Worried about your upcoming AP tests or final exams? In a normal year these exams can be anxiety producing, but this year that may be particularly true. AP exams will now be offered in an online, open-note/open book format. And as schools continue to cancel in person classes for the rest of the year, you may find yourself taking more online or modified final exams.
With all the information available to you, an online, open book exam should be easy right? Surprisingly, that may not be the case. Open book/open note exams usual push students to synthesize responses that demonstrate comprehension rather than just regurgitating facts. You should expect questions which may ask you to apply concepts in new ways. The CollegeBoard has put together a list of tips for preparing for online exams. Ultimately, knowing the material and having organized notes/resources will be your best strategy. This means you should continue to devote study time to your AP exams just as you would if you were taking them in person.
Thinking about scrapping the AP exams all together? You are not required by the CollegeBoard to take the AP exam (although your high school may have different policies around this). The main incentive for taking the exam is the possibility of college credit. While many colleges are adopting test optional policies for admission, most have said that they will still award AP credit the same way they have in the past. CollegeBoard has said that the AP exams will test content covered through early March. You’ve already done the work for the exam; you just need to refine your skills.
Find more tips and resources for preparing for AP exams on the CollegeBoard website. You can apply these study tips to high school finals as well as future college exams.
Going from high school to college is a big step! Here are 5 tips from a current college student to help make your freshman year a success:
- Learn to manage your time.
College classes are arranged differently than high school. You will have gaps of time between classes. Plan each day’s schedule carefully and use the gaps between classes for something productive – study in the library, work at a campus job, join a club or activity.
- Prepare before class.
At the beginning of the semester, you will receive a class syllabus for each course outlining the requirements – readings, assignments, exams dates, etc. Mark all of these dates on your calendar. Use the class syllabus to look ahead at the upcoming material for the week. If you go to class prepared, you will get more out of the class, and save time when studying.
- Reflect on what you learned.
Learn how to take notes (such as Cornell notes). Soon after attending class and taking notes, recopy or rewrite a summary of your notes to better organize your thoughts. This study skill will reinforce what you just learned. Do you still have questions about topics that were covered? Write these down for the next class, or ask your professor during his or her office hours.
- Find your study space.
Do you study best in a quiet environment like the library? Or do you prefer some background noise or activity like a campus coffee shop? Find a place you can study effectively. DO NOT study in sitting or lying in your bed. You want to separate sleep and study!
- Be honest with yourself.
Don’t make promises to yourself that you cannot keep. Learn how to say “no” to going out with friends when you have an upcoming exam. Don’t promise yourself “I’ll study when I get back” if you know you will not have the energy to do that.
Hear Mohammad share his tips for excelling in college in a video interview.
Use your calendar to record any tasks you need to complete as you finish high school.
Worried about your upcoming finals or AP tests? Reduce stress and ace your tests by using these study tips from a graduate student.
- Find a study space that suits you.
For students who need a bit of chaos while they work, coffee houses usually have the perfect amount of chatter and noise while also having private study nooks. For students who want freedom from distraction, a room with the door closed and a white noise playing (like simplynoise.com) is ideal. Study rooms in your school or public library also make great quiet spaces. Be sure your surroundings are comfortable to you before settling in for studying.
- Enjoy your favorite snacks or drinks while you study.
Cheese and crackers, granola bars, vegetables with dip, or peanut M&M’s are a great treat to keep you awake and focused through long study sessions. Coffee, tea, or soda may sound like a good idea but too much caffeine can impact sleep or make you dehydrated so don’t overdo it.
- Never study where you sleep.
Sitting upright in a chair will keep you in study mode much longer than lounging on pillows in your bed. Being in your bedroom may be fine, but save your bed for sleeping.
- Don’t try to learn anything new the night before.
Especially if you are part of a study group or study with friends, don’t force yourself to learn their approach right before the test. If one of your peers use a different method to get their answers and it helps you – good. However, you’re not confident with a new approach too close to test day you could ruin your chances. Stick to what you know.
- Don’t put all of your time into one area.
It’s tempting to spend 3 hours on science and 1 hour on everything else if you feel science needs your attention most, but this is a gamble. You risk not preparing well enough for an entire cluster of subjects because you were in a panic over one. Attack the chapters and the problems where you struggle most so that you use your time well. Spending some extra time here or there is not an issue but give every subject the attention it is due.
- Avoid thinking “I should have” and “I would have.”
It is useless to breakdown about how you should have asked that question or met with that study group. Your notes and the knowledge will have to do, and if you study well, they’ll be enough.
- Beware the allure of “study buddies.”
Friends can help when you are feeling stuck but committing to a study partner is not always best. Everyone studies differently. Your friend may enjoy going over Brown v. the Board of Education with his Pandora station all the way up and a case of sugar-free Red Bull. But if you’re the type of student who needs calm and quiet, you will be completely lost. Be certain that your study mate works the same way you do before agreeing to share your focus time.
- Take breaks while you study to stay sharp.
Study in blocks of 60 minutes with 10-minute breaks in between. If 60 min feels like a challenge, start with study blocks of 30 minutes with 5-minute breaks. Set alarms on your phone to let you know when to start and stop and stick to them. During the study block you should only be studying – don’t pet the dog, don’t check your email, don’t text, just hit the books. Find apps to help you stay focused and on task.
- Do something fun before you go to sleep.
Don’t study up until you go to sleep, it can make sleep a challenge. You may lie there questioning whether or not you will remember things tomorrow, or if you learned everything correctly. Instead, give yourself at least 30 minutes before bed to do something completely unrelated, fun, and relaxing. Snapchat, TV, a video game – whatever helps your brain decompress.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
This tip will give you a serious advantage. The student next to you may have studied their notes 6 times over, but with only 2 hours of sleep they aren’t likely to remember as much. Get some real sleep and your nerves will thank you.
Use assignments and appointments in GuidedPath to help you with pacing as you prepare for finals. Set appointments for study groups. Use assignments to record project or class deadlines and pace your studying of subjects.