Most AP exams take place in early May, so if you’re finding yourself with limited time to prepare for the test, it’s time to focus on maximizing the weeks that precede your exam(s).
After all, APs are a vital part of preparing for college—they not only assess your college-readiness level, but also award college credits and allow you to skip introductory courses. But you need a strong score to make that happen.
So how exactly should you prepare for the APs during the next two months?
If you haven’t started studying
- Talk to your AP course teacher. If you are taking (or already took) the equivalent AP course in school, reach out to your teacher to discuss the exam. What is most important? What should you focus on as you study? AP teachers work with the tests year after year; they know what usually ends up on it and what content requires extra attention. And they want to help you succeed, so use them as a primary resource.
- Set up a study plan with an academic advisor and tutor—ASAP. The clock is ticking, so your immediate focus should be on building a solid study plan that maximizes your time. Doing that alone can be complicated, so make sure you reach out to an AP expert who can guide you through this process.
- It’s all about prioritization. With limited time to study, you need to know what and how to prioritize. Prepping for the APs while navigating the last couple of months of the academic year can be rough, but executive functioning skills can save you. Download our free Executive Functioning eBook for tips, strategies, and tools that will help you prioritize your tasks and enable you to make the most of the next few weeks.
If you already started studying, but could use additional prep
- Learn the differences between the APs and the SAT/ACT. You should already be getting a good handle on all of the content of the exam. So take some time to focus on its format and length. Many students assume the APs have a similar or identical structure to that of the SAT and the ACT—but that’s not true. The APs run between 2 and 3 hours, which is about an hour shorter than those other tests. It also includes a “free-response” section that is more challenging than the traditional multiple choice format.
- Take practice tests. There’s no better way to assess how your preparation is going than taking a practice test. It helps you get familiar with the exam and figure out how to re-design and adjust your study plan accordingly. The latter is extremely important: While many students tend to stick with their original study plan regardless, you should always be looking to adjust it depending on how you’re progressing. Practice tests will tell you where you stand and which areas you need to focus on.
- Be more goal-oriented. If you think there is still something missing from your preparation process, it is probably a more objective-driven approach. It’s easy to pick up a textbook and try to memorize the content, or working on math problems over and over until the solutions become easy to find. But these will only take you so far. Understanding what your target score is and how to break down the content in order to get you closer to that score is the hard part.
If you already feel prepared
- Work on being mentally prepared. Sometimes feeling prepared is almost as important as actually being prepared. If you’re on the right path to get a high score on the APs, you should make sure that no outside variables affect your performance. In other words, it’s time to prepare mentally for the exam. The last thing you want is for small distractions, stress, or uneasiness to get in your way. To prevent that from happening, consider setting up a spot to take practice tests that look and feel similar to the actual APs. Doing so will reduce your stress and boost your confidence once the big day actually arrives. Other habits that help are practicing meditation, mindfulness, and visualization—all activities that ease your mind and increase focus.
- Work with an AP expert to perfect the imperfections. Successful students have a growth mindset, which means they understand there is always room for improvement. There is always an opportunity to get a bit better. You shouldn’t stress yourself over a missed question or two, but there is also no reason NOT to use the weeks remaining until the APs to focus on the details. Check out our tutoring programs to find out how our professional tutors can help do just that.
- Give yourself some time off to relax. While making sure you are mentally prepared and working on the details is crucial, taking a break is just as important. If you feel ready and your practice tests back up those feelings, it’s okay to take time to focus on other priorities or simply relax. Test-taking is all about feeling fresh and full of energy, so overworking yourself is counter-productive.