With the spring semester now in full swing for most students, you may be seeing your AP exams on the horizon. One great way to keep yourself motivated while slogging through endless practice questions in preparation for those tests is to study in a group. We spoke with Evelyn Alexander, a certified educational planner and founder/owner of Magellan College Counseling, who offers some tips for making the most of an AP exam study group.
1. Organize Your Group in January
You can't cram for the AP exams – you will need to start your study sessions a few months in advance, and January is a really good time, says Alexander. Form your study group now, because it will take you some time to organize yourselves and agree on a schedule for your group meetings.
Your study group should meet at least every other week, but weekly is probably better. For the three to four weeks leading up to the AP exam, Alexander highly recommends meeting twice a week.
2. Form a Small, Dedicated Group
You'll probably want to form a study group for each exam you're taking. Form a group of a "manageable size, with people you're comfortable interacting with. You don't want a study group of 20 people as it's going to get unwieldy. A nice solid group of five or six people is probably perfect," Alexander points out. Remember, this isn't supposed to be a social group – it's a working group with an important goal and a fixed deadline. "Everyone has to accept the responsibility to work to improve everyone's chance of getting a good score," Alexander adds.
3. Structure Meetings on Member Needs
The process of each meeting will depend on what works for everyone in your specific group. For example, you can give assignments to each person in the group at the end of meeting, and you can select one member of the group to take notes at each gathering. Alexander strongly encourages students to use the official practice materials provided by The College Board, as well as the information provided by your AP course teachers. "The College Board website also breaks down the topics on most of the exams, and for some exams, tells us what percentage of the score each topic comprises," Alexander notes.
4. Ask Your Teacher About Past Students' Scores
What should your target score be? Although a 5 would be fantastic, it's not always realistic. Also, you will need to check with your target schools to find out what is the lowest acceptable AP exam score for getting credit or placement. Your group can ask your AP class teacher what percentage of past students have received scores of 3, 4 or 5 on the exam. "Just like with most things in life, past performance is the best predictor of future performance. How well students have done in the past is an indicator of how well your teacher has prepared them for the exam. We're always shooting for a 5! Now you just have to put in the work to get there," says Alexander.
5. Take the Practice Tests Alone, Review Together
Go through the timed practice exams on your own to get a feel for the pace of the exam. "Whether or not you prep as a group, you'll be taking the exam individually," Alexander says. However, once all of your group members have had the chance to take the practice exam, get together and dedicate a meeting (or two) to reviewing the practice exam as a group. Go through the entire exam, paying specific attention to the questions you got wrong.