The truth about AP exam season and how to prepare

Lizzie Kotlove

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Photo by Lizzie Kotlove

This photo includes many AP study resources for upcoming AP exams. Both flashcards and AP course books help students prepare for their AP exams.

With spring rapidly approaching and the third quarter winding down, it’s time for students to start thinking about AP exams. In addition to focusing on what is happening currently in class, students should begin to review for AP exams, which are college-level exams on specific subjects upon the completion of an AP course. AP exams which are given through the college board, can help you place out of college classes and earn additional credits. Although these exams are not required, many students plan to take the test(s) regardless.

Many students have taken AP exams in past years; however, this is the first year where these exams are planned to be held in person after two years of virtual administration. The circumstance creates an unfamiliar environment for most students.

AP students, including junior Leyla Orellana, feel that their whole grade is at a disadvantage when it comes to this year’s exams.

“I feel like this year is my first real exam, because the last two years I was at home when taking my AP exams. I will have to be in a more stressful environment that is new to me and although I should be familiar with this environment by now I was not able to experience it either freshman or sophomore year,” Orellana said.

The environment of AP exams is new to every grade except seniors, as juniors and sophomores have only experienced the online AP testing administered through the pandemic. “I think that many juniors will struggle because this is the year we take the hardest classes and exams, and we have no basis on what taking it in a real testing environment is like,” Orellana said.

With the multitude of AP classes available, some exams are more valued in universities compared to others. This factor becomes one of the main considerations for students when deciding whether they want to take the AP exam.

“I think that exams are worth it for common courses such as AP Biology or AP Chemistry because most colleges will offer you credit for receiving a good score. But classes not as mainstream as AP Human Geography or AP Environmental Science may not be worthwhile to take because it is unlikely you will receive credit even if you do well,” junior Chloe Fagan said.

Although courses differ in how much studying is required for exams, it is very important to begin to study early. It makes it difficult for students to perform well on test day when they attempt to cram for AP exams in a short amount of time. There are many different tools to study, the most common being the AP course books, flashcards and review sessions held at school. Review sessions are held as the tests get closer, and AP classes do a unit of review before the exam as well.

“I find the books particularly helpful because they go through every unit in depth and provide practice tests with explanations if you get it wrong. Although it is easier said than done, it’s important to keep calm and keep an efficient routine in the week before the exam to achieve optimal success.” Orellana said.

For some students, resources from older siblings and family members become their main way of studying for the exam.