Joe Knows: How to ace AP’s

Joe Pohoryles, Editor-In-Chief

Hi Joe,

In a couple weeks, I’ll be taking AP exams for the first time. I’m sure they’re not too different than other exams I’ve taken in the past, but I’ve never experienced such an intensive in-class review. We’re getting massive review books and taking a bunch of practice quizzes. In one of my two AP classes, we’ve been reviewing for the exam for a full month! I feel like we’re being prepped for combat or something. Are the exams really this big of a deal? Do you have any tips for how I can best prepare for them?

Fighting for 5

The AP exams are as big of a deal as you make them, to be completely honest. If you’re eager to earn college credit, then yeah, the stakes could be considered to be high. If that’s not as much of a priority and you’re simply looking to build up your student profile, then not so much.

Whatever the case, it appears the extensive review process has garnered some unnecessary concerns. The fact that the school did anything short of holding us at gunpoint to register for the exam doesn’t help. In reality, there isn’t any need to overthink things. You’ll be tested on material you’ve been learning all year that you (hopefully) have at least a basic understanding of.

Nevertheless, it certainly helps to be on your A-game come test day, so let’s take a deeper dive into some classic tips to make sure you can earn the best score possible:

A common piece of advice is getting a good night’s sleep the night before and eating a “hearty” breakfast the morning of the exam. Ah yes, waiting until the last possible minute to get the proper energy boost. You’ll see me crushing bags of Cheetos and full sleeves of Thin Mints past 2 a.m.. As soon as test day comes, however, I’ll turn in early and grab a single apple to force down in the morning. That should be sufficient. We all know most change occurs overnight, anyway.

There’s also the idea that studying the night before the exam is bad. Sure, waiting until the last night to cram is not smart, but even lightly refreshing the material to an exam extremely reliant on memory is a no-no. I doubt looking over the items you’re least comfortable with one last time will be of any help. Short-term memory is overrated.

For exams with written portions, there tends to be concern over whether you’ll have enough time to write a good response. This is tricky for sure. It’s safe to assume any Pulitzer Prize-winning piece ever has been written in 45-90 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s the exact caliber of work the AP readers will expect from you, isn’t it? Maybe learn to write with both hands so you can fit twice the words. You’ll probably need at least half the allotted time to proofread, because just one spelling error will certainly tank your entire score.

Exams in general can be overwhelming, and APs are no different. So long as you take these tips into account, and have faith in the review process (as difficult as that may be), you should be just fine.