How To Efficiently Study for the AP Exam

April showers bring May flowers and also marks one month before AP exams! For all high schoolers out there, April vacation is the best time to start focusing on your upcoming AP exams. It can be overwhelming to try and revise every part of the fast-paced units that were studied during the school year. Personally, I am taking the AP Biology exam on May 11, and have curated some resources to help make the study process more organized and create a routine for studying during April break.


As a note, this is what I am using for the AP Biology exam, but would love to read your perspectives for study tools you are using for other AP exams.



#1: Flashcards!

One of the key aspects of preparing for the AP exams is knowing all the crucial vocabulary terms that come in each unit. This understanding will help you apply these terms quickly to the application questions that are seen in the multiple-choice section. Also, having a rich understanding of terms will help in the free-response question (FRQ) section. You receive points in the FRQ section by hitting the most key points. Knowing more vocabulary terms will increase the likelihood of receiving more points.


Personally, online flashcard sets like Quizlet do not help me as I feel mechanical and lose my focus for memorizing terms. Therefore, I write down my flashcards to keep with me and practice. However, if you like online websites, Quizlet is always great, or sites like https://www.varsitytutors.com, which have their own flashcard sets. Alternatively, you can buy Barrons' flashcard sets as shown to the right.



#2: Problems are your BFF

Studying efficiently is a very important part of preparing for whichever AP exam you are taking. This means not only re-reading and writing notes, but also doing lots of practice questions Some units were first taught in early October and November and may not be too fresh in your brain. Personally, I am using Khan Academy to refresh old units and do regular practice problems daily. Additionally, for FRQ practice, I am using the AP Classroom website, which has FRQ questions from each unit to practice. Overall, consistency is key. Try to keep a schedule of how many practice questions you want to do daily and stick to it to see your growth.



#3: Practice Tests

Personally, my high school is offering us a full-length practice exam before the test. Even if your school is not doing this, there are still ways to get a feel for the real exam before test day. Enlist the help of websites like www.albertio.com or www.highschooltestprep.com for full-length practice tests of varying difficulty. There are diagnostic exams that help you assess your strengths and weaknesses in the overall exam as well as which units you may want to revisit and study more. These practice tests are key to feeling better prepared walking in on exam day.



#4: Be FRQ Ready

The FRQs are the free-response questions on the AP exam. The FRQ is heavily weighted. You need to be able to properly tackle all parts of the six questions during the allotted 90-minute timeframe. Speed and accuracy are key in the FRQs. You only receive points if your argument/thinking matches the rubric. So, it is important to practice FRQs regularly and see if your thought-process matches the rubric. I am using the CollegeBoard’s website to view previous FRQs, which gives me a good idea of the types of questions being asked and the common themes that come up. Every FRQ is a variation of previously given ones, so becoming used to the style of the FRQ will make you better prepared when you receive them on test-day.



#5: Focus on your weaknesses

Unlike the SAT or ACT, where they are secretly testing your speed and mind's flexibility, the AP exam simply wants to know how much of the course materials you were able to understand and retain.


To be able to understand the most and be prepared, you must see where you are struggling. From there, you can fix it and keep applying this method of learning to the multiple units presented. Additionally, you want to keep track of your learning growth. I am using Google spreadsheets to track my progress and see if I am steadily building accuracy across all units of study.


I really hope this helps everyone taking exams this year, and I will be updating you all with how my exams go. Feel free to reach out in the messages tab on the blog or DM me on Instagram @eviespaceblog.