AP exam tips to ensure a less stressful testing season

Madison Dietrich, In-Depth Editor

Advanced Placement (AP) exams are right around the corner, undoubtedly bringing stress to students around the world. This year, James Madison High School students will take their exams either in-person or online, depending on the subject. In-person tests include music theory, foreign languages and anything requiring complex, not easily typed symbols (calculus, statistics, physics and chemistry), while all other tests will be online. Although this year’s exams will look slightly different than normal due to the ongoing pandemic, the right preparation can still ease testing anxiety and maximize success, allowing for students to demonstrate their learning and potentially earn college credits.

  • Use your resources

The College Board provides a variety of study materials, one of which is AP Daily videos. Recorded by AP teachers around the country, these videos review each course’s individual units and topics and walk students through sample questions. There are additional review videos on the Advanced Placement YouTube channel from spring of last year. The YouTube videos are organized into separate playlists for each class, making a useful guide for each course. For more resources, Khan Academy also has videos and review questions for some subjects, and the Princeton Review has AP prep books filled with practice questions and advice.

  • Begin studying early

With all of the stress already surrounding AP exams, the last thing you want to do is cram all of your studying into one night. Now is a good time to make a plan for when and for how long you will study each night or week, making sure to give yourself plenty of time for breaks. Starting to study during spring break will ensure you have plenty of time to dive into each subject.

  • Go to office hours

Teachers’ office hours are one of the most useful resources for studying. Most teachers have years of experience leading students to success, providing the perfect opportunity for students to ask specific questions or questions not answered in pre-recorded videos.

  • Simulate the testing environment

One of the best ways to prepare for a test is to practice in a way that mirrors the conditions of the actual exam. If possible, set aside a time when you can take a full length practice test without interruptions. Make sure to adhere to the time limit of the actual test, practice wearing a mask (for in-person exams) and avoid using notes. With this practice, you can minimize the unpredictability of your exams and set yourself up for success.

  • Review subject-specific rubrics

A large part of success on AP exams is tailoring your work to fit the rubric. Each task and exam has a different set of requirements, so the best strategy is to attempt to maximize your points on each section by including what the College Board is specifically asking for. Especially for writing tasks, make sure to review how many pieces of outside evidence you need and if you’re required to analyze any sources.