07 May 2020

Last Minute AP Exam Study Tips

We know that the changes made to this year’s AP Exams may feel jarring to students who have been preparing (both academically and mentally) for their exams all year long. The biggest change, of course, is that all AP Exams will be taken online and will only be 45 minutes in length, with no multiple choice sections. We know that you have the potential to succeed on this year’s AP Exams, however unsettling these changes may be. We’ve pulled together a few last minute preparation and study tips that will help you go into your exams feeling ready to perform your very best.

Know the format of your exam(s)! 
The best way to avoid feeling intimidated or stressed about the new exam format is to understand it. Familiarize yourself with the format of the AP Exam(s) that you will be taking. The College Board has broken down the format of each exam. Check out their “Course Specific Exam Information,” where you will also find info on which specific topics will be covered on your exam. The College Board will not expect students to have learned all of the material on their original syllabi. Exams will only cover content that students would have learned prior to early March. Knowing what to expect will eliminate any mystery associated with the new exams and allow you to focus on what is most important on test day: staying calm and recalling course content. 

Shift focus to essay and short answer questions.
Because the College Board has narrowed down the kind of questions that you will encounter on your exams, it’s time to shift focus to the open-ended questions. Use the essay and short answer questions from previous exams as your guide. You will get a sense of how the College Board likes to ask these questions and, with practice, a feel for how you can best demonstrate your mastery of the AP content. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself with notes. 
Yes, this year’s AP exams will be open note. No, that does not mean that having all of your notes from the entire semester in front of you during the exam will be the best course of action. Have you ever taken an exam where you’re allowed to use one notecard full of notes? Oftentimes, the process of creating the notecard is the best study exercise. 

In other words, it’s important to make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information at your fingertips during the exam itself. During your final days of studying, it may be useful to go through your class notes and create an abbreviated study guide in a format that makes sense to you — perhaps limit your guide to one sheet of paper, front and back. Familiarize yourself with your study guide. Make sure you know where you’ve located certain material on your study guide. Color-coordinating your notes and/or including visuals might be an effective way to commit content to memory, ultimately increasing your testing speed. When test day comes, regardless of how much you use your study guide, the process of tying together all of that course content into a manageable test-taking tool will pay off. 

Need to brush up on a particular topic? There’s no better source than the College Board itself.
AP students and the College Board are navigating this new online terrain together. The College Board has an excellent YouTube Channel where they are streaming online lessons for each AP course, which can be re-watched at any time for review. In the description for each video, you will find links to handouts and resources related to that content. Use these resources! Practicing with content put out by the College Board is the best way to feel prepared on test day. So, if you know you have areas of weakness in your AP course material, check out a lesson from the College Board and see what they have to share. 


Despite the unforeseen changes, with these tips we hope you will feel confident going into the upcoming at-home AP Exams. And of course, if you could need an expert to walk you through a specific content area, you can contact info@sentiaeducation.com. Our team of AP specialists are ready to help with any last-minute questions!

2 Responses to Last Minute AP Exam Study Tips

  1. Ivy Baker says:

    I liked that you pointed out that it would be smart to consider not overwhelming yourself. It does seem like working with a professional could help you feel better about your test. I know that I am a little more relaxed studying in a group or with someone who knows more than me.

    • Rebekah Sternbach says:

      Hi Ivy,
      Thanks for your comment! So many students express that same sentiment to us each week. Having a partner in your preparation does more than just provide tools to succeed; it provides much-needed reassurance that you can reach your goal score with a positive attitude and a willingness to do the work.

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