Top strategies for acing your AP exams


Photo by Allison Xu

Junior Linh Nguyen creates flashcards with key dates and events for her AP World History exam.

In the next few weeks, you might find yourself sitting in the school auditorium or media center, about to take an AP Exam. You may feel a ball of nerves in your stomach, but the good news is that using the right tips and strategies to prepare for the exam can help you not only be more confident going into the exam. Whether you’re a seasoned AP student or just starting out, these strategies can help you make the most of your studying and achieve your best on the exams.

1. Review the exam format and scoring rubrics

AP exams are designed to test your proficiency in college-level material and follow a specific format and structure. Knowing how much time you’re given for each exam part, understanding how to score points in the rubric and familiarizing yourself with the weight of different units on the exam can help you tailor your preparation.

2. Actively engage with the course content

Engaging with the material is a crucial strategy for exam success. When you engage with the material, you actively participate in the learning process, which helps you retain and understand the information better. This could be writing summaries or creating visual aids like diagrams, flowcharts or mind maps for each unit, which can also help you better understand the relationships between different concepts. Teaching others is another powerful strategy to solidify your own understanding of a topic by forcing yourself to think deeply about the content.

Consider trying to apply the information you learn to your life by finding real-life examples and making connections. For example, you could connect the material to your interests and relate it to current events. This active application of content can make the material more meaningful and relevant to you, which can help you remember it better.

3. Take practice tests

The College Board provides many resources for students preparing for AP exams, including sample questions and full-length practice tests. Use these resources to gauge your understanding of the material and identify areas to work on.

Junior Shanna Summers has taken several AP exams before and uses her experience to study for upcoming exams. “Right now I’m just trying to take practice exams on AP classroom and looking up summaries of the units and important terms. I think that because all of my APs are so close together, I have really focused on the things that I struggle with the most, like world history,” Summers said.

4. Find resources outside of in-class review

Many teachers offer review sessions during lunch or after school. Make sure to take advantage of those and come prepared with any questions you may have about the material. Additionally, there are many available resources outside of the classroom. Websites like Fiveable and AP Study Notes provide free study materials and practice questions. YouTube channels like Heimler’s History, Khan Academy and the Organic Chemistry Tutor offer detailed lessons and review specific to AP classes

Freshman Clara Frank is studying for the AP Government and Politics Exam, her first AP Exam. “I find that watching videos help me a lot. I stick to two YouTube channels: Heimler’s History and Carey Lamana. I also recommend workbooks: I bought a Barron’s workbook on AP Gov, which includes readings on important concepts and includes practice questions,” Frank said.

Junior Linh Nguyen is preparing for her AP exams with active recall strategies. “I’m mostly reading unit summaries on Fiveable and rewriting what I remember. I’m also reviewing important terms using Quizlets,” Nguyen said.

While there is no magic formula to studying for an AP exam, these tips and strategies can help you feel more prepared and confident. So take a deep breath, trust your preparation and hard work and good luck!