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4 Study Hacks for Your Toughest AP Exams

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Perhaps you will be taking one or more AP tests during the first two weeks of May. This makes April a great time to master several study hacks that can make your review sessions both more effective and more efficient.

Although the best way to prepare for an AP exam is to take an AP course and to continually ready throughout the year, these hacks will help you with those final weeks of preparation.

1. Peruse a practice test.

The average AP exam is two to three hours long. It typically begins with a multiple-choice section, and then continues on to a free-response portion. However, you should determine the exact format of the test or tests that you will be taking. (The AP Biology exam, for example, does not contain a listening section, while AP Spanish Language and Culture does.) One of the easiest ways to do this is to page through a practice test, noting directions and question types.

2. Create a prep plan.

Your AP instructor has likely discussed the content of the exam with your class, so once you familiarize yourself with its format, you can – and should – create a prep plan. Determining precisely how many weeks or days you should devote to each topic can help you divide your time efficiently. Schedule regular study sessions, and record the goals that you will try to accomplish during each session. A physical record of your intentions may help you be more accountable for your progress.

3. Color code your review materials.

Color coding, whether with highlighters or sticky notes, can be a highly effective way to organize your review materials. Color is a fantastic way to draw attention to key vocabulary words in AP English Literature and Composition notes, or to crucial formulas in AP Calculus AB/BC notes. Furthermore, color-coded mind maps are ideal for envisioning how different concepts are related. Note that it is important to limit your color – if everything is highlighted, it’s not so useful.

4. Avoid cramming.

Cramming might seem like the ultimate hack, but studying the whole evening before your test (or, in extreme cases, the whole week before) is not an effective method of review. Ensure you eat properly, sleep adequately and take frequent brain breaks during the months of April and May. While it is a natural instinct to maximize the amount of study time available to you, you should also maximize the quality of your study time. Cramming for AP exams ultimately backfires by decreasing your focus come test day.

An AP test is your opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned throughout the year, and to earn college credit while still in high school. AP exams do carry a fee, but the cost is often much lower than the tuition for a college course, and a score of 3 or better may help you begin college with some of your general education requirements fulfilled. By applying yourself to your coursework throughout the year, learning what to expect from the test hacking your prep, you can perform at your absolute best.

[Looking for more tips from the TeenLife Experts? Here's some great study habits for high school students!]

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