Test Prep

How to Study for Your AP Exams

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The year-long work of your AP courses is all leading to one thing: the AP Exam. And while these exams can cover a lot of content (even more than the SAT and ACT), they also have certain strategies that can be used to make even the most daunting AP subjects more manageable when exam season rolls around. Here’s a general overview to help you prep for your Advanced Placement Exams.

Take A Practice Test


The AP Exams are just like any other standardized test, so my first piece of advice is to take a practice test. One aspect of AP Exams that differs from a lot of other standardized tests is that they are very content-driven. That gives practice tests the added benefit of reminding you of what you’ve covered over the entire course. Plus, it can also give you an idea of what topics you might need to review before the exam. Once you’ve got a sense of where your strengths are and where you could use a refresher, you can put together a game plan to tackle that material in whatever time you have left before the test.

Study the Exam

Each Advanced Placement Exam is two to three hours long and will include some mixture of multiple-choice, free-response and/or essay questions. However, each test has a different number of questions, and graders will look for different things in the open-ended portions of the test, depending on the subject. While it’s true that every test is scored on a scale from 1 to 5, the requirements for each score vary greatly between the exams.

Luckily, there is plenty of information available about the AP Exams to help you prepare beforehand. I strongly recommend you do whatever you can to avoid going into a test like this blind, so take a look at official practice questions and scoring information for your AP Exam in advance of your test day — and consider using an AP Cram Course or AP Tutoring to recap. Knowing what’s on a test and how it’s scored will get you on your way to maximizing your score.

Review Your Performance

Once you’ve learned about the Advanced Placement Exam you’ll be taking, go back to your practice test. We’ve already discussed the need for brushing up on content areas where you don’t feel strong, but you can also use your work to improve your overall test-taking strategy. Did you spend too much time on certain types of questions and then have to rush the others? Were there questions that would have been better skipped and revisited if you had time left over at the end of the section? Be sure that you not only figure out what content you need to know, but how to beat any test-taking habits you might have from your other, more traditional classroom exams.

Whether you’re looking for help with content review or some general strategy tips, The Princeton Review has you covered. Check out our line of AP study guide books, which offer you a breakdown of each test and how each is scored. With a good understanding of what to expect on the test as well as a solid content review, you’ll be on your path to a 5 during AP Exam season.