AP Exams: Don’t Stress!

Dana Chin, Contributor

It’s that time of the year again. The frantic flipping of book pages, the smell of pen ink, and the feeling of inevitable doom are commonly associated with AP exam preparation. For those who will not be taking exams this year, consider yourself extremely lucky. Really. I envy you greatly.

The first AP class I took was Human Geography (AP HuG) as a freshman. I remember preparing around two months in advance for the test that May, forming study groups and staying up until well after midnight on FaceTime with friends in order to solidify our understanding 0f each chapter of our textbook. I even bought a Princeton Review preparation book so that I could study and practice the multiple choice and sample essays on my own. Despite this sounding like I had done so much to prepare for the exam, I feel like I really didn’t. The study groups ended up turning into jumbles of irrelevant conversation, and I only practiced one essay out of the three or four in the booklet.

When I had received my score on the AP test that July, I was relieved to see that I had earned a three. Looking back on that from the experience I have now, I really did have the capability to earn a five on that test, but because of my failure to sit down and prioritize my work I was stuck with a score that I knew I shouldn’t have earned.

And this seemed to be the case for many other students on our campus. Many people in my circle of friends make efforts to prepare for exams, but plans end up falling through until the night before. It’s not a matter of carelessness as some teachers and parents would like to think – it’s the fear of failure that continually drives students away from taking initiative. If we’re not good at something the first time we try it and make a mistake, we don’t feel like trying anymore. If you had studied so hard for a test and bomb it while your friend who never studies aces it, you most likely will feel discouraged.

In order to decrease the amount of stress accumulated during AP season, here is a list of things I do to prepare myself for the exam:

  • Hydrate. The brain is 75% water, so if you’re dehydrated, you’re depriving your brain of its fundamental nutrient to function. If you deprive your brain of its nutrients, you’re cutting off your mental supply. Pick up that water bottle and drink it.
  • Talk. Getting help from your parents, teachers, peers and mentors is an excellent way of preparing. That way, you won’t be suffering in silence and feel overwhelmed as exams draw closer. It’s not as hard as you think it is.
  • Sleep. I know that this is an unheard of concept for many students on campus, but there is an abundance of studies that verify sleep is crucial the day before an important event, such as an exam. And if you sleep early enough, you wake up and…
  • Eat breakfast. I guess this step could be achieved at school since they sell breakfast in the morning, but if you’re looking to save money, grab a piece of toast before you leave for class in the morning.
  • Relax. Find an outlet. Meditation, reading, drawing, exercising, you know the deal. You’re happier when you’re doing something you enjoy.

As for studying, here are my tips:

  • Rewrite your notes. I like to do this so I can have more legible copies of what I jot down during class.
  • Use a coordination system. I tend to use color coding to differentiate between important dates, concepts and formulas.
  • USE YOUR TEXTBOOK. I know that it’s hulking and a nuisance to carry around, but there’s all sorts of information in there that isn’t covered in class. Trust me.
  • Form a study group. Although I was kind of discouraging in the beginning of this article, they truly help if you and your group are focused enough. Communication of ideas can help you to remember information you would have looked over or failed to remember if you had studied on your own.
  • Prioritize. This goes for activities on every scale. Organize which classes you should study for based on priority. From there, prioritize each bit of information. You should study what you’re most familiar with and work down to the concepts that you have trouble understanding. If you spend too much time on a difficult question during an exam, you’ll get anxious and soon rush through the exam for the rest of the time slot and not perform as well as you hoped to.

We have a little less than a month before AP exams start, so take advantage of the 20-something days we have and make the most of them. Good luck to everyone taking exams, and happy studying! (I truly mean that. We’ll be needing all the luck we can get.)