Tips to Guide You Through the AP (Mock) Exams

Written by: Erich 

Edited by: Julia

Visual by: Zoe

As May approaches, students are counting down the days before they are to sit the rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) Exams: two to three-hour examinations typically divided into a multiple-choice and a written, essay-type section. Within the six AP classes offered at ISM (including AP Human Geography, AP US History, AP Literature & Composition, and AP Language and Culture courses for Chinese, French, and Spanish), there’s certainly bound to be many students aiming to get in as much review before D-Day, aiming for scores of 4s or 5s in order to receive eligibility for college credit. This, however, is a rather challenging objective to accomplish, as the course in itself is designed on the basis of a college-level curriculum.

In preparation, students will have to undergo the mock AP exams set between the end of March and the beginning of April. These mock exams will comprise a large chunk of individual semestral grades and are essentially progress checks, acting as a point of reference to determine a student’s level of preparedness a month ahead of the exam.

In order to aid in student preparation, some of the Bearcat community’s AP instructors have gathered up important tips and tricks that could be of use to fellow students in need.

Mr. Sutton, who teaches both AP US History and AP Human Geography courses, advises his students to “break studying into small chunks of time.” Otherwise, students might be “overwhelmed with the amount of material” that they need to cover, so it’s best that students “study one unit and topic at a time.” He additionally recommends his AP Human Geography students to consider “the larger models of the course (such as the Demographic Transition Model and Rostow’s Stage of Economic Growth),” relating these to their given units. With this connection, it’d then be possible to rewrite notes that combine several units together, providing for a more cohesive understanding of the course as a whole. 

As for AP US History students, he places an emphasis on “having an understanding of the material from both chronological and thematic perspectives.” Students could rewrite notes thematically for course material that’s been taught chronologically or organize information chronologically if it has been presented thematically, for gaining both perspectives ​​”is crucial to success.”

Mr. Khan, who prepares English Honors 2 students for the AP Literature and Composition exam, notes that although “knowing the content and skills are the most important … students should also familiarize themselves with the [structure of the] whole exam.” They should refer to resources such as “AP Classroom, test prep books (available from the HS Library), and released, practice exams in [their] subject area” to ensure familiarity “with what the test looks like.” Additionally, he advises that students who intend to rewrite their notes should “try to regurgitate what [they] know from scratch” rather than merely copying notes. For instance, they could “use a blank piece of paper and write everything [they] know unit by unit, (or book by book for AP Lit, of course),” only referring back to their notes to “fill in the gaps.” Reiterating this process would certainly make for a more efficient manner of recalling one’s notes, which is key to acing the exam. 

Test-taking wise, Mr. Khan maintains that a useful test-taking technique for multiple choice questions would be to “use a process of elimination to avoid ‘almost correct’ distractors.” As opposed to the typical method of seeking for plausible answers, this technique might just prevent students from making any careless mistakes.

For language takers, Sr. Ramos, who teaches the AP Spanish Language and Culture course, suggests that students continuously engage with the target language. They should “make a habit of surrounding [themselves] with the language.” This could be through means of leisurely reading in that particular language or listening to it through forms such as TV shows and podcasts. 

He extends that it’s also significant for one to consolidate their vocabulary by “review[ing] words periodically,” familiarizing oneself with idiomatic expressions, and learning “new words by writing them out in sentences.” On top of vocabulary, students should also practice speaking in the target language, in order to build up their confidence for the oral section of the examination.

If you were stuck in a slump, then the tips listed above are indeed good places to start with. However, if you have any remaining inquiries regarding preparations, then personally consulting an AP teacher might just be the best course of action. After all, the predominant concern is producing the best output possible for both the mock and actual exam. 

Best of luck to everyone taking the upcoming AP (mock) exams!