How to prepare for AP testing

Staff writers Becca Raffel and Jared Schwartz demonstrate perfect AP testing preparation.
Staff writers Becca Raffel and Jared Schwartz demonstrate perfect AP testing preparation. Photo by Callie Walker.

With Advanced Placement tests are right around the corner, many Palo Alto High School juniors are likely wondering how they should prepare for their first round of AP testing. Having taken AP tests last year, the Voice’s own Jared Schwartz and Becca Raffel offer their two cents on advice to prepare, and several other seniors as well as AP U.S. History teacher Jack Bungarden join the conversation.

First of all, many people greatly overestimate the need to frantically prepare for these examinations, and they forget one crucial element: they have been preparing for the exam all year.

Why did you read every chapter of American Pageant? And learn how to use a voice recorder in Spanish? And diligently participate in all the biology labs?

The fact of the matter is, AP tests are made to reflect what you have learned all year, not how much content you can cover in the next few days. Staying focused all year is crucial to success on the tests, according to senior Sarah Ohlson.

“Your teachers prepared you well throughout the year and as long as you stayed focused first semester you will do well second semester,” Ohlson said.

Don’t get us wrong – a little spot review on areas that you might have forgotten is a great plan, but there is no need to go overboard with it. AP U.S. History teacher Jack Bungarden addresses the importance of reviewing.

“Study,” Bungarden said. “Go to review sessions, review your notes, go back and look at class materials, review the stuff you learned back in first semester.  Take some practice exams.”

Purchasing an AP practice booklet can also be beneficial, according to senior Jack Shapiro.

“It’s really important to buy an AP test prep book if you can,” Shapiro said. “They have lots of tips on what problems you’ll find and face and what you should review.  It’s definitely worth it to get one to at least practice.”

Another aspect of AP testing that is overlooked is the huge curve on the test. Depending on what AP class you’re in, chances are that you have been taking simulated AP tests all year and have been receiving your raw grades on them. On the AP test, that C you have could turn into a 5.

Three suggested steps to dominating the test:

1. Pick out the topics that you have struggled with or haven’t seen in a while. Make flashcards or have a friend explain them to you.

2. Briefly skim over all the other material to remind yourself how much you know.

3. Relax, get a good night’s sleep and enter the test with confidence! “Always choose sleep over study,” senior Anthony Lim said.

All in all, we would like to stress the importance of not stressing about the tests. Sure, do some review and make sure you know your stuff, but getting worked up about the tests is neither necessary nor beneficial.

“Take it easy and relax about it, it’s not a big deal,” senior Jonathan Mackris said. “Paly prepares you well for the AP’s.”