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Preparing for the AP Exam

By Pauline H. Gill

The AP exam is given in May. Prior to that time you can prepare to take the test either in a classroom, through an internet course or on your own. Students can do better on the test if they know what to expect and how to prepare.

Registering for the Exam

Teenaged boy talking on cell phone uid 1173381 During January, the coordinator for AP exams will supply teachers with information on registration. Depending upon the school, the student may pay for the whole test, part of the test, or the school may pay for the whole test. Some states budget to pay for the exams. The test cost is $89 for 2012. A reduction of $28 is available for students with financial needs. The College Board website has a list of dates to complete required information. If you are taking the course independently, you will need to talk with a coordinator in a nearby district to arrange for testing.

The next testing dates are May 6-10 and May 13 and 17, 2013. Prior to those dates, students can fill out the identifying information on the answer sheets. This will save approximately 30 minutes of test time on the scheduled date of the test.

A block of four hours is scheduled for the test, in either the morning or afternoon. This block of time includes identifying information and scheduled breaks. Students must arrive on time for the test. No late arrivals are allowed. Students cannot bring in phones or other devices to the test. Students are not allowed to leave once the test begins. The College Board expects strict adherence to their rules.

Preparing for the Exam

Prior to the exam, most AP teachers will stop instruction or slow down instruction in order to focus on the exam. Throughout the school year, you have been preparing for the test, probably without realizing it. As exam dates near, teachers like to practice with actual tests and time students in order to prepare them for the actual testing experience.


Students can practice on their own time, too. The College Board website has practice examples. The free response questions are available in all exam areas. These are questions from previous tests that will not be used again. They can be downloaded for review. These questions are setup exactly as you would see them on the actual test. Becoming familiar with examples and the format will ease anxiety associated with exams.

Preparing for Multiple Choice Questions

Approaching the multiple-choice questions can be daunting if you think in terms of regular high school where a score of 100 is excellent. Multiple-choice questions are designed to challenge the student. A 75 percent on multiple-choice is excellent. A 60 percent is very good, so when practicing, don't get discouraged. On the actual test, answer the questions you know and the ones that you can make an informed guess.

How to Answer Free Response Questions

Free response questions can be a challenge for the student who is not prepared. Don't just look at the question and start writing. Analyze the question, so you know exactly what they want for an answer. Spend a few minutes outlining your approach. Write a thesis and stay focused on that thesis. Many free response questions receive low scores because students are all over the board with their answers. The readers of the exam are looking for organized answers that show control of the language and logical process in arguing your point.

The Night Before the Exam

Get a good night's sleep. Eat well. Don't be anxious. If you have practiced for this test, you will do fine. The AP exam has possibilities of college credit, but no exam is worth anxiety. The AP exam is only one measure of success. The student who has good grades, is well rounded, and has taken challenging classes is the student who will succeed.