How to Prepare for AP Exams According to BHS AP Teachers

by Leila Rocha

With AP exams starting up in May, some students could use some reminders on how to prepare for the multi-hour tests. It is not a secret that it can be difficult, draining, and stressful. Therefore, I have gathered information from some of our very own AP teachers to best help you feel better and pass those exams!

Our AP Psychology teacher Mr. Starkweather suggests using the spacing effect. For instance, he recommends students study “20-30 minutes a day for two weeks” because it will “yield WAY more results than cramming 4 hours at the end.” In addition he explained how you are “relearning” and should just study what you need. In other words, do not overload yourself by studying every single concept – just study the ones you need to study. Additionally, he recommends students attend review sessions (like the ones he has for AP Psych students) if your teacher provide them. Of course, during any study session, Starkweather recommends ¨put away the phone for your sessions¨ and ¨you´ll never get in a groove if some knucklehead is posting the latest idiotic trend on TikTok like eating Tidepods¨. 

For a different perspective, I gathered responses from one of our school’s AP Language and Composition teachers – Ms. Derobertis-Theye. She recommends to ¨familiarize yourself with the format of the test and know what to expect on the day of the exam.¨ A reliable place to find this information is on the college board website page for your subject. She also explained that some of her past students looked over their past tests to help them with studying. 

For students who started studying a little later (let’s be honest it is probably more of us than we would like to admit), Starkweather still recommends the spacing effect and also using the internet (but the right way). For example, he stated: ¨there are lots of free strategies/note sets/quizlets/Crash Course/Khan Academy videos.¨ 

Meanwhile, Ms. D recommends to also put your energy into what you are not most knowledgeable on along with ¨a general overview of all the necessary skills and knowledge of the subject.¨  

Aside from studying, which is the most obvious way to prepare for AP exams, there has to be some other way too, right? I mean what about dealing with test anxiety or stress? Starkweather shared his common line: ¨You’re just a good night’s sleep and bagel away from moving that score from a ¨2¨ to a ¨3¨¨ and so on.

It’s a relief he shared this considering there are lots of students who pull all-nighters to maximize their study habits. According to Dr. Aarthi Ram (a sleep specializing neurologist) from the Houston Methodist: ¨Sleep deprivation can increase stress and anxiety, which themselves lead to issues like falling and staying asleep, making recovering from and all-nighter even more difficult.¨ Therefore, depriving yourself of sleep to study can make your situation worse.

Aside from the significance of a good sleep, Starkweather used psychology terms to inform that ¨¨state-dependent¨ memory and ¨mood-dependent¨ memory…are just like they sound…-you will best recall information if you are in the mood and ¨state¨ you learned it.¨ 

Similar to Starkweather, Ms. D recommends getting ¨enough sleep the night before and eating breakfast¨ and ¨Remind yourself that though it’s important to do your best, it’s only one test, and it will not make or break your future academic success.¨

To dig into the significance of eating breakfast, according to Healthy Children from the American Academy of Pediatrics: ¨Kids who eat breakfast the morning before a standardized test have significantly higher scores in math, spelling and reading than those who don ‘t.¨ At least one of the areas will be needed to help you on your exam(s). The source also explains that those who eat breakfast ¨have better brain function, memory and attention.¨ In other words, eating breakfast before a test is important to maximize your performance. 

For her final response, Ms. D left words of encouragement: ¨You got this! And remember what AP stands for (answer the prompt!)¨. 

For some last words of advice to incoming AP students, Starkweather emphasized using the spacing effect (for example, highlighting important things your teacher lectured that day after school and then doing a 20 minute review session of your highlights every week/other week) throughout the entire year so you will be more prepared for the end-of-year AP exam. He wrote that for ¨sophomores/juniors who intend to take more AP courses next year: this may be the best advice I can give.¨

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