AP Exam Prep: 4 Study Tips for Students

The 2022 AP exams aren’t until May, but students need to begin studying 1-3 months in advance to ensure that they’re fully prepared. That means if your teen hasn’t kicked off their AP exam prep yet, now is the time! 


AP exams are usually (though not always) taken after a student has completed a corresponding AP course at their high school. Of course, not all classes are equal in preparing students for the AP exam. Some teachers focus on academic content but don’t include specific exam prep in their curriculum. Others may leave out portions of the exam content, leaving students to fill in the gaps themselves.


Given all of the above, students must have their own process for studying for AP exams to supplement their AP courses, and the sooner they begin executing their plan, the better. 


What to Expect from the AP Exams

Before your student begins their AP exam prep, it’s helpful to understand the way AP exams are structured. 


Your student should ask each of their AP course teachers how that course’s exam will be formatted and what it will cover. Every exam has nuances, but the overall structure is the same across AP courses, each of which concludes with its own exam. 


Your student’s AP Exams will be administered at an authorized school or test center. If a student’s high school does not administer its own AP Exams, the school will recommend an authorized testing location.


Since the AP exams are developed by the same panel of experts who developed the courses, every AP exam adheres to specific criteria—even if the course teacher is not also the exam administrator. The AP US History exam, for example, includes 55 multiple-choice questions, 3 short answer questions, 1 long-essay question, and 1 document-based question. On the AP Chemistry exam, however, students will find 60 multiple-choice questions and 7 free-response questions.


AP exams receive scores ranging from 1 to 5. Students earn credit from most US colleges for any AP exam with a score of 3 or higher. The exams are evaluated and scored by college educators, university professors, and experienced AP teachers.


How to Study for the AP Exams

Here are four AP study tips to get your student started on their test prep:

1.  Make a study schedule

Establishing a set schedule is crucial to staying organized and holding oneself accountable. 


Encourage your student to think about when they feel the most clear-headed during the day. Some students focus better in the afternoons, while others are sharpest later in the evening. The key is to help your student set aside specific times for studying that work best for them. 


If your student is taking more than one AP exam, they should spread out their studying across different days so that each subject receives the attention it deserves.


2. Identify areas of focus 

A strategic approach to studying for the AP exams will yield the most effective results. But how can students determine where to begin? Here are two starting points: 


  • Review old materials from class. Digging back into materials from the AP class—reading assignments, papers, quizzes—can help students easily pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses. They’ll want to focus on the areas where they’re struggling.
  • Review the AP exam description. We advise students to compare their AP class syllabus with College Board’s AP courses and exam descriptions to identify content areas their teachers haven’t covered in depth. Students should make a deliberate effort to review those concepts on their own.


3. Use outside resources

AP test review books are helpful study aids, but there are plenty of free online resources like Khan Academy lessons that students can also use to their advantage. Podcasts and YouTube channels—such as Advanced Placement, which has 257,000 subscribers—are also incredibly helpful. 


If your student could benefit from dedicated, one-on-one support, a tutor can make a world of difference in their AP exam prep. At Signet, our test prep experts take an individualized approach to help students reach their goals.


4. Answer practice questions and take practice tests 

Students should plan to take 2-3 practice tests to prepare for the style of the AP test, which can be considerably different from their classroom tests. 


Additionally, students can ask their teachers for access to specific practice resources in AP Classroom, such as multi-choice and free-response questions, that they can incorporate into their study plan.


With proper planning and the right resources, students have more than enough time to prepare and feel confident about their upcoming AP exams.  If your teen could use the support of a tutor or test prep expert to supplement their studies, reach out to Signet, and we’ll be happy to tell you more about our services!

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