Excellence on AP Exams: Keys to Getting a 4 or Above

Aynsleigh Escher, Editor

During exam season, there are a variety of small issues that, when piled on one another, can become a major cause for stress in students. These issues include studying, concerns for the test, and a lack of confidence in one’s abilities. In order to help students manage these stressors and “survive” exam season, two AP Test scorers and an accomplished AP student were asked to explain mistakes they see in the studying and test taking process, as well as ways they believe students can improve.

When asked about mistakes Mr. Thomas Coen and Ms. Karen Roark, both AP Exam Scorers and AP Teachers, most commonly saw on exams they graded, they both agreed that is was not answering the prompt.

“A common mistake kids make is not actually answering the question that they’re asked to answer. They don’t have a thesis statement that directly responds to the question. They talk around it, or they rephrase the question exactly the way it was written,” Ms. Roark said.

A major way to fix this issue, or not commit this mistake on future exams, is to know the writing style for the course in question. Despite possible misinformation on the format of the test, any external influences will not put off the scorers.

According to Andrew Greco (‘18), an experienced AP Student, “You want to familiarise yourself with the test specifically, as they all have specific structures and formats, so once you’re aware of those, then it just goes down naturally.”

Another good way to practice for AP Exams, expanding on Greco’s point, is to review past AP Tests for the subject in question. They are available for review on the college board website and are useful tools, especially if students had an improper introduction to the test. Sadly, they aren’t always up to date on formatting and prompts are not repeated, but more recent exams provide a decent review of possible material and formatting. People reviewing past exams can also see the score given: providing an example of good writing or what not to do on exams.

Similarly, practice tests are great ways to review for AP Exams. After reviewing technique and material on past AP Tests, students can use their textbook practice books available online to test their skills on the course in question. This also relates to completing exams within the allotted time, as no work is allowed once the end of the time limit is reached.

“You take some of the practice tests, see how you do, see what areas you’re weak in, and then study that,” Mr. Coen said on the benefit of taking practice tests.

Overall, the key to succeeding on AP Exams, and exams in general, is to practice. Understanding technique and content is key, but in order for students to be able to apply both of those elements while staying within the time limit, practice is mandatory.