10 Helpful Tips for Preparing for the AP Exam


Hello! My name is Caitlin Keller and I am a mathematics teacher at VirtualSC. I know that the spring semester is both an exciting and busy time! Summer vacation is around the corner, but first you need to take your AP exam. You have been working hard all year in your AP course and I just wanted to share a few tips with you to help you prepare and perform your best on your AP exam.


  • Know the Exam Format

Every AP exam is slightly different, so know how your AP exam is going to be set up, so that you know what to expect on exam day. Most of the AP exams have a multiple-choice section and then a free-response section. Sometimes the free response questions are an essay or a solution worked out. Your teacher will tell you how your exam is set up, but you can also check out the CollegeBoard website for more specifics about your exam.

  •  Take Practice Exams

The CollegeBoard website releases free-response questions and some multiple choice questions from past exams on their website so that you can use those to practice. You can also choose to buy an exam prep book that will have full length practice exams in it.  You can also contact your teacher who may have access to free practice exams. You should try to complete at least one full practice exam in test like conditions (no cell phone, no distractions, using a timer, and no assisting material) to see how you do, and use the results to see what areas you need to spend time studying and practicing. 

  • Focus Your Studying

Start your studying by focusing on the older material that you learned at the beginning of your course and the material that you did not do as well on. You will also take your VirtualSC final exam at the end of the course, which is another opportunity for you to see if there are any areas that you may need to spend more time reviewing. Make sure you are also studying in the way that is best for you. If you do best studying alone, quietly, make time to do that and put away distractions. If you do best studying with peers or talking out loud, find a way to study like that. 

  • Bring the Proper Materials

The night before your exam, set out the materials that you need to bring with you to your exam the next day. This will ensure you are not searching for anything or forget anything on the day of the exam. Make sure you bring several sharpened No. 2 pencils with erasers for the multiple choice questions, pens with dark blue or black ink for the free response questions, a school or government ID, and up to two approved calculators if you are taking AP Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, or Statistics. 

  • Prepare your Mind and Body

Most AP exams are at least two or three hours long, which is like running a mental marathon! Make sure that you are getting a good nights rest, sleeping at least 6 – 8 hours is recommended, for a few nights before the exam. You also want to make sure you are eating a healthy breakfast the morning of your exam. Avoid eating food with a lot of sugar, like donuts or pastries, and try and eat some protein and complex carbohydrates, like eggs, bacon, sausage, or oatmeal. These foods are going to give you longer lasting energy so that you can run the marathon. If your exam is in the afternoon, make sure you eat both a good breakfast and lunch!

  • Relax!

It is always easier to say than it is to do, but RELAX before you start your exam! You are well prepared, you are well rested, you have eaten well, and you are going to do well. When you get to school, stop and take 10 deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. When you get into the exam room, sit down and take 10 more deep breaths. Once the exams are passed out and you get your exam, take 10 more deep breaths. If you get to a tough question and you are unsure of where to start, take a few deep breaths. You need to keep oxygen flowing to your brain to be able to think.

  • Answer EVERY Question

There is no penalty for guessing on the AP exam, so make sure you answer EVERY question. If you are not sure how to answer a multiple-choice question, try and eliminate any answers you know are incorrect and then choose the best answer from the answers remaining. If you are not sure how to answer a free-response question, try and write out any words, equations, or sentences that are related to the question and you may get some partial credit. 

  • Start with the Easy Questionsafter-the-ap-exam

On every section of the exam, go through and answer the easy questions first. If you read a question and you are not sure how to answer it, skip over it and come back to it at the end. Answering the easy questions first makes sure that you do not waste too much time on questions you are not sure how to answer. The easier questions may also help to jog your memory and remind you about something to answer the harder questions.

  • Read, Read, and Read Again!

Many times students get questions incorrect because they read the question incorrectly or they miss a key word. Read each question twice before beginning. Underline key words that give you directions for how to answer the question. For example, if a question asked you which answer is not a correct answer, you would highlight the word not, which is important for selecting the correct answer. Once you answer the question, go back and reread the question one last time to make sure you answered ALL parts of what the question was asking. 

  • Be Confident!

Be confident in your ability! Your class taught you everything you need to know, you have studied, you know how the exam is set up, and you just need to be confident that you are going to ace your exam. As you mark and review your answers, stay with the first answer you marked, unless you reread the question and realize you read the question incorrectly the first time. You are more likely to get the question incorrect if you change your answer. After the exam is over, do not worry about your score, be confident that it went well!

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