**UPDATED FOR 2023!
Taking Advanced Placement courses in high school is a great way to challenge yourself, impress admission officers, and earn college credit that can allow you to skip general education courses and potentially reduce tuition costs. The last challenge and final step towards earning that credit is taking AP exams in May. With a month remaining before the big day, now is the time to gather materials, map out a study plan, and start studying! Keep reading for tools and tips to help you get ready for your exams, including general information about the tests, helpful study resources, how to create a study schedule, and other tips for test day.
AP Test Basics: Format and Test Dates
Unlike the past few years, the 2023 AP exams will be administered more conventionally due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. With a few exceptions, including AP Chinese and Japanese tests and tests for those receiving accommodations, tests will be taken by hand using the traditional pen-and-paper method rather than digitally. Tests will also revert to their previous schedule; they will occur each day from 8:00 in the morning to 12:00 in the afternoon over the first two weeks of May: May 1–5 and May 8–12. If a student qualifies for a postponement of their AP exams, he or she would take them the following week, starting May 17 and ending May 20.
When To Study: Creating A Study Plan
Given that AP classes cover an extensive amount of complex material, and some students take more than one AP class at a time, it’s essential to develop a personalized study plan. With the right strategy and focus, you can not only successfully study class content, but you can also make sure you stay motivated and don’t burn yourself out in the process.
Although it’s wise to do some initial studying starting as early as January, most won’t get started until later. The absolute latest you should get started is April when studying should be done more frequently, intensely, and selectively. What you choose to focus on depends on the difficulty level of the material, as determined by your performance on class assessments and a diagnostic test, as well as the subject; it’s believed the AP exams for politics and psychology are easier while the exams for chemistry and calculus are harder, for example.
Another factor to consider when developing a study plan is how many AP exams you will be taking. For every grade level in high school, there can be multiple AP courses available to students, so it’s not uncommon for some to take more than two simultaneously. Rotating different subjects with more time devoted to the more challenging ones will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Let’s consider a student who is taking AP Physics and AP Psychology. She would have to fit AP exam study into the rest of her schoolwork, so she might alternate between Physics and Psychology each day but with more time (e.g. 90 minutes vs. 60 minutes) devoted to Physics than to Psychology.
Pacing and Breaks
If it’s not obvious already, you’re going to need to use calendars and schedules—either on paper or digitally— to organize your study time. Make sure to integrate AP exam study into your usual academic, extracurricular, and personal obligations and to schedule time for studying, breaks, and practice tests. Ideally, you would locate the calendar you want to use, mark it up with your usual personal and school responsibilities, then pick two dates to take two full-length practice tests (one earlier in the month before studying as a diagnostic and one a week or two before the test to assess your progress and identify remaining weak areas), and finally divide your study time across the days of the week based on the number of AP exams you’re taking and the most important units of study. Your calendar is completely done when you’ve also labeled the days in May that you are going to take your test or tests. However, don’t forget to give yourself a break from studying at least one day a week, and consider planning something fun to do after the tests to reward your hard work.
How To Study
Reviewing your notes and creating flashcards are studying classics, but you can study more effectively if you use a variety of study methods that not only complement what you are studying but also how you learn best.
A Variety of Review Methods
- Study by yourself or with a group. Some students study better by themselves, some in groups, and some benefit from a mix of the two. Groups or partners can make studying more fun, help you check your understanding by bouncing ideas off of someone else, and fill in gaps with peers whose strengths might complement your weaknesses. Mixing socializing with studying can be distracting, however, so make sure you strike a good balance.
- Use fun mnemonics. Creating memorable acronyms, such as HAPPY/HIPPO for AP history document analysis, or catchy poems and songs can help you recall significant processes or chunks of material. Take advantage of ones already created or come up with your own.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. Each AP exam has different types of questions and sections. You should have already been exposed to them in class, but for AP exams it’s even more essential for you to hone your ability to strategically move through multiple choice questions and answers and to respond to written questions accurately and thoroughly so you can maximize your time and points. To do this, practice is key. In addition to taking at least two full-length practice tests, incorporate practice drills for each major question type. Do your practice just like it will be on test day: sit in a place with no distractions, time your work, and write on paper. Always take time to check your answers and reflect on what you did well and what you still need to improve.
Online Resources and Prep Books
In addition to purchasing a prep book that condenses course content and includes scorable practice tests, there are a lot of free resources available online to help you study for your AP tests.
- Khan Academy: The official practice partner for AP that offers “free instructional videos, articles, and practice exercises” for a wide range of AP courses.
- AP Review Sessions by The College Board on YouTube: Choose from a variety of subject playlists offering 30-60 minute videos hosted by AP teachers from across the country.
- Quizlet: Use the popular flashcard app to search for sets on most AP test topics.
- Fiveable: Offers resources for most AP courses, such as unit reviews, study guides, free response help, and practice questions.
- Albert: An up-to-date resource that provides free review guides and offers all original questions and explanations for every AP subject.
Test Week/Day Tips
To reduce test anxiety and limit the dangers of cramming, try to get most of your studying done before the week of AP testing begins. Here are some other helpful tips:
- Be prepared. Gather any materials you will need for your tests, such as calculators, pens/pencils, ID. Also, review testing policies so you know what not to bring (e.g. cell phones).
- Study smart. Trust that you know what you need to know. Avoid cramming and review in moderation by sticking to less intense study methods like flipping through a few flashcards, doing a few practice questions, or reviewing your latest practice test or old free-response question sample responses.
- Tame Test Anxiety. If your heart starts to race and your mind buzzes with negative thoughts, just breathe and remind yourself that you are prepared. If a particular question is stressing you out, mark it and go back to it later.
- Sleep well. While having a healthy sleep routine is always a good idea, it’s especially important if you are preparing for a big test. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the week before the test and during testing week. Definitely don’t forget to set your alarm, so there’s no chance to show up late on test day.
- Eat well. Avoid too much caffeine or sugar, and make sure you are eating healthy. Don’t forget to eat breakfast!
How A+ Can Help
Preparing for an Advanced Placement exam, which tests nearly a year’s worth of college-level material, can be a daunting task. You can do it alone with a good head start, a plan, and helpful review materials. Also, take advantage of any review sessions at school and consider working with a study group made up of friends and classmates. Sometimes, though, it can be nice to have help. Fortunately, A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers an AP Test Review Program, which includes six 90-minute tutoring sessions per exam, coursebooks and practice tests, as well as diagnostic testing and result feedback. Test day is right around the corner, so whatever way you choose to study, get started today!
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Director Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188.