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A Guide to Studying for AP Exams in 2022

How to study for AP Exams in 2022

How to study for AP Exams

During sophomore year I took my first few AP classes. I took 3 (or 2.5) in total - US History, Physics, and Macroeconomics (which is only one semester long). Scores came out recently and I earned a 5 on US History, 4 on Physics, and 5 on Macro.

Here’s what I learned from the experience. Hopefully, you can learn from what I did well and what I did wrong!

During the School Year:

Learn Specific AP tips from others

Ask questions to any of your peers who have already taken this AP class before you. Ask them what their main advice would be, specific to that class.

It's really beneficial to get good tips/habits when the school first starts, as you get a good understanding of what habits to keep up throughout the school year, for success on the exam.

For example, if you asked me my #1 tip for APUSH it would be to memorize vocabulary using Quizlets, while for AP Macro it would be knowing how to analyze and draw your graphs very well. If you want to know how I got a 5 on the APUSH Exam (and how you can too!), click here for my detailed post!

Also try researching online, by searching "Tips for the AP World History Exam" on Google. One really good resource for specific AP Exam tips is Reddit - I know, gross. But tons of teenagers have posted surprisingly good information on standardized tests there.

Write down the questions you get wrong

Write down what you get wrong on class quizzes - and then elaborate on why you got that wrong.

Also, create one Quizlet set where you write each question you get wrong as a term and the correct answer as the definition. Go over the set once in a while, so you can stop yourself from repeating the same or similar mistake.

Really try to recognize your weak points so you can patch them up in preparation for the exam.

Extra Credit… is Helpful

If you’re taking the AP exam, most extra credit in your AP classes will both bring your grade up and help you prep for the exam! Okay, it may depend on your teacher. But with many of my teachers, the extra credit related to the exam and was not busy work.

For example, in APUSH one of the extra credit assignments was filling out graphic organizers on how events in one time period compare or contrast to events in a different time. This is super helpful for getting extra points on the essays on the exam.

Similarly, in Physics, my teacher gave us a set of practice problems for each unit. Most of these problems were very similar to the multiple-choice on the exam!

When you start studying:

Start studying fricking early!

I regret not doing this.

Start as soon as possible. Don’t procrastinate! The amount of time you spend can really make an effect on your outcome. For example, I was really enthusiastic about APUSH so I started lightly studying around February. In contrast, I literally started studying Physics (which I'm bad at) in April, which is the month before May (so to be honest, I was expecting a 2 on Physics).

Even on AP Macro, I started only 2 weeks beforehand and somehow won the lottery in terms of scoring. However, I do not recommend leaving up your exam score to chance, by starting to study so late.

Here’s the thing - 2 weeks or even 1 month is not enough time! Chances are, you’re a high schooler with a bazillion other things going on, added on to APs - like general schoolwork, sports, ECs, work, or anything else. That might leave you with only one measly hour to study a few times a week (which may not be enough for some of the harder APs) - or if you are putting in tons of hours at the last minute, it might be cutting into your sleep.

So heed this warning! Do not start studying late!

Related Articles:

How to Create Good Study Habits in High School

Have a plan or system

This can actually be pretty simple - just assign dates to when you want to do your practice tests and when you want to review chapters. For example, you might review 3 chapters during the weekdays, and then write and self-grade 1 practice test every Saturday.

For memorizing vocabulary, I personally created a spreadsheet of all the flashcard sets I had to do. The names of Quizlet sets are on the left. The more Quizlet terms I starred, the less vocab I knew from that Quizlet set. Then I fill colored each set based on the urgency - the goal is to get all your rows filled with green. Keep on updating this spreadsheet as you go along. 

Red = I don't know anything! Help! 😭 (20+ starred terms)

Orange = I know some things but I still need more practice. 😐 (11-19 terms)

Yellow = I know most of the terms. 😏 (4-10 starred terms)

Green = I know this in and out!πŸ˜‡ (0-3 starred terms)

This is great because you can see the progression from red cells to green cells, which shows your learning more and more each time. This was really motivating for me!

I also wrote down my ideas for the types of study devices, like timelines and graphic organizers, that I wanted to create.

To create your own flashcard timetable, copy this spreadsheet, delete existing values, and write in new values!

Understand the Rubric

When practicing for your AP Exam, you must understand how you'll be scored, and how you can gain extra points. For example, in AP U.S. History, you should know that writing outside evidence will gain you an extra point on your document-based question. 

Use online AP resources

Speaking about avoiding solely on prep books, there are many videos, practice problems, and other resources to help you get a high score.

Here’s a quick link to some of the AP exam resources I’ve compiled for you!

Take as many practice AP exams as possible

This is the most obvious tip I'm giving. Get yourself a nice Princeton Review prep book from Amazon and start using it! Make sure to time yourself and self-grade any of your practice tests. Then, as stated above, write down any questions you get wrong and practice them.

Make sure to time yourself when you take practice AP Exams!

Make sure to pace yourself and glance at your watch often! For example, if you have 40 minutes for 3 short answer questions, you should allocate about 13 minutes per question.

Look over College Board’s released FRQs

Another thing I regret not doing.

Look at the past free-response question prompts and essay prompts that come directly from CB and try them out yourself! Then compare your answer to the scored answers and figure out what score you would most likely get.

Using the prompts directly from CB is important because their FRQs are much harder than whatever is in the Princeton and Barrons prep books.

Me realizing the real Physics FRQs are harder than the ones I practiced in the prep book.

I realized this… 10 minutes before leaving for my AP Physics Exam, as I clicked around CB’s website in a last-minute panic. 😬 Not a good look! Don’t do what I did - please look at the FRQs on the Collegeboard website ahead of time, and don’t rely solely on the prep books.

Make a Cheat Sheet 

And last but not least, write all the important concepts and formulas onto one condensed sheet of paper. This is only helpful for science and math classes like Physics and Calculus (for example, don’t make a sheet for History or Government classes). And whenever you have a few spare minutes, you can review it. For example, here's one ready-made AP Physics cheat sheet created by Fivable.

I have to emphasize - do not use or bring this into the testing room. This is a sheet for you to quickly review and study off of, and then you should leave it at home.

The day before the AP Exam

Sleep well before the exam
  • Review your cheat sheet one last time and leave it at home.
  • Pack your pencil pouch with:
  • Relax. 
  • Go to bed early!

The day of the AP Exam

Eat a Nutritious breakfast before the AP Exam
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast, such as oatmeal or eggs.
  • Wear clothes you're comfortable in - the last thing you want to do is be worrying about how your outfit looks, instead of focusing on the actual exam.
  • Bring your pencil pouch and BREATHE!

If you have any more questions or posts you would like to see, comment down below! Happy studying, and good luck with your AP exam!

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How to study for AP Exams in 2022


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