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The student news site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

The New Dealer

The student news site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

The New Dealer

Mastering the AP Exams: Essential Tips for Success


The pressure increases as the AP examinations draw near. These tests assess not only your subject-matter knowledge, but also your time- and stress-management skills. Whether you’re taking one, or several AP exams, being well-prepared is essential to getting a grade that accurately represents your effort and commitment. Here are some tips that may help you do well on your upcoming AP exams:

DISCLAIMER: These are only tips, they might not work for everyone. You can use these tips to help you develop your own strategies to prepare for these AP exams.

1. Understand the Exam Format

Every AP test has a different format, consisting of a combination of free-response and multiple-choice questions as well as occasionally document-based or portfolio-based questions. Getting acquainted with the format of your exam or exams will help you feel much less nervous on test day. On their website, College Board offers thorough explanations and practice problems for every AP exam. Utilize these resources to your advantage.

2. Create a Study Plan

A carefully considered study schedule is essential. Depending on how comfortable you are with the information, decide which topics you need to review and set aside time for each. Set attainable learning objectives and be realistic about your everyday obligations. Since consistency is essential, even quick study sessions each day can be more productive than lengthy ones just before the test.

3. Use High-Quality Study Materials (If Possible) 

Purchase trustworthy study guides and utilize internet tools like AP Classroom and Khan Academy. Moreover, your course notes and textbook are incredibly helpful resources. Solve as many practice problems as you can for topics that call for it, such as AP Chemistry or Calculus.

4. Practice Time Management

Since the AP examinations are timed, it’s critical to develop good time management skills. Try taking timed, full-length tests to get a sense of the pace. When a question stumps you, learn to move on and mark it for review at the end, if time allowed.

5. Focus on Free-Response Questions

Free-response questions need not only content knowledge but also the capacity for efficient and clear communication of that knowledge. To understand what examiners are looking for, review grading rules and practice producing concise, coherent responses. Refining your replies can be greatly aided by peer review sessions.

6. Join or Form a Study Group

Studying in groups can promote information sharing and offer moral support. Providing explanations to peers is an excellent method for ensuring that you fully grasp an idea. Just be careful to maintain your attention and focus when studying.

7. Take Care of Yourself

Never undervalue the significance of exercise, healthy eating, and sleep. A keen mind is supported by a healthy body. Make an effort to have a regular sleep pattern, eat healthfully, and make time for exercise.

8. Stay Positive and Reduce Stress

Retain an optimistic outlook. Use stress-reduction strategies including yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Recall that AP exam preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. Throughout the process, treat yourself with kindness.

9. Review Previous Exams

Exam past papers can be a very helpful resource. They aid in your familiarization with the kinds of inquiries that are asked and the degree of information that is anticipated from your responses. Examiners’ remarks on previous papers might be analyzed to gain insight into frequent mistakes to be aware of.

10. Reach Out for Help When Needed

Asking for assistance is never a bad idea if you’re having trouble understanding a certain idea or subject. Educators, mentors, and peers are invaluable assets. Understanding a difficult idea can occasionally be greatly aided by adopting a new viewpoint. 

Here is a short interview from Ms. Wallace (AP of the Social Studies Department) and Mr. Poska (AP of the English Department) 

1.What advice or encouragement do you provide for your AP teachers? 

“I believe that collaboration is crucial for teachers, because it’s beneficial to have a thoughtful partner. This opens you up to new ideas on how to approach a topic.” -Wallace

2. Based on your experience teaching AP courses, what are the top three strategies you believe are most effective for students to utilize in their preparation for the AP test?”                                                                                                                                  

 “TIME MANAGEMENT – Students must know how to pace themselves and allot enough time to get through the passages, questions, and essays. Skim Reading – You cannot read everything on this exam.  Students need to think about ways to get the information from the texts by reading the sections which relate to the questions asked. Practice…Practice…Practice – Timed practice helps in preparing for exam day.” -Poska

“Time management involves understanding the components of the exam and developing a strategy for how much time you want to devote or allocate to each component. Strategize and develop a plan that works for you, where you determine in advance which part of the exam you want to tackle first and which part you wish to spend the most time on. Finally, don’t stress over it. The day before the exam, you either know the material or you don’t. Give your notes a quick review, but understand that you’re not likely to learn anything new the day before. When you enter the exam room that morning, have confidence and trust in your abilities and knowledge.” -Wallace

3. What are some of the most common challenges or mistakes you see students encountering when preparing for and taking the AP test, and how can they best overcome these obstacles?

“Students usually fit into two categories – those who feel that they must score a 5 and those who do not spend any time preparing.  There is a happy middle.  If students get a 5, great for them.  That score does not impact their grade in the class.  The AP score will help some students in gaining college credit.  The knowledge from the AP courses is what will help students moving forward.”       -Poska

“Students often attempt to cram all the material at the last minute. When I was teaching IB, I observed that a cram session does not help with the exam. To mitigate this problem, start thinking about a review plan and break it into topics over the course of the month before the exam. By going over everything bit by bit, you ensure clarity and better retention.” -Wallace

4. Can you recommend any particular resources or study materials that you’ve found to be exceptionally helpful for students preparing for the AP test? How should students integrate these resources into their study routine?”

“For AP English courses, there are YouTube channels that are somewhat helpful for breaking down the sections of the exam.  AP Classroom is a useful tool in actually preparing for the exam and 5 Steps to a 5 prep book to set goals and a timeline.” -Poska

“The AP resources at FDR include 5 Steps to a 5, and students have access to these books. This book is incredibly helpful, and I also strongly advocate for practice. This involves examining prompts available on various sites, such as College Board. Go home, practice an FRQ, self-assess, and then ask a peer or your teacher to grade you based on a rubric. The writing part of AP History tests is crucial, and self-evaluation is important. It allows you to understand your current standing and provides insight into areas of improvement. It’s essential to practice, evaluate your work against the rubric, or have a peer or teacher do it. These insights will help you develop the skills needed to succeed on the exam.” -Wallace

5. Time management during preparation and on the day of the AP test is crucial for success. Could you share your best time management tips for both study sessions and the actual test day?

“I always found it helpful to write down everything I needed to focus on. This included jotting down things I needed to review, such as writing topics. Initially, I wrote everything down in notes without drafting the essay, then moved on to the multiple-choice questions to jog my memory. This allowed me to later add those insights to the essay while continuing with the multiple-choice section. Having that outline proved incredibly useful for writing the essays, as it helped me organize my thoughts more effectively.” -Wallace

“Set a timer for each section of the exam.  Start with a longer time period and then as you get closer to the exam date, set a shorter timer.  Note taking is also key for preparation. Take notes in the margins of what you are reading and that will help with your focus.  Some students find that it helps to read the questions and answers before looking at the text.  Many multiple-choice questions send students to specific line numbers and that is a time saving technique for some…not all.” -Poska

6. Reflecting on your years of teaching AP courses, could you share a story or example where a student significantly improved or overcame challenges by following your advice? What motivational words would you offer to students currently preparing for their AP tests?

“Students who practice and attend study sessions always improve in their test taking.  Many of those students also have higher scores than they did in practice exams.  I tell all of my students the same thing…have a full protein-rich dinner the night before the exam and get to sleep.  When you get up, eat protein.  Protein is brain food!” -Poska

As you prepare for your AP exams, remember that your effort and dedication are the most critical components of your success. With the right mindset and strategies, you can approach exam day with confidence and achieve the results you’ve worked so hard for. Good luck!


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