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AP Exam Season: How to Succeed

April 1, 2023

It’s almost AP exam season, so in less than two months students all over the United States and Canada will be taking their Advanced Placement tests.

What are AP exams? AP, or Advanced Placement, courses are college-level courses often used to get undergraduate credits for college. These are challenging and rewarding classes that can open up doors to more opportunities in the future. At the end of each course, there is an exam, which is optional. Taking these classes and tests can help you get into colleges, as well as earn your college credits, potentially saving you thousands of dollars if they exempt you from taking college prerequisites.

The exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 meaning “extremely well-qualified” and 1 meaning “no recommendation.” Basically what you want to strive for is a 5, as that is often the only way you can qualify to earn college credits at some of the top colleges and universities. Top schools like the University of Virginia generally require a 5 on an AP test to exempt you from taking a prerequisite, although some lower-ranked schools may accept a 3 or 4 score as credit. The test scores don’t affect your GPA, but as mentioned before, they do help a lot in college and in the college admission process.

Many high school’s including Fluvanna offer dual enrollment with Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC), as well as others. Although colleges often look for AP courses instead of dual enrollment courses as evidence of a student’s abilities. Dual enrollment classes are sometimes seen as less rigorous than AP classes, and therefore, may not offer the same opportunities that AP courses do, depending on where you want to go to school.

Note, however, that some students, especially those who know they are planning to enroll in a Virginia College, prefer to take PVCC dual enrollment classes, as getting a C or higher in the class will automatically exempt them from having to take similar courses in college. For example, a student who takes AP English will only be exempted from taking Freshman English at college if they get a certain score on their AP test, while a student who takes PVCC English and gets at least a C will automatically qualify for being exempt from Freshman English. Which option, AP or dual enrollment, is better for you will really depend on what your college plans are, so talk to your FCHS counselor before selecting classes.

If you do decide to take an AP class and plan to take an AP exam at the end of the semester, what are some ways to increase your chances of acing your exam?

Start Preparing Early
The key to acing your AP exams is beginning your preparation early on in the school year. The benefits of studying early on include improving your ability to retain information (from the repetition of reviewing it over and over), less stress, and improved mental health. Reviewing early is also likely to help you improve your grade on class exams too.

Keep in mind that studies show that the least effective way to study for the AP test–or any test, for that matter– is cramming. According to Stanford University, cramming increases feelings of anxiety and stress, makes you feel fatigued, and can even make you feel confused before and during a test.

Be consistent
Something that goes along with starting preparation early is being committed to your studying. Setting aside even 30 minutes of uninterrupted dedicated study time a few times a week is a good idea. The best way to stay on top of things is to increase your study time as the year progresses and you get closer to the AP exam.

For people who have trouble focusing, study sessions like these can seem daunting. However, music can help when studying when you have issues concentrating, although too many distractions can impede your studying process. Studies have shown that the best music to study by includes classical, piano, and instrumental music. By staying consistent in your study skills, your knowledge and discipline will grow, therefore making studying, testing, and everyday life much easier.

Use and Collect Resources
Using the resources provided to you online and during the school year by your teacher is important for being successful on your exams. There are so many websites and books, such as Khan Academy and the Princeton Review. It is very important to use what was given to you by your teacher (like review material, textbooks, or in-class assignments.)

One great resource to use while studying is Quizlet which allows you to make your own flashcards that are available to you everywhere on your phone or computer. You can also purchase books specifically dedicated to helping you do well on a particular AP test. Look for podcasts (like Barron’s AP US History Podcast) and videos online which may also help guide you in the study process. There are many resources out there, especially online. Take advantage of them.

Take Notes
Taking notes is crucial to your success, not just using the notes and resources already provided to you in class. Not only does taking notes keep you on track and focused in class, it helps the material “stick” in your brain if you’re writing it along with hearing the material. Keeping your notes organized and concise is especially helpful when it comes time to do some serious AP student sessions. With good notes, you have everything that you need in front of you.

Keep Your Body and Brain Healthy
Perhaps the most important tip for acing your AP exams is to stay happy and healthy. Taking care of your body might not seem like it has a lot to do with retaining and learning information, but the truth is, it is incredibly important. According to, eating the right foods can help you do better in school and on exams, especially if you are taking an AP exam. Getting a good amount of sleep at night can also make you feel happier and more focused, while getting regular physical exercise can help you manage stress and depression.

For more information on how to ace your AP test, check out these resources:
Top 8 Student Learning Resources For AP Courses – All Digital School
Get Ready for AP Exams | The Princeton Review
What Is AP? – AP Students | College Board

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About the Contributor
Photo of Beck Martin
Beck Martin, Assistant Editor

Beck is a junior. Her main hobby is digital art but she also enjoys video editing and animating. She has a lizard named Cas after Castiel from Supernatural....

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