For two weeks, many students from ANS and all across the world are united by one common objective: to do well in their Advanced Placement exams. These tests, also known as AP exams, assess one’s knowledge in different courses taken at an advanced degree or college level, such as AP Biology or AP U.S. History. A schedule for these, as officially released by the College Board, is shown below!
This AP Exam Period, which will take place internationally from May 6 to May 17, is often a source of much stress and anxiety for students, especially some who are taking not only one, but multiple AP exams. However, while one should prepare well for these exams, they should not be causes for negative feelings! Thus, I have prepared some friendly pieces of advice for students to do well in AP exam period without feeling too overwhelmed.
I, myself, will be taking several exams this year. As mentioned in my SAT opinion piece, I do not insist that I am a perfect expert or a super experienced guru. In fact, the only AP exam I have ever taken before is AP Human Geography, which I took last year. Although I did well, I would like to reiterate before I give my three core pieces of advice that these should all be taken into account depending on the person, their personality and their habits. Making sure that you are comfortable, happy and prepared is the most important thing!
Without further ado, here are my three main pieces of advice, as well as their subpoints:
1. Stay well-informed
Being well-informed is important for you to pursue success with your AP exams! It is vital that you know everything possible about the test or tests you are taking, something which will in turn help with the next tip, which is to be well-prepared. Some things to consider when striving to be well-informed:
Although at this point you probably already know this, you should make sure you are well-informed about all aspects of your AP exam or exams.
- Make sure to know the format and the times for each section, something which will allow you to create test-taking strategies.
- Also be well-informed about the content you will be taking! This will be further explained in the ‘stay prepared’ section; however, it is important that you know the units of sorts in your course well. For example, for AP U.S. History, which I am taking, our units are time periods in U.S. history. For APUSH, we have nine periods, covering more than five hundred years from 1491 to present day.
- Also make sure to know when you will be taking the test and where! In my case, because of the situation of the country at that time, we had to take our test in Lincoln International Academy and not at school. So, make sure to always double-check!
- Stay organized and plan out a study schedule. Inform yourself about how you will study. Whether you like to do it physically or virtually, if you can visualize how many weeks (or days, although I hope this isn’t the case for you!) you have left to study and revise, then you will be able to plan out an effective routine that will bring you success. Being organized is especially important if you have multiple exams to study for and need to balance your time between them.
- Also, remember to reassess your goals. Reflection is key for success. What scores do you want to get for your AP exams? What major and minor steps will you take to achieve your objectives?
2. Stay prepared
There is no possible way to further emphasize the importance of preparation! Being prepared is key to doing well in the AP exam. Now that you have hopefully organized yourself as indicated in the previous stage, all you need to do is put those plans into execution!
- Prepare yourself mentally, but also physically! We have all at some point in our lives been part of the unfortunate testing experience of being in the same room with somebody coughing or sniffing up a storm, but in reality — it is much worse to be the one making all the noise, rather than the one hearing it. That is why it is important for you to stay healthy leading up to the exam!
- Do not overstudy! Make sure to take regular breaks to stay fresh.
- Make sure to eat your three meals well and healthily. For the test day, if it helps you, bring some snacks like fruits or cookies if they help power you up!
- While it may sound hypocritical from me, do try to get lots of good sleep! No matter how much you study, being tired and groggy will not help you at all.
- Do all that is humanly possible to avoid being sick — that means doing things like keeping your distance from those who are, staying warm in cold temperatures to avoid colds and not attempting anything too foolish or risky.
- Also make sure that you do not get hurt! This is especially relevant to athletes, who might involve themselves in unfortunate accidents. Be careful and take care of what you do! For instance, following the example mentioned before, if you are an athlete, make sure to always warm up well to avoid injury. While SAT testing centers do have accommodations for those with unforeseen injuries, I would think that being hindered by injuries, like having to type your exam with a cast, would be really uncomfortable.
- Create healthy stress-coping mechanisms. You will feel stressed at some point of the process (which, in a sense, can be good because it will help motivate you), but try to create healthy stress-coping mechanisms to keep it at bay. This can include anything from baking to meditating to setting up a reward system for yourself where you get to watch an episode of a show if you finish revising certain concepts.
- Have at least one mock practice test before the exam. As they say, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Most likely, your teacher will already be setting a date for the class to do one, but if not, then you should probably do a timed run-through on your own. This will help you be prepared to address your content weaknesses and to assess your timing.
- Perhaps, most importantly, you have to study! Make sure to study your content well, and to also practice the writing portions of your exam. Whether you are self-studying or have a class to study for the AP exam, you have to be disciplined and focused in this preparation process.
3. Stay motivated
Since these AP courses are at the level of introductory classes in university, they are not easy. They will be challenging, and the study process might feel difficult or overwhelming for you. However, mentality is really important to succeed with AP exams, especially to stay positive and motivated!
- Remember why you are taking the AP exams. Quite honestly, whether you are being forced or whether you just want college credit or most preferably, whether you simply are passionate about the subject you are taking the test in, remember you have a reason. Use that reason to motivate yourself towards success!
- While you are taking the exam, stay calm if you do not understand or know the answer to a question or prompt. Try to not think too much about it, like by skipping and returning to the question. You don’t get any point deductions for wrong answers, so in the worst case scenario, guess the answer to try and at least have the probability to get credit for it.
- Always be positive! Your content load might seem like a lot and you might feel discouraged at times, but always try to push forward. Remember that if you are up to it, you can do it.
To summarize, I would recommend that you stay 1) well-informed, 2) prepared and 3) motivated for the AP exams to do well on them!
The results can be checked using your College Board account. They will come out at 5 a.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, July 9 for all international test-takers. In the case that you are in Nicaragua for the summer and follow Central Standard Time, though, results will come out at 6 a.m.
The wait for getting these results might seem eternal, but while multiple choices responses can easily be scanned and recorded using technology, it is important to note that free response questions must be assessed meticulously by human graders. For this reason, from June 2 to 18 an AP Reading Conference will be held where highly-qualified and trained teachers grade the written responses for the exams. These teachers are regular teachers, and thus are only free to do their AP exam grading when school is already out in June.
Overall, though, I would recommend for you to simply stay calm and enjoy the process! I wish you and all those taking exams the best of luck and the best of results! Your hard work will surely pay off. While worrying is a natural reaction (I won’t tell you not to do something that I probably will be doing), make sure to also enjoy your summer to the fullest. You deserve it.
— Oh, and of course, enjoy the memes as well! These usually start being posted after you are finished with the exam, and often provide much appreciated humor! Since international and U.S. domestic AP exams are different to avoid giving test takers in certain time zones an unfair advantage, there is no harm in checking out the funny memes that are posted by U.S. students about each type of test.