Hey, IMSA! Did you sign up for an AP Exam? Did you realize that it’s going to be in a month? Now, that’s a little bit concerning, but it’s okay because I have compiled a number of study habits and tips that you should start enforcing daily, starting today, before the day of the exam!
Tip #1: Get an AP Prep Book
Don’t bother getting one of those thick AP college textbooks. Those books are too overpriced and not worth it as they also tend to skip some content. Instead, go straight to the AP Prep Books, which directly give you the proper information and also offer great practice tests. The best AP Prep Books to get are either the Princeton Review or Barron’s. There are others out there but none were rated as high as these two.
Also, don’t bother buying them from Amazon. Our own IRC, the Hub, CAC’s library, as well as the Facebook group, IMSA Thrift, offers a variety of AP prep books for a majority of the AP classes—for free. Just get one, unless the book you want is not available. In which case, run to Amazon Prime.
Tip #2: Make a Schedule
To start enforcing study habits starting now, you must create a schedule that you can look back at every day. This schedule will help you keep track of what chapters you must study. I would recommend reading and taking notes on the entire prep book the first three weeks of April and then just reviewing all your notes the last week or so leading up to the day of the exam. So, how should you go about making this schedule? Let’s use AP psychology as an example.
Here’s what an ideal one-month study schedule would look like for AP Psychology.
BOOK: Barron’s AP Psychology Book
|UNIT||WEIGHT / PAGES (not including practice tests)||1st Read||2nd Read||REVIEW|
|1. History and Approaches||2–4% / 5||4/1||4/12||1. Take practice test Unit 1, note down mistakes
2. Watch videos on how to ace FRQs
|2. Methods||8–10% / 12||4/1||4/12||1. Review practice test Unit 1
2. Take practice test Unit 2, note down mistakes
|3. Biological Bases of Behavior||8–10% / 13||4/2||4/13||1. Review practice test Units 1-2
2. Take practice test Unit 3, note mistakes
|4. Sensation and Perception||6–8% / 15||4/3||4/14||Skim Previous Chapters|
|5. States of Consciousness||2–4% / 8||4/3||4/14||1. Watch Mr. Sinn Review Video
2. Unit Vocab Review on Quizlet
|6. Learning||7–9% / 11||4/4||4/15||See a pattern? Follow it for the rest of April|
|7. Cognition||8–10% / 10||4/5||4/16|
|8. Motivation and Emotion||6–8% / 10||4/6||4/17|
|9. Developmental Psychology||7–9% / 14||4/7||4/18|
|10. Personality||5–7% / 10||4/8||4/19|
|11. Testing and Individual Differences||5–7% / 8||4/8||4/20|
|12. Abnormal Psychology||7–9% / 11||4/9||4/21|
|13. Treatment of Psychological Disorders||5–7% / 9||4/10||4/22|
|14. Social Psychology||8–10% / 11||4/11||4/23|
|4/11||TAKE A FULL PRACTICE TEST|
|WEEK BEFORE MAY||4/23–4/30||Skim every chapter and take a different practice test (or past practice tests) every day|
What exactly did I do?
- Write down each chapter of the AP Psych unit per column from the review book of your choice and note down how many pages it is and the percent weight of that unit.
- Every chapter should be read in a day. Make it 2 chapters per day if one of the units is about 2-4% of the test and less than 8 pages. If the total chapter crosses 25 pages total then don’t do 2 units per day. These numbers might change depending on the book you use or the subject you are studying for. Also, twenty pages might sound like a lot but just focus on processing and noting every important thing down!
- Leave a few days for a second read of all chapters. For AP Psych specifically, one or two chapters a day means finishing all the chapters in under 12 days. This is great because now you can use the remaining days to reread each chapter up until the last week of April! This will help retain all the information once again. And, this time, you don’t need to read it slowly. Just skim and note down stuff you may have missed the first read.
- For each day, create a list of videos that you want to watch or articles relating to the topic that you want to read. ESPECIALLY watch videos on how to ace Free Response Questions (FRQs) for your topic! FRQs are worth half of the test as well, and if you don’t know how to write them properly, it can really cost you some points. Also, find a playlist on YouTube that explains each unit well. For AP Psychology or AP Human Geography, watch Mr. Sinn religiously.
- Recursively take the practice test for your unit on the day you read it, and then also review all the questions from the previous unit tests leading up to the unit of choice. This means on 4/11 for AP Psychology, assuming I followed my schedule, I would be finishing up the Unit 14 test and then reviewing all my questions and mistakes from all the previous units. Reviewing your mistakes makes you smarter.
- Once you finish your first read, take a FULL practice test. FRQs and everything. Do the same thing after your second read as well! You can find free practice tests somewhere online. Quora or REDDIT may have archives of free practice tests or even (possibly illegal) previous practice tests…not that I’m encouraging anyone to use them (but they exist).
- Review your notes and mistakes for the last week of April. If there was anything you didn’t study, study it well.
- Some clubs may offer study sessions. Utilize those and review the content! For example, sometimes Psychology Club offers AP Psychology Study Sessions. Definitely go there.
This is not exactly a foolproof plan that guarantees a 5. It depends on each person and each unit. You should expect to receive a higher score for easier APs and lower scores for the hardest AP to exist on this planet.
Tip #3: Two Hours a Day is Sufficient!
Expect reading a chapter to take about an hour or two. For better studying, 3 hours would be ideal. I know some IMSA students may barely have time to study with extracurriculars, which is why I’ve gathered even more tips:
- Have free mods? Sacrifice them for AP. It’s only a month—you got this.
- If you have time on Wednesdays, definitely use them. Wake up early if your afternoons and nights are busy. Study at night if your mornings and afternoons are busy.
- If you have 30 minutes between clubs or ECs, use these times to study. You can actually refresh your brain and ability to focus by studying in small intervals.
Tip #4: Whatever Happens, Happens
Gee, easier said than done, but trust me: it’s not worth stressing over. APs are supposed to be college-level courses that are studied over a span of a school year. The worst that will happen is that you will have to take the course again in college. You tried your best, and that’s all that matters. Don’t forget to follow your study schedule and commit to it for all of April!