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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Rock your AP tests

The AP exams are probably not at the top of your list of things to think about this week on top of schoolwork, extracurriculars, prom, etc... However, they are only a month away and will be here before you know it.  There's no need to panic, but it is time to create an action plan that will have you ready to ace your AP exams, not dreading them.

Here's the AP test schedule.  Mark your calendar NOW!

First, make sure you have the study materials you need to prepare for the exams.  Because the exams require you to understand a whole year's worth of material, many students find AP review books helpful.  Many of these books provide sample test questions and even test sections which help you become familiar with the AP test style.  Note: some AP language tests include listening and speaking sections .  AP language review books often come with CDs or website login links so you can get used to these sections.  Keep in mind that AP review books are great for studying the  picture but are only one piece of the puzzle.  Your class notes and text book(s) are also important tools to help you review more detailed information    I also recommend that you explore MIT's Highlights for High School, a guide to free online MIT courses that can help you prepare for AP tests as well as the UC (U of California) Scout Program which offers free online AP prep resources.

Once you have your study materials, pull out your planner and set aside two hours each week to study for each exam.  Start by reviewing the material that is least fresh in your mind.  You might want to read through your notes from  the fall and make a list of the concepts and themes which you've forgotten or are finding the most challenging.  Dedicate extra time to going over those topics over the next month.  Research has shown that quizzing yourself can be much more effective than simply re-reading, so make flashcards, create outlines, and copy important charts and formuli in your study sessions.  Color coding can be helpful, too.

This sounds like a lot of work.  Is worth it?  YES!  Even though colleges don't require AP scores, top colleges are inundated with students who have taken 3, 4, 5, 6 - sometimes more - AP tests BEFORE senior year!  High scores on these AP tests show admissions officers you are prepared for the challenge of college level work.  It also shows the high caliber of the work you are doing in your AP class.  So, whether or not you end up using them for college credit, they always count for admissions.

One of the features of AP tests is that you can suppress a score if you need to!  When you take an AP test (or SAT or ACT), don't indicate a college to send the score(s) to.  If you did write a specific college wn when you signed up for the AP test, you can withhold a score before June 15th so that school won't see it until you do (after July 1).  At that time, you can pay to stop withholding the score - the school will now see it.  Even after you've taken the test, if you don't think you got a 3, 4, or 5, you can decide to withhold the score - if you had put down a school's name.  If you didn't designate a school(s) to receive your score, you don't neeed to do anything.  Once you get your score, you can pay to send it wherever you'd like.

AP scores are only available online.  Use your College Board account to get your score.  You'll also be able to send it to colleges.  You can also CANCEL a score.  This means that the score is completely erased from your record (and won't be counted in AP scholar award calculations).  Once the scores are available, you'll need to contact the College Board in writing (snail mail) to cancel or withhold your score(s).  There is no charge for cancelling scores.  There is one for withholding. See your College Board account for the details.  Make sure you have your College Board login somewhere so you can easily access your account in July to get your scores.

BONUS: If you earn a number of strong (3+) AP scores, you will be eligible to receive an AP Scholar Award from the College Board.  Students with three or more scores of 3 or better, are named AP Scholars.  There are also AP Scholar with Distinction, State AP Scholar, National AP Scholar, etc. awards.  Here's another way to distinguish yourself from your peers!

EXTRA BONUS: Lastly, don't forget that strong AP scores may benefit you once you get to college.  Many colleges offer course credit and course placement for high AP scores (usually scores of 4 and 5).  This means a high AP score can often allow you to opt out of an intro level course in favor of a more advanced course, get a jump start on completing your major, or fulfill a distribution requirement.  Students with multiple AP credits may be able to graduate early or study abroad without worrying about transferring the credits from the foreign university.  So, make your AP tests a priority. 

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