A Test Prep Timeline for AP Exams

In 2014, the College Board Advanced Placement exams will take place during the first two weeks of May. It is a wise idea to determine your test date well ahead of time so you can begin preparing. However, as the majority of students enroll in an AP class prior to an AP exam, you may have begun your review in September. As the actual test date approaches, you will need to extend your preparations far beyond your required coursework if you hope to earn a high score. Here are some great tips for AP exam prep.

Week One

Ideally, your preparation for your AP test should begin one and a half months before the actual exam. For the first week of preparation, focus on gathering together all of your notes and relevant materials. Organize these materials in a way that makes them easy to study. For example, for a history test, sequence your notes from the earliest historical date to the most modern. For biology, consider ordering them from molecules and cells, to organ systems, to organisms, to ecosystems. Use this first week of preparation as your “preparing to prepare” week. Purchase any review books you may need, fill in any information you may have omitted, and ensure your notes are highlighted and organized. 

Week Two

Your second week of preparation should establish what you do and do not know. Complete a diagnostic AP exam. As you progress through the exam, make note of any question that touches on an unfamiliar topic or to which you do not know the answer. Look at your final score, but rather than paying attention to the fact that you earned a 3 or a 4, determine which questions you answered incorrectly, which you made note of during the exam, and which you understood. Compile a list of your “trouble” topics and then flag their corresponding areas in your notes. Create a list of the areas in which you are most comfortable, and flag those as well. Deciding upon what you must study intricately and what you must only lightly review will save you time in later weeks. 

Weeks Three and Four

In your third and fourth weeks of preparation, re-examine your notes and study materials, paying particular attention to the problem areas you previously flagged. At the conclusion of each topic, answer several AP exam practice problems to acclimate to viewing the material in a test format. Review any areas that are still difficult with a study group, teacher, or tutor. You should also begin learning how to respond to open-ended questions during weeks three and four. Locate essay or open-ended problems pertinent to the topics you have studied. After attempting the questions, grade them according to the AP rubric. Did you draw from the sources in your U.S. History Document-Based Question? Did you write the correct equations and additional information for your Calculus AB question before you solved the problem? This period of preparation should be your most intense. Here are 4 myths about AP exam prep that you should be aware of.

Weeks Five and Six

In the fifth week of your review, sit for a complete AP exam, again flagging any challenging problems. Observe where you must still study. Note, too, where you have improved.

Use the sixth week of preparation to solidify any lingering concerns. Answer questions about these topics, and tackle one last set of open-ended prompts before the test. Avoid a cram session the night before the exam, and arrive rested. Six weeks of hard work after a yearlong class prepared you well to succeed on this test.