What You Need to Know About AP Exams

AP (Accelerated Placement) exams can be helpful as they allow you to gain college credit and learn valuable skills. But, it can be difficult to choose the exam you want to take, know when to start studying, and what recourse best fits you. Read through this article and find some answers to your pressing questions!  

How to Choose?

Deciding which AP exam would be best for you to take can be a hard choice as you weigh your past knowledge and what you learn in a year. The main thing to consider when choosing what AP exam to take is to ensure you’re interested in it, especially if you’re self-studying, as you will be the one responsible for making sure you learn all the material necessary.

On the College Board website, there is a selection of AP courses. It has them separated by majors and careers and, based on what you pick, it will give you suggestions to some AP courses that will help you down that path. The course descriptions tell you the skills you will learn, as well as include a link to the course curriculum. 

While IMSA does not offer AP courses, many classes at IMSA have similar structures to AP courses. These include classes such as Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Biological Systems, Statistics, and the AB/BC Calculus track. So, as you’re signing up for your AP exams, make sure you check the units of the test and see how they could align with your course. This will allow you to have instruction from your teacher and only have to self-study to fill in the gaps. All units for each AP exam can be found on the College Board website, and you will be able to compare this to how your units are set up in your class syllabus. 

When to start studying?

When to start self-studying really depends on your prior experience with the course work. I recommend taking a practice test and then, based on that, start setting goals. There are many planners and goal setting websites to keep track of your progress. Don’t keep it to chance; write down your plan so you’re more likely to stick to it. An important thing to remember is how AP Exams coincide with the end of the year, so try not to leave all your studying to the end as your other course work will be building up during this time to prepare for finals and the end of the year. 

Many others on campus will also be studying for the same exam you are, so another great way to keep yourself in check is forming a study group. This will allow you to make sure you’re staying on track with your goal, but being able to study with friends and meet new people. Another resource on campus is the AP Psych study sessions hosted by Psych Club if you’re hoping to take the AP Psychology Exam. There are many ways that studying for AP exams can be a group effort so you don’t feel lonely by doing it, help everyone stay focused, and can cheer on each others’ progress.  

Where can I find resources?

There are also many resources for self-studying for your AP Exam. There are study booklets that you can buy in most bookstores or, if you plan not to write in their quizzes and practice tests, you can find them in IMSA’s library and many local libraries. These books come from many different brands, so make sure you look up reviews for your specific book. I found the quizzes after each chapter of reading most helpful as these would correlate to what I used on a different website to check my understanding. For the practice tests, there are many online tests, too, that are graded so you don’t have to grade them yourself if that’s something that you don’t find appealing.

Khan Academy is a free website that, when you begin your studying, offers a placement test. It separates each unit into many videos and a quiz at the end to see if you understand. Khan Academy will offer brief explanations on all the topics, but I noticed it tended to not go as in-depth as the test would always require. So, if you choose to use this recourse, you may want to consider adding another level of studying. Khan Academy also offers many practice tests so you can feel confident for the day of. Another resource is Fiveable, a free website where you can view videos and articles and have quizzes for each unit. It goes widely in depth and works well if you prefer a combination of instructions. 

The AP process can be stressful, but keep in mind that you have two semesters to prepare and that there is a recourse out there for you. It’s important not to overwhelm yourself on top of your school work already. Make sure to take care of yourself. You’ve got this!

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