Battling the APs

Decorate your face with warpaint and conquer the AP exams!

April 21, 2016

Photo Credit: Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

It has come to our attention that the raging army of AP exams will soon be heading our way. Let us raise a battle cry in opposition to the College Board for judging our abilities based on three to fifteen hours of our lifetimes.

But hold on. Just a minute.

Before we shout “hurrah” and dispose all hopes of passing the tests, the following advice, tips, and clues may assist you in your victory against the APs — and hopefully in June you will be welcomed with a number between 3 and 5.

Tip 1: Prepare for Battle

As much as we dislike College Board, we need to know our opponents. In addition to College Board’s database of exam questions from previous years, there are also many other websites that will exercise your brain before the exam.

The AP Practice Exams website will be your next warfare strategy. Depending on the AP Exam you choose to conquer, you can freely access AP-style practice exams, flashcards of important terms, cheat sheets, multiple choice quizzes, and the list goes on and on.

Khan Academy will also assist you when it comes to reviewing subjects that never made sense to you or your friends. Since Mr. Khan explains materials in an assuring tone, and gives you the ability to speed up his videos by adjusting the settings, you will waste no time and reaffirm your knowledge in less than 6 minutes.

Additionally, try typing “crash course” and whatever subject you are currently studying into Google. For all subjects, there will be a summary of a course ranging from solving the area of polar curves to writing Pulitzer-worthy essays. For starters, try searching for Mr. Dingle’s “crash courses” on Chemistry and Calculus. His explanations are precise and concise, so you can relearn a material in less than an hour (his Chemistry book is actually in our very own library, and the Calculus AB/BC book can be found online as a PDF). Also, each book in the “Crash Course” series is written by different authors for subjects such as Physics 1, Statistics, and English Literature.

Learnerator also prepares exam schedules for you based on the time that you have left for your exam. For example, if taking the AP Literature exam, Learnerator prepares packets of multiple choice questions and essay practice questions that can be accessed every day, a month before the exam.

If you would rather prepare through paper, check out The Prospect’s Guide to the best AP exam preparation books for each subject.

Youtube, besides being a net of distraction, can also be surprisingly useful. If you’re crying over the difference between the Calvin and Krebs Cycle then don’t forget to look at Bozeman Science. Or if you want to review standard notations or the atomic structure, Tyler DeWitt will help you out.

Tip 2: Figuring Out Your Mode of Attack

For those that are taking the AP exams again, we all know how time seems to vaporise before we even begin to read the question. If you know yourself and the techniques that work best for you, you won’t be engraving your initials on a tombstone.

This includes learning the best way to tackle questions. Are you better at reading the questions first and then the passage? Or do you answer the shortest passage questions first and then the longer ones? By working through practice questions and taking mock exams, establish a strategy that best compliments your personality.

Tip 3: Combating the Multiple Choice Monsters

With the pressure of around one minute per question, the multiple choice questions may seem never ending and daunting. Therefore, try to ignore the butterflies in your stomach as you answer each question. Read, answer, draw diagrams or solve, move on. Or, read, draw diagrams, guess, and move on. Most AP exams do not penalise you for a wrong answer so use this to your advantage — you may be able to gain lucky points. In general, keep on going and don’t look back (unless you experience a “Eureka” moment).

Tip 4: Slaying the Free Response Dragons

To answer these questions, keep the answer brief and concise. This is stating the obvious, but make sure your answer matches what the question is asking (including appropriate units for Math and Science takers!) some tests justify using equations; for others, you may even be able to draw diagrams and label them. The strategy that seems to be the most effective and productive is first identifying the questions that you can easily answer and get right. Secure as many points as you possibly can first. Then attempt to tackle the harder questions.

Tip 5: Resting Well Before the Final Battle


Don’t think too much, go to bed in your usual time (unless that usual time consists less than 6 hours of sleeping). No, no, don’t bring the textbook with you, it does not make a great pillow, and neither will it be a comfortable hugging device. Even if you suddenly see a problem that is impossible to solve, think about the probability of the exact same question appearing on the exam. If you work out the probability to be any number between 0 and 1, go to bed. Sleeping helps our brain more than we realize, and there have been cases where a person woke up and miraculously was able to solve a similar problem. A clear head is what everybody needs and this simple method can get anyone there.

Don’t forget to rest your hands. If you were playing thumb wars the night before, you are in trouble. Your hands are the connection between your brain and the paper!

Tip 6: Confirming your Victory

If you plan on studying the day of the exam, do it in the early morning and not directly cramming before the test. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, your mind feels more “fresh” in the morning because it is at its height of its cognitive abilities. But keep in mind — not studying on the day is a perfect way to prepare for the exam as well. A clear mind will help you to read through the questions without becoming confused and will possibly lessen the panic.

For the morning of an AP exam stay away from refined foods with buckets of sucrose, white flour, and corn syrup. Sugary breakfasts are an energy disaster because it raises your blood sugar faster (after providing an initial boost). Aim for something light, but filling.

Let nuts, dark chocolate, green tea, avocados, blueberries, and banana all accompany you during your exam breaks. These snacks will boost memory, improve concentration, and give sufficient sugar for your brain to power you through the next round of questions.

A drink that we highly recommend bringing into the testing room is water in a clear water bottle (so that the teachers know you aren’t bringing in coffee, tea, or any other liquid). For tests that last three hours in total or more, even if there are breaks in between, it may be hard to concentrate during the last few minutes of the test. The solution to this, or whenever you feel confused and in need of a deep breath (even after you take the breath), is to take a sip of water. It will cool your brain, wake you up, and hydrate your body.

On the day of each exam, let us all drink from the chalice of courage, then pick up our armor of valor and sword of justice (in the form of pencils, paper, and pens) and bring them to the examination room.


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