The Survival Guide — 3 Tips for AP Test Takers (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Robert Boyd
Rob is the guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team: He knows a little bit about a lot of things.

You can ace the AP!

You can ace the AP!

Heading north toward the mountains, I packed my bags and piled into a bus with many of my closest friends. We would be spending the weekend at a campsite complete with fire pits, eight-inch-high ping- pong tables and a large mess hall, but this wasn’t a typical camping trip. This was calculus camp: a two-and-a-half day cram session filled with derivatives, functions and integrals and our final review before taking the AP test.

Math never came easy to me, but I passed the calculus AP test, largely because of that marathon study weekend. Maybe it was the mountain air, but more likely the collaborative spirit and valuable practice led to success. You don’t have to get out of town to pass AP tests. Keep these three resources in mind to achieve high scores.

Prep Courses & Apps

A growing number of students are taking AP tests, and test prep providers have responded with an array of courses. In 2011, 903,630 graduates had taken at least one AP exam, compared to 431,573 graduates ten years earlier, according to Collegeboard.org. Students have few excuses to be unprepared. A variety of online and in-person prep courses accommodate students of all levels.

Benchprep.com, for example, offers subject-specific virtual courses that offer hundreds of test questions, dozens of flashcards and multiple mini-tests. Best of all, these courses are available on both computer and mobile platforms, so test prep can take place anytime, anywhere. Some additional test prep apps are available here.

No matter how convenient, however, digital courses can’t compete with live, in-person training. Personal tutoring with a teacher or experienced tutor is invaluable when it comes to tackling difficult concepts.

Study Groups

Long study sessions can get monotonous and frustrating, especially when you’re trying to unpack a new concept. One of the easiest ways to avoid academic burnout and learn efficiently is to study in groups. By learning AP material with other test takers, you’ll be able use each other’s strengths. For some great tips on how to study efficiently in groups, check out Casact.org and infoplease.com.

In a nutshell, here are some rules to follow when working in groups:

  • Don’t let the group get too large. Aim for no more than five or six people.
  • Have an agenda for each meeting and stick to it!
  • Designate someone to be the leader for each meeting.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s why you’re there.

Practice Tests

Knowing the concepts is one thing, but conditioning yourself for the pressures of an actual exam is an entirely separate battle. The best way to prepare for test conditions is by putting yourself under the gun with a practice test. Find some free test prep material at Collegeboard.com, or buy previous versions of AP tests for $25. Stay within the time guidelines, use the right pencil and of course, no peeking at your notes.

Taking timed tests will push your ability to think under pressure. With all this preparation, you’ll have college credit in the bag. Still feeling unprepared? Try a camping trip instead. It worked for me.


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