Angela is a junior high school student from the OC. She loves math, writing, and reading good books. Disney and old Hollywood movies are her guilty pleasures. When she grows up, she wants to be a doctor or engineer.
Separately, the letters “A” and “P” are harmless, no more than characters from the alphabet. But together, in the precise order “A-P”, they can harness enough anxiety to create a weapon of mass destruction.
March and April are difficult months for the typical, over-achieving upperclassman in high school. They are the last two months before the dreaded AP testing season in early May. Concerned parents will wonder why their darling offspring trods like a zombie half the time, consuming caffeine like it is the nectar of life. The students, however, take on a different mind-set. Some contract Junioritis (extreme laziness) early on and do nothing but relish the last couple days of the school year. Some students enter “complete freakout” mode and shove their noses into their review books. And others, often perfectionists, display the symptoms of early Junioritis, leading to “complete freakout” mode, which then initiates a destructive cycle of procrastination and self-hatred.
My advice is simple: study. Know what you have to do. Know what is in those booklets before you even enter the testing center. Once everything is over, nothing will stop you from letting your mind turn into absolute mush. In the meantime, here’s a couple of helpful hints in preparation for Hell Week:
1. Start reviewing early. The earlier, better. But two months before the AP test(s) is the ideal time to start looking back. No matter how practiced your cramming skills are, memorizing 400 years of US history or thirty chemical formulas is not going to happen in one night. Even if it is late start, any amount of studying is better than leaving everything until the last minute.
2. Get a review book. Companies like Barron’s and Princeton Review release AP test review books every year that contain tips, practice tests, and summaries of the subject material. However, I do not recommend you to blindly select the first one on the book store shelf. Spend time looking on forums and reading online reviews to find out which review books are sub-par and which will give you the maximum chance of getting a 3, 4, or even a 5. A company may provide an excellent review for one kind of AP test and poor review for another. So, do not trust the name alone. Many students even buy two review books for better coverage. Unfortunately, some neglect to use the second one because they do not have the time. For a supplemental read to your studies, I have personally found the REA: Crash Course series to be very helpful. The books for each subject are less than 300 pages each, and they only address the essentials that frequently appear on the test. Their review books do not go in-depth, but they do an effective job of solidifying important facts.
3. Maintain a study schedule. Do not just write down what you are going to do without following through. The schedule should be comprehensive, but doable. Review a chapter a night. A practice test a week. Do what works for you, and stay as consistent as possible.
4. Learn the most effective way to study. Easier said than done. However, it helps to know the nature of the test you are taking. As my rule of thumb, when it comes to history AP subjects, I absorb the most by simply reading through my two review books carefully and highlighting the key points throughout. I do this one time. Once this is done, I skim the books again and pay particular attention to the highlighted points. For math AP subjects, I find that constant practice is the best way to study. Concepts are important, but those come naturally by completing as many problem sets as possible and learning from what I did wrong. In general, be smart about your studies. Try different techniques and stay with the one that suits you.
5. Group study sessions are helpful, with the right people. It sounds mean, but do not invite friends you know easily get side-tracked. Three or five minds in the same room can learn a lot from each other. If you work better alone, that is great too, but I highly suggest giving group study a chance.
Be diligent, smart, and focused. Overwhelming? Yes, but the rewards will be worth it.
Photo Credit: scui3asteveo from Flickr