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AP Test Study Tips

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By Stefanie Toye on February, 28 2022 | 10 minute read

What are the best AP Test prep study tips for 2022?

Many high school students have just completed mid-terms or mid-years—awesome job! You can reward yourself for making it through those. Take a breather but realize that APs are not too far off in the future. Here are our study tips, links to important College Board sites, and recommendations for resources. Some good news: you’ve probably been preparing for the AP exam since the beginning of the school year, and in some cases, the summer before. AP teachers are known for giving pre-course work so their students are prepared. Follow our tips and you’ll be celebrating when you see your scores in the summer. And if those scores aren’t what you hoped for—no big deal—remember that you have control over which colleges see them. Here is our step-by-step guide to help you in your AP test prep (don’t worry: it’s only 4 steps).

 

Step 1: Self-assess

You’ll need to have an honest conversation with yourself to begin to generate your plan for attacking the APs and creating a study plan for them. If you took a mid-term (or mid-year, depending on where you are in the country), how did that go? Be truthful: was there a lot that you weren’t familiar with? Once you get the exam back, make sure you review what you got wrong—as well as what you got right. Your school and teachers actually did you a favor if you took those tests: they forced you to study and now you have a solid understanding of, well, your understanding of the first 2 marking periods, trimester, semester, whatever you call it. Maybe you need to go back over certain periods for your APUSH class or refamiliarize yourself with a few of the works you read for AP English Language or AP English Literature. Maybe you need to make some more flashcards for your AP Bio or AP Psychology topics. Write down what you have command of—and what you don’t. Then create a study guide and timeline for yourself (Step 2) to help go over those topics. And don’t forget—you'll be learning new topics along the way. You may also want to reflect upon how you learn best. Different people learn effectively in different ways (and just because something works for you now doesn’t mean it’ll work a year from now, and that’s ok). Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Do I need to review on my own and then talk with people? If you need “study buddies,” find people in your class to help. If you find that you need help 1:1 from a professional, you may want to seek out a tutor or a formal AP test prep class like those we offer, whatever form that takes (in-person, live virtual, self-paced).
  • Or is it better for me to first talk about what I need to do, and then review on my own?
  • Where do I work best? A library? Outside (when the weather is nice)? A coffee shop? Be honest with yourself here—for many students, your bedroom is not the best place because there are too many distractions. And that leads to our next one….
  • What do I need to eliminate so I’m not distracted?
  • How long can I truly study? The Pomodoro Technique helps you break tasks into smaller increments. And in reality, we can only focus intensely for 40 minutes or so, then we need a break. For some people, it’s longer, and for others it’s shorter, so that’s a rough average. If you’re interested in learning more about these tricks, read our blog on Learning about Learning that gives you metacognitive tips and tricks.
  • How will I create my study guides? Which books and websites are useful? And do I have the materials I need to study well (index cards, markers/pens, notebooks, additional published study guides)? The College Board has released many exams for students to review for different subjects.
  • Am I more visual and able to remember pictures? If so, then drawing diagrams and using colors may be more helpful than writing up notes. There’s value in doodling!
  • Do I need to move around while I’m learning? Some students need fidget spinners (remember those?) or stress balls to help them focus.
  • Am I more textual or quantitative? Maybe simply using a printed textbook or packet and underlining it works for you. In any case, research has shown that we retain more when we handwrite than when we type on our computers.
  • Am I more auditory? Do I need to listen to music while I learn or watch YouTube videos reviewing the concepts? Or do I prefer silence or white noise? There is no right or wrong way to study, as long as you are able to retain the material. And that’s something you’ll want to practice doing. Again. And again. And again.

Your AP instructors and peers will be great resources to you through this process. Chances are that your teacher has already given you lots of important information.

 

Step 2: Create a study plan

Make a realistic study plan for the upcoming weeks as crunch time approaches. Are you familiar with SMART goals? We tap those in our study skills programs.

Specific: Describe in detail what your goal is. For example, create 25 flashcards by hand for Spanish verb conjugations.

Measurable: Quantify what you hope to accomplish (the 25 in the example above).

Achievable/Attainable: Make the goal something you can reach. For example, it may not be possible to study 5 hours a day straight—nor may it be advisable. Breaks are important and help us retain information. Rather, study for 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute break, and so on.

Relevant: Does this goal pertain to what you’re hoping to accomplish? If you’re studying (properly) for an AP exam, the time you put in should help your score improve. Always think of the desired outcome and then work backwards from it.

Time-Bound: Set deadlines for yourself. So, for example, create 50 Spanish verb conjugation flashcards by March 15th.

 

If you’re looking for the exact schedule of AP exams, please refer to this College Board site or to the chart below with more info. Most exams are between 2-3 hours in length and have a multiple-choice section. Make sure you know the exact breakdown of each AP test you’re taking. Students should guess on the multiple-choice sections—like on the ACT or SAT—since there is no penalty for wrong answers. (This means you DO NOT lose any points or fractions of a point for wrong answers; you earn points for those questions answered correctly.)

 

Your AP test prep study plan and goals might look something like the weekly schedule below, assuming you have about 11 weeks before the test, with approximately 1 week of buffer time built in. Life happens. Allow time for that. And start working on testing and time management. The experience of testing is something you’ll need to build up stamina for since you may not be used to taking lengthy exams.

Week 1

  • Review mid-terms/recent tests and determine which topics you need to review more than others.
  • Create detailed study plan addressing those topics and number them.
  • Gather materials for study plan.
  • Make 20 flashcards listing the topics and begin completing the concepts for each.

Week 2

  • Begin reviewing topics needed (Topics 1-2).
  • Finish 20 flashcards and make 5 more.
  • Re-do questions from most recent quiz/test and add to your list of topics.

Weeks 3-7

  • Review remainder of topics, quizzes/tests, and finish making topical flashcards.
  • Take—section by section—1 full-length practice test and review it.

Week 8

  • Complete another full-length practice test in test-like conditions (timed, in a space with other people, not in your room).

Week 9

  • Review full-length practice test and do some brush-ups.

Week 10 (The week before the test)

  • Get your testing materials set up. Know where you’re going. Know what you’re wearing (a mask if needed). Gather your pencils, calculators, nutritious snacks, and IDs. Use this checklist to help you for test day. Get good sleep at least 2 days before testing begins (no cramming—if you’ve followed our plan and met your milestones, then you shouldn’t need to anyway).

You’ll notice there are only 10 weeks listed above; one week has not been scheduled with the understanding that students might be away for a week or simply unable to study for several days, adding up to a week.

 

Step 3: Execute the Plan

Sounds obvious, right? Once you’ve written out your AP test prep goals and detailed plan week by week, all that’s left to do is. . . well, just do it. Set rewards for yourself at the end of each week so you can celebrate once you’ve completed that week’s tasks. If you’re efficient, you might get ahead of your goals. Remember, it’s not simply the time you put in, but the quality of what you’re doing. Generally, using sample questions from officially released materials is what you should be doing after you’ve reviewed most of the content. If you need someone to hold you accountable, a tutor can help you.

 

Step 4: Celebrate!

Celebrate small victories along the way! Recognize the hard work you’re putting into this and that it’s no small feat. Make sure you’ve got something to look forward to once you’re done with those exams. Maybe it’s spending time out with your friends. Maybe it’s watching that movie or streaming that show that came out while you were studying. Or possibly it’s buying something to treat yourself: concert tickets, clothes, video games, whatever floats your boat.

2022 AP Test Schedule (does not include late testing dates)

Week 1

Monday,
May 2, 2022

Japanese Language and Culture

United States Government and Politics

Chemistry

Spanish Literature and Culture

Tuesday,
May 3, 2022

Environmental Science

Psychology

Wednesday,
May 4, 2022

English Literature and Composition

Comparative Government and Politics

Computer Science A

Thursday,
May 5, 2022

Human Geography

Macroeconomics

Seminar

Statistics

Friday,
May 6, 2022

European History

United States History

Art History

Microeconomics

Week 2

Monday,
May 9, 2022

Calculus AB

Calculus BC

Computer Science Principles

Italian Language and Culture

 

Tuesday,
May 10, 2022

English Language and Composition

Physics C: Mechanics

Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

Wednesday,
May 11, 2022

Chinese Language and Culture

Spanish Language and Culture

Biology

 

Thursday,
May 12, 2022

French Language and Culture

World History: Modern

Physics 1: Algebra-Based

 

Friday,
May 13, 2022

German Language and Culture

Music Theory

Latin

Physics 2: Algebra Based

 

 

 


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