Planning and Preparing for AP Exams

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Gelyna Price
Gelyna Price

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Unlike the SAT or ACT exams, AP exams are offered only once a year, in May. This means that if you don’t do well, it’s not as simple to retake the exams; you’ll need to wait until the next year. If you do retake the exams, you also can’t control which AP scores the colleges see. In other words, colleges automatically see all your results (including the bad ones that made you retake the exams in the first place). So, it’s pretty important to do well the first time around. Planning and preparing for AP exams can help ensure you get the highest score you can, and save you the trouble and hassle of needing to retake the tests.

Top Tips for Preparing for AP Exams

Start studying as soon as possible.

Don’t leave your AP studying for the last minute. As soon as you’ve decided which tests you’re going to take, start figuring out your study plans and schedule.

Figure out when the tests you’re going to take will be administered.

You can do this by checking online. If, for example, you’re taking one test at the beginning of the first week of exams, and another near the end of the second week, you have some time in between. For the week or so before AP testing starts, you can focus on your final studying for the first test, then use the time in between to do your final studying for the second one.

Set up a study system that you’ll stick to.

If you’re the kind of person who learns best in group settings, where you and your peers can discuss questions and answers, set up (or get involved in) a study group. If you have a lot of motivation and self-discipline, and do best studying in peace and quiet, set up a schedule of times dedicated to studying for the AP exams. In other words, figure out a system that will work based on your strengths and skills.

Figure out what you need to know for the AP exams.

This is infinitely better than studying every detail of what you’ve learned. Start by going to the College Board’s list of AP courses. Click on the test or tests you’re planning to take, then read the course description or course and exam description. It will give you great insight into what you’re expected to know for the test.

Take AP practice tests/questions.

It can be a good idea to take one before you begin intensely studying, because it will give you a great sense as to what the testing mindset will actually be like. You can find practice questions on the College Board’s webpage. Pay attention to areas you find easy (which may require less study) and those that are challenging for you, and focus on the latter during your study sessions. Take another practice test once you feel well prepared to see whether there are any areas that still require work.


Our counselors at Empowerly have guided students through countless AP exam seasons. If you’d like help setting your priorities and working one-on-one with a counselor to develop a game plan, they can help. Book a free consultation to learn more about the Empowerly program.

Questions? Let us know!