of the world if you get lower than a 5! AP exams can always be retaken and life goes on. It is just an enrichment, ‘extra’ course that is taken, so do not be too upset or stressed about it. Of course, take them seriously and try your absolute best, but if that doesn’t work, it’s completely okay! Learn from your mistakes and modify your methods the next time round.

I hope you try out some of them of these tips and they help you with your studying experience. Good luck this AP test season!

~Nikita Chugh

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