Mr. Nogowski screams about it every day for the year and now it’s almost upon us. The dreaded AP Week (or should I say AP Weeks) is coming back for their annual national celebration of learning from May 5 to May 16. You’ll be able to party for several hours in the fitness room with your peers and sharpened number 2 pencils, crying inwardly after exhuming the test packets from the cool plastic wrap that comes off in one fell swoop. But you can avoid most feelings of dread by preparing for your AP exams using these simple words of guidance.
1. Make a study plan, preferably during February break as per Mr. Nogowski’s suggestion, and stick to it. I have done this every year since sophomore year and as tedious as it sounds, it’s the best way to make sure that you cover all content. Why February? Even though your classes may not have finished the material, you should be looking ahead to how many chapters you have yet to cover. In February, you should also purchase your review books (REA for history APs, Barron’s for science APs, and Five Steps to a Five are usually your best bet). That way, you can make a spreadsheet (or a chart with pencil and paper) that states how you will finish your curriculum in time. March should be “crunch time” where you review each and every chapter in the review books for all of your APs, and April should be your second read through each chapter, except this time, you should read the chapters along with the notes you took in class. Then, for the last weeks before the exams, you can concentrate on material you found difficult as well as solve two past AP short answer questions a day.
2. Prioritize. For the month of April, however busy you may be, realize that you should at least spend some time every day studying. You shouldn’t give up going to a party because you have to study, but you shouldn’t stay too long and you should promise yourself that you will study afterwards. By May, you should try to prioritize your studying over going out to Chipotle after school.
3. Ask your teachers for help. Their job is to help you, and if you have been studying, you should have some questions to ask them! Remember that your review book is only a guide, and that the most meat is from the notes and lectures during the school year.
4. Avoid study groups. I don’t think that I have ever walked away from a study group session feeling like I had learned something. Sometimes it helps to have a session with a friend who is very knowledgeable on the subject, but three or more students at a house on the weekend is most likely going to turn into a social hour. You can get far more done by studying alone at home or at the library (the library is good because then you won’t feel the urge to check Facebook every two seconds or walk to get a snack in the kitchen… you’ll be free of distractions and it will be a quiet environment. Just don’t bring your headphones!).
5. Get a lot of sleep. Studies have shown that being sleep deprived puts your mental functions on par with those of a legally drunk adult. Even if you were of age, you wouldn’t show up to a test drunk. If you’ve been following a study schedule, you shouldn’t feel like you need to cram anyways, so let your body put the information that you’ve studied into your long-term memory by sleeping 9-10 hours every night of May.
6. Try to stay healthy. As much as you want to wear those shorts or that mini skirt, remember that this is April in Buffalo and it’s 30 degrees out. You really won’t want to have the sniffles or a hacking cough during the exam, so don’t put yourself at risk. Exercise and eat balanced meals without too much sodium or processed fats; your body will function much better when it is healthy and well nourished.
7. Know the format of the test. Go into your exam knowing what to expect (ex. 55 minutes of multiple choice followed by 3 hours to complete 3 essays, budgeting 1 hour per essay) and knowing how quickly you usually work. Knowing what is going to happen will make you feel a lot more at ease and will be one less thing to worry about.
8. Find your watch. I don’t care if it’s from seventh grade or is a Michael Kors watch you got for Christmas, but if it tells time, bring it. Unless by some stroke of luck you are sitting in the front row, you won’t be able to see the time during the exam, and most APs have strict time restrictions. Your watch will help you stay on track during the exam and ensure that you don’t spend an exorbitant amount of time on one section.
9. Stay calm. I know it’s really difficult to do, but before the exam, spend one minute doing deep breaths with your eyes closed. Your heart rate will go down and you’ll feel a lot more competent than if you go in with shaking hands and sweaty palms.
10. Don’t take AP US and AP Euro at the same time. Because you will hate yourself. But on a serious note, if you do have two tests on the same day or at the same time, make sure to tell guidance to receive an alternative testing date.
Remember that APs aren’t the be all end all. You’ve survived up to this point in the year and have braced dozens of difficult tests. You will be fine (in both senses).