Five Tips to Approaching AP Tests

AP testing – the May tradition in which high school students across the country experience the urge to curl into the fetal position, hug their childhood stuffed animals, and softly cry themselves to sleep. Its one of the most daunting parts of high school, particularly for juniors, but a few simple tricks can keep the panic at bay:

1. Start Early

That procrastinator’s guilt? It’s going to eat you up inside sooner or later.  One of the best ways to minimize stress is to accomplish just a little bit of review every day. After all, nothing guarantees a mental breakdown like memorizing the world’s history in a single night.


Force yourself to start early and ease yourself in: make use of the commercial breaks during your favorite TV show. Look over a practice problem while waiting for your morning coffee. Or, my personal favorite, put sticky-note vocab words on your fridge and only let yourself grab a snack if you answer them. (Cruel? Yes. …but effective).

2. Break Content into Chunks

No matter what AP test you are taking, there is going to be an overwhelmingly large amount of information on it. By dividing up your study load, though, you can compartmentalize and prioritize different tests far more easily. Instead of looking at the entire AP Bio textbook and thinking to yourself, “That is supposed to fit into my brain?” take it on in sections. Chapters 1-6 down by Sunday; chapters 7-10 mastered by the end of the following week.

3. Find a Study Group

Bouncing material back and forth off of your peers can be extremely beneficial. It can serve to fill in the blanks that you have in your own comprehension as well as open you up to alternative ways of approaching concepts. Not to mention, having a study-buddy takes away the whole locking-yourself-in-your-room-like-an-unfriendly-hermit thing…


…so, there’s that.

4. Go to review sessions

If you are so lucky as to have a teacher who is willing to offer up their personal time to reiterate subjects to a bunch of punk teenagers: take advantage of it! It is not uncommon for them to offer their sparkling golden nuggets of AP advice during these after-school meet-ups, and you will be able to have your questions answered on the spot by someone who really knows what they’re doing.

5. Reward yourself

AP studying is certainly a time to hunker down, but that doesn’t mean you should be going three weeks without seeing the sun. Take breaks between long periods of work: walk your dog, go on a run, have lunch with some friends. As important as it is to focus, it’s also important to maintain sanity. Your personal wellbeing should always come first.


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  • Elise Gout

    Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

2 Responses to Five Tips to Approaching AP Tests

  1. Sujin Cho April 30, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

    Number 1 is like me with EVERY. SINGLE. TEST/PROJECT
    I still have this science fair project (a report and a power point) due tomorrow…
    I have all my stuff, but just not put together….
    Yea, and i’m here reading Magoosh articles…

    Is there any AP class that I could potentially skip but still take the test?
    I mean, I realize I can’t do this with science because of the labs.
    But is there any class that I could study by myself and still do well (that is, of course, if I study well)?

    • Rita Neumann
      Rita Kreig May 4, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

      Hi Sujin!

      You know, some students choose to take AP tests without taking the class (especially for English Language vs. English Literature – they’ll take the literature class and then take both tests), but I always recommend that students only take AP exams for AP courses they’re actually taking. Taking AP tests is stressful enough without having to teach yourself an entire course from scratch!

      Anyway, that’s my two cents as a tutor. What does everyone else think?

      – Rita

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