How to Study for AP Exams
It’s pretty much a given that you need to study for your AP Exams, but for how long? And how much can vary depending on everything from your personal study habits and the AP class itself.
When planning out how to study for an AP test, keep in mind that your AP classes might not cover all of the course material until a month or so before the test itself, which you’ll typically take in May, toward the end of the school year.
Creating a Study Timeline
Doing well on your AP Exams could also pay off later in college, potentially saving you money by helping reduce your course load. One smart way to prepare for your AP test is to create a timeline leading up to the test. Giving yourself a schedule you can (hopefully) stick to might help keep you organized while studying.
Here are some ideas to help you prepare for your upcoming AP Exams—all arranged in a timeline leading up to your AP tests.
January (16 Weeks Out)
To first figure out how to study for AP Exams, you can evaluate how your current AP classes are going. One place to start is by checking your grades from last semester and if you are struggling with a certain topic, contacting your teacher to see what help is available.
You might want to schedule some extra one-on-one time or join (or even start) a specific class study group. Of course, your grade isn’t necessarily an indication of the score you will get on your AP Exam. But, if your teacher has been using AP practice questions on tests, that could still give you a sense of your early performance—and it may even boost your confidence going into the test if you’re acing those practice answers.
This might be about when you want to start deciding which AP Exams you want to take in May. Just because you are in an AP class doesn’t mean you have to take the AP exam in that subject. But, you should also consider which exams might help put you on a path toward college and career success.
The test schedule is always published well in advance of the exam days. You can start by checking to see when your exams will take place and blocking the dates out in your calendar now. If you have exams scheduled for the same date and time, this is a good time to ask your AP coordinator or teacher about taking one during an approved late-testing period .
February (12 Weeks Out)
A productive next step is to learn the format for each AP exam you plan to take. Paying attention to the structure of class tests might give you a keen understanding of the types of questions you can expect.
There are a total of 38 AP Exams, and each has its own requirements. Most will be two to three hours long with a mix of multiple-choice and free-response questions, according to the College Board.
February is when students with disabilities must request any accommodations during the exams. If you will need testing accommodation, you’d want to approach your AP teachers or AP coordinator ahead of the deadline.
March (8 Weeks Out)
If you are a homeschool student, or attending a high school without AP Exams, March is usually when you must contact AP Services for a list of local schools and coordinators where you can arrange to take your test(s). Keep in mind, however, that sometimes schools need to order exams for students by November , so it’s important to do your research early.
AP Exams cost $94 each in 2019 , so this month would also be a great time to start budgeting for how many exams you plan to take and how you will pay for them. Even if your parents are paying for your exams, you’re responsible for making sure they understand the cost and when to submit payment to your school.
The College Board, which oversees the AP, offers a $32 fee reduction for students facing financial hardship, and individual states also provide some funds to help reduce the test cost even more.
You should start to really delve into your AP study regimen about halfway through the school year , so when you return from winter break, it you’d want to gather your notes and organize them in a way that makes them easy to study. Then, by March, it might be time to actually start reviewing those notes.
March may also be a good time to take a practice exam. After reviewing your practice examine, you can come up with a study plan to go over your notes and materials for a few hours every week.
April (Four Weeks Out)
By April, you will probably be completely registered for all of your AP Exams. If you haven’t gotten a link from your school guidance counselor, you may want to check in with a school administrator. This is when you really should start to study in earnest, if you haven’t done so already.
Now’s the time to start taking more practice exams, in addition to your regular study and review. You can look up old AP questions online or find a course-specific prep book. School libraries might even have review materials, if you don’t want to buy your own.
Once you’re four weeks out, it might be more efficient to study just the areas you feel less practiced and confident in, rather than trying to cram in all of the information from the past year. The practice exams and questions can help you sort out which topics just need a simple refresh, and which ones you might need to actually relearn.
May (It’s Time!)
You can kick May off by taking another practice exam and focusing on the results compared to when you first began reviewing all those weeks ago. After that, it’s all about day-of test prep, which might include making sure you have your test dates and times marked in your calendar and that you are using the correct, approved calculator for math and science exams.
On test day, you can start your day with a good breakfast—and keep snacks on hand if you are taking multiple tests in one day. Hopefully all of the studying from the last few months will be worth it when you sit down to take the AP Exam and you feel prepared.
AP Study Hacks and Habits
Working on good study habits in high school can help you to feel more confident when you take your AP Exams, but it can also benefit you in the long run when you need to study in college. That’s why using your AP Exam study time to help you figure out what methods work best for you is so crucial.
In college, you might need to devote a few hours throughout the day to studying, depending on your classes and the time of year. But even with shorter study periods, you may want to build in incentives to keep you motivated. A 10-minute walk outside or around your house at the end of every hour is a great way to keep your mind sharp.
Or, you could hold off watching your favorite TV show or playing your favorite video game until after you have finished studying for the day.
This delayed gratification could help keep you incentivized to study efficiently—without rushing through just to get it over with.
During school, it can also help to consolidate your notes at the end of every week. When you are reviewing your notes from your AP classes, you can try organizing the information as it relates to the sections on the exam. By grouping your notes into related “chunks,” you might find that it’s easier to remember (or refer back to) key points as you get further away from the lesson.
Plus, instead of having a year’s or semester’s worth of scattered information to review as you start taking practice AP Exams, you’ll have a clear, organized information with your note summaries.
Planning for Your Future
The College Board says that nearly all colleges and universities in the U.S. offer credit, advanced placement, or both based on your AP scores, typically with an AP score of 3 or higher.
Some students have reported reducing an entire year of school using AP credits, meaning that your AP Exams could end up saving you a lot of money in college. Of course, you will still need to find a way to pay for college, whether it is three, four, or more years.
When federal loans and aid aren’t enough to cover the cost of tuition, some students find private student loans are able to bridge the gap. While students should exhaust all federal loan options before considering private loans from any lender (including SoFi), if it seems like private student loans may be necessary, know that SoFi also offers private undergraduate loans.
SoFi private student loans offer flexible repayment options and terms, and don’t worry, there are no hidden fees.
One difference between a federal student loan and a SoFi private student loan is that with SoFi, you choose a repayment plan upfront that best matches your financial needs:
Deferred: Similar to the repayment plan offered by the federal government for those types of loans, this plan will mean you start paying the principal loan amount and interest six months after leaving school. This means you do not have to worry about making payments while still in college, but it is the highest overall cost option.
Interest only: Paying just the interest payments while in school. This can result in a moderate payment while in college, but can help reduce your overall cost and repayment total.
Partial: This SoFi repayment plan for private student loans means you’ll pay a $25 monthly payment while in school. This is the lowest payment option for making payments while in school, and may reduce some overall interest costs.
Immediate: You’ll have monthly payments that pay back your principal loan and interest right away, starting as soon as you take out the loan. This is the lowest overall cost option, but requires a higher payment while still in school.
No matter how hard you study for the AP Exams, it’s important to budget some time to study your federal and private loan options, including private undergraduate loans from SoFi.
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