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    How to Study for AP Exams

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: June 4th, 2024
    How to Study for AP Exams

    Are you feeling overwhelmed by upcoming AP exams? With the right study tips, you can turn this challenge into an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and receive college credit. Whether you are a first time or seasoned AP-test taker, our expert tips will help you prepare for the AP exam effectively! Keep reading to learn how to take your AP exam studying to the next level! 

    What are AP exams? 

    AP exams are standardized tests that measure what you have learned throughout your AP class. You can then use the scores from these AP exams to place out of classes in college and to improve your college applications. 

    Related: What are AP classes? Everything you need to know

    When should you begin studying for AP exams? 

    Most students begin studying for AP exams anywhere from one to three months before the exam day. Ideally, a student should be preparing for an AP exam months before the exam date. Studying earlier will allow for enough time to review all of the material and work on identifying areas of weakness. 

    However, the ideal amount of time a student needs to prepare for an AP exam depends on various factors, such as the students familiarity with the subject matter and the difficulty level of the exam. Some students may need more time to prepare than others. 

    Also see: Why you should take advanced placement tests?

    Top 5 tips for studying for AP Exams 

    1. Make a study plan

    A study plan will help you stay organized and focused. When creating a study plan, start by breaking down the material into smaller and more manageable chunks. Then, you should allocate study time to each section based on your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you should spend more time studying challenging material and less time on areas you are already an expert in. 

    A study plan can help you stay on track with your studying. It can also help to ensure you are hitting all of the course material over time rather than cramming at the last minute. With a study plan in place, you can reduce stress around the exam because you know that you have a plan to cover the important material. With a well-organized study plan, you will increase your chance of success on AP exams. 

    Related: How do you pay for AP exams?

    2. Find content review resources

    It is important to use high-quality study materials and review resources in order to prepare for the AP exam. These can include textbooks, review books, online resources and practice exams. You should look for materials that cover the most important topics in depth and provide clear explanations and examples. Be sure to check out the many free AP exam practice resources offered by the College Board.  

    Also see: How many AP classes should you take in high school?

    3. Take practice exams 

    One of the best ways to prepare for an AP exam is to practice actually taking AP exams! Taking practice AP Exams will help you become familiar with the exam format, time management and the types of questions you will most likely encounter on your exam. Practice exams can also help you identify weak areas which can help you target these weaker areas while you study. The Princeton Review offers free full length practice tests so you can get used to the format and timing.  

    You should be taking these practice AP exams under simulated testing conditions. Meaning, you should allot yourself the same amount of time for each section as the AP Exam does. Do not allow yourself to give in to distractions so you get the most out of your practice exam experience. 

    Also see: How do I get an AP fee reduction?

    4. Avoid cramming 

    Consistent review is essential for retaining and building a strong knowledge of the course material. Make sure you are reviewing your notes and practice exams regularly in order to keep it fresh in your mind. It is better to practice for a little bit of time daily rather than all at once the night before! Consistent review will help you build confidence, reduce stress, and prepare you for success on your AP exams. 

    5. Familiarize yourself with the exam format

    Understanding the AP exam format is critical for developing an effective way of studying. You should familiarize yourself with the types of questions that will be present on the exam, such as multiple-choice or short-answer, as well as how much time is allotted for each section. Understanding the exam format will help you identify the most important topics to study as well as get a sense of how to pace yourself during the AP exam. 

    Top 5 tips for the night before the AP exam

    The night before an AP exam can be an extremely stressful time for many students. There are simple, totally doable things you can do to fuel your mind and body. Follow these tips to help you prepare for your AP exam: 

    1. Review your notes 

    Take some time to briefly review some of your main notes and AP exam materials. This should be a brief look over of your materials with a focus on key concepts and main ideas. 

    2. Organize your materials

    Gather all the materials you will need for the exam. This could include your ID, calculator (if needed), pencils, and erasers. Double-check that you have everything you need the night before to ensure you are not rushing or panicking the morning of your exam. 

    3. Eat a healthy meal

    Eating a nutritious dinner will help provide you with the necessary energy to sustain focus on your AP Exam the next morning. Enjoy a well-balanced meal of carbs, protein, and plenty of veggies. Also, a favorite dessert will go a long way to make you feel special!

    4. Relax! 

    All of your hard work will pay off soon! Therefore, aside from a brief material review and gathering your exam day necessities, relax and do something you truly enjoy. This will help reduce stress levels and help you sleep more soundly. 

    5. Get a good night’s rest!

    It is so important to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep the night before the AP exam. A good night’s rest will enhance your cognitive functioning, reduce stress levels, and improve alertness for AP exam day. The night before the AP exam is not the best time to pull an all-nighter to study. Rather, it should be a restful night to ensure you are at your best for the exam. 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Create an AP exam study plan that includes high quality review materials
    • Take AP practice tests to review material, identify areas you need to improve in, and also, to get acclimated with the testing format
    • Simulate “real life” test conditions by taking practice AP tests in the actual time period that will be allotted for testing
    • Don’t cram the night before, but rather, eat a healthy meal, recharge, and get a good night’s sleep!

    Additional AP exam resources

    Find out how AP credit works so that you can plan for your academic future. Most students find that some AP classes are more challenging than others. Learn which AP classes are known as the  “hardest” and whether or not you have to take the AP exam if you take an AP class. Read our guide about understanding your AP scores and what happens if you fail an AP Exam

    Frequently asked questions about how to study for AP Exams

    Can I take an AP Exam without taking the AP class?

    Yes! It is not widely known but you can take an AP Exam without having taken the AP class. Rather students can opt to self-study for the AP Exam which means they will learn the course material on their own time and take the same AP Exam in May as students who have taken the AP class.

    How early should I start studying for an AP Exam?

    It is recommended that you start studying 1-3 months prior to the AP Exam. However, the exact time depends on you as a student and your comfort level with the subject material.

    Should I take a prep course for an AP Exam?

    It is not necessary to take a prep course for an AP Exam, however, it could be helpful for some students who want additional practice or help. AP Exam prep courses can be expensive, so it is important to outweigh the benefits and costs before deciding.

    Should I study with a group or alone for an AP Exam?

    It totally depends on your learning style and preferences! Studying with a group can provide motivation, peer support and opportunities for discussion while studying alone can provide flexibility, focus and personalized pacing. Therefore, you should experiment with both approaches to see what works best for you.

    How are AP Exams scored?

    AP Exams are scored on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest score possible. Scores are based on a combination of multiple-choice questions and short answer questions. 

    How important are AP Exam scores for college?

    AP Exam scores can be important or college admissions. In fact, a high AP Exam score can provide you with college credit. However, AP Exam scores are just one factor among many that colleges consider in the admissions process.

    Can I retake an AP Exam?

    Yes! You can retake an AP Exam if you do not pass. However, there are certain rules and deadlines that need to be met. Therefore, reach out to your school or the College Board for more information.

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