3 Common Mistakes to Avoid on AP Exams

High school students everywhere recognize that one of the most stressful periods of the entire school year is that of the AP Exams. There are numerous subjects that are tested upon – social sciences, mathematics, literature, and languages to name only a few. Although each exam focuses only on its own unique subject, there are a few overarching lessons to be studied as well that students can apply across the board. Preparing for the exam involves more than just learning the subjects at hand; it is vitally important to understand how to prepare for and take the exams. These are 4 myths about AP prep.

Learn to avoid these 3 common mistakes so as to say you have really studied – and trained for – every trick question possible in preparation for the daunting and numerous AP exams.  

1. Poor time management during the test

The first question of any AP exam cannot be found on the first page; it is, instead, decided before the test even begins and asks – how do you plan to use your time? Too often, students approach each question in order, debating over each unsure answer before moving on to answer the next question. Unfortunately, this method often leads to a time crunch, forcing the need for a race to the finish if all the questions are to be answered before the teachers call “time.” To avoid missing any right answers or questions you feel confident about, take the unexpected route and skip over – or even take an educated guess on – all of the debatable and difficult questions during an initial run-through of the exam. This should leave you with plenty of time to go back and debate any questions to which you are not sure of the answer; this will truly put your knowledge – and memory – to the test. 

2. Missing the meaning of questions

Of course, there are other ways to adjust for the time crunch that accompanies each exam. Often, students will push to answer each question as quickly as possible, only skimming both the questions and answer choices provided. But it is during that race to the finish line where one of the most fatal mistakes often occurs – when questions are simply skimmed, or only read halfway, important details can (and often are) missed. Another similar and equally common mistake occurs when students fail to understand exactly what the question is asking.  Don’t be so caught up in finishing the exam on time that you miss the meaning or intent behind a question completely. Some questions – especially the essays or long answers – require a bit of translation before the answering can begin. Any errors in comprehension can, and often do, lead to the wrong answer. 

3. Skipping the proper preparation

The final and most frequently ignored mistake, however, requires more work than simply studying and paying attention to all the necessary exam material. All too much, students forget to properly prepare for their AP exams, beginning with those initial first steps – when to start studying and when to stop. Here is a great test prep timeline for AP exams. If you work better with a study partner, you may wish to reach out to an AP tutor. Make sure to begin studying significantly in advance as studies have shown that the brain’s ability to retain information increases exponentially by the third day of review. The recommended start date, however, is at least a few weeks before the first exam date. These are some great AP practice tests to help you prepare. On that same note, don’t waste time cramming for the AP exam the night prior to it. Instead, go to sleep with a full eight hours to spare and have your bag – filled with pencils, pens, snacks, jacket, ID, and water – all ready to go for the next morning. Before heading to bed, look up the location of the testing room and set your alarm as needed. That way, all that is necessary in the morning will be waking up on time and eating a full and balanced breakfast (i.e. protein and carbs) before beginning the first test! Good luck!