AP Exams: The Struggle

AP_Logoby Mairead Poulin ’13

On Saturday afternoon, at the very beginning of our very last break of the school year, I collapsed back into bed after returning from classes, exhausted from the first half of a very busy trimester, the panic of having to make a final college decision within a matter of days and the opening two nights of The Laramie Project. After running at a million miles an hour for the past few weeks, I was relieved to be gifted a few days off to sit back, relax . . . and study for my AP exams.

I have to admit, when I signed up for my three AP classes at the end of last year, I didn’t really take into consideration the fact that, eventually, I would be faced with these do-or-die exams at the end of the year. Like many juniors, I’d already taken AP English and AP US History and knew the perils of that long weekend of studying, worrying, and ultimately not enjoying the last break. But even coming off of taking two exams, when I signed up for three more AP classes last spring, the exams seemed far off enough in the future to not really be a problem.

And now, “far off enough in the future” is a week. And that’s really a problem. Pouring over six hundred psychology vocabulary words, reviewing all the literature we’ve covered this year in English, and turning to page one of my calculus notes this weekend has been pretty depressing. Once upon a time, I knew what a caesura is and how each part of the brain functions. I got an A on the quiz. But do I remember now, months later? Not really yet.

So here’s my advice, to everyone from the brave sophomores taking AP Euro next Wednesday to the seasoned test-taking seniors who have four or five exams coming up:

-Realize that you’re not going to know everything. That’s impossible. And also realize that you don’t have to know everything in order to do well. So focus on what you forgot, and don’t try to memorize all the gritty details and dates of everything.

-Make sure you understand how to write a test essay. Different tests want different things out of your DBQs and Free Responses, so spend some time on the College Board website to figure out what your goal is.

-Take study breaks. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to prepare yourself is walk away from the material, clear your head, and get a snack. Don’t study while frustrated, angry, or sad. Your brain won’t be in the right place to absorb information.

Finally, and most importantly: don’t stress out. You don’t have to report these scores to colleges, unless you’re looking to get credit for a test once you’ve already been accepted. And the score you receive in July will not affect the grade you get in the class either. This is a test that can only help, not hurt, you.