General tips and tricks for YSHS students taking AP exams

Students studying
AP Biology students study in Mr. Idgunji’s classroom for the upcoming tests

By Steven Yao

As May rolls around, so do the College Board’s Advanced Placement exams. From chemistry to Japanese language and culture, the exams cover a broad range of subjects. Every year, more than a million high school students sign up for the AP classes designed to prepare students for the exams.

Kylie Delgado, a senior, describes how taking AP classes gave her more clarity on what she wants to study in college in addition to her existing passions.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the biology field as a career, but AP Government and Politics showed me that I had a strong interest in learning about our government and the political system, so I think I’m going to minor in that in college.”

Senior Kaylin Blocher further illustrates how taking AP Physics helped her narrow down what kinds of subjects she would like to study in the future.

“It kind of made me realize that I didn’t really want to go into a physics-based line of work, but I wanted to still pursue something in math.”

Beyond serving as a framework for pursuing academic passions, AP classes are also often considered a standard of academic rigor. Doing well in them can highlight a student’s academic prowess and ambition in their transcript. In fact, many institutions will accept AP scores as college credit, allowing students who do well on AP exams to skip introductory courses. As a result, many students aim for the coveted 5, the highest score possible on the AP exams.

So how should students prepare for the exams? 

AP Calculus teacher Mr. Gable says the College Board provides a substantial amount of free response questions from past exams to practice with. 

“The AP releases all free response questions within about a week or two after the actual exam, so every free response question, all six of them from the previous 20 years, let’s say, are out there. Multiple choice questions, that’s a little tougher, they don’t release those questions as often, but they cover less content per question, and that stuff we can do more with practice multiple choice in class.”

In addition to the practice materials provided by the College Board, there are a multitude of online sources that contain helpful content, such as Fiveable, OpenStax, and YouTube. But according to Mr. Gable, students shouldn’t just rely on rote memory when studying. 

“Students who get 4s and 5s on the test aren’t always students with the highest percent grades in the class. Being a good thinker and problem solver is probably most important. You cannot 100% rely on memory while you’re taking the test because questions may force you to draw on things you’ve learned and see if you can actually apply them, so the students who know how to apply their knowledge are the ones who do better.” 

Studying for the AP tests can be especially challenging. But with good time management, abundant practice, and a healthy dose of confidence, students can be well on their way to scoring a 4 or 5. Good luck to those who are testing this May!

I’m Steven Yao, Trojan News.