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How to Ace AP Exams: Seven Tips for Success

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So it’s that time of year again! AP Exam season is in full swing, filled with frantic students clutching their AP books and review packets, racking their brains for long-lost memories from the treasure trove of the first semester as they squint at questions that make them think, “Did I really learn this?” It seems like the hardest part of AP exams is not the content itself, but the ability to recall information from the entire year. Lucky for you, I have a few tips on how to ace those exams without feeling like you’re in a time crunch.

  • Cram just the right amount.
    • I know you’ve probably heard the expression “Study in advance” before a big test or exam, but what if I told you that a certain level of cramming is actually beneficial? That being said, I’m not saying that you should wait until the night before your AP exam to study; rather, you should study a little each day in the weeks leading up to your AP exam, and then buy a crash course book for each course that will help you review all the material the night before your exam. I recommend the ones published by the REA (Research & Education Association). If you’re more of a visual learner, watch crash course videos; this will help make sure that all the information is fresh in your brain on exam day.
  • Focus on your weaknesses.
    • Obviously, it’s important to study the right amount for every AP exam you take, but every person is different. If a subject comes easily to you, make sure you focus on studying for other subjects first. Spend more time on your weaknesses and less on your strengths because it will make the whole studying process a lot more efficient and rewarding.
  • Study in groups.
    • At times, studying alone can be really tedious. After barely ten minutes of studying, you might feel like an eternity has passed, but if you’re in a study group, you won’t have that problem! Meet with your friends at Starbucks or Barnes and Nobles and start quizzing each other with flashcards and doing review problems. This will help you stay motivated, and make you less likely to give up when you come across a problem you don’t know how to solve. Chances are that one of your friends knows how to do it!  If not, at least all of you can be stumped together and then experience that brilliant flash of insight that makes you remark, “Oh my god! How could I be so stupid?”
  • Play some light music.
    • How many times has a parent or teacher warned against the detrimental effects of listening to music while studying?  Probably at least a million times. But listening to music can make studying more fun and can help you stay motivated through long hours.  Just make sure the volume isn’t too high, because loud noises do have a tendency to distract people. If you’re listening with headphones, play binaural beats in the background so that you are able to focus on the task at hand. You can find binaural beats easily on Youtube.   
  • Look at released exams.
    • College Board doesn’t just release past AP Exams for fun. You can use these as essential tools that will help you ace all your exams by ingraining into your brain the way certain questions are phrased and how you can get all the points on the free response section.  Half of acing an exam is studying the content, but the other half is the test itself! Looking at released exams will help you formulate some test-taking strategies.
  • Ask questions.
    • This one is a no-brainer. If you’re having trouble with something, or just need a few facts clarified, don’t just depend on the Internet. Go to tutorials and talk to your teacher, who probably knows the subject better than a bunch of random people on Yahoo Answers.  Also, make sure you pay attention in class in case your teacher announces any optional AP review sessions. What’s a better way to review than in the classroom with your own teacher teaching the crash course?
  • Don’t doubt yourself.
    • Everyone knows the feeling of working really hard and then thinking right before the big moment, “Am I really ready?” Here’s my answer to that question: of course you are.  In case you didn’t know already, Westwood has more than just a small tendency to over prepare students. You’re much better off than hundreds of other students across the nation who haven’t gone through an intense year of learning. So shake off all those doubts, and believe in yourself!
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