Jes’s Declassified AP Survival Guide

Junior Annie Bonner studies for AP exams.

By: Jessica Marvin/Co-editor in Chief

Every April, students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses around the U.S. begin gearing up for the May exams. Knowing that college credit is on the line, students study day in and day out to ensure their year’s work will not be in vain. Blue Ridge High School is no exception. Everywhere you turn, a student is scrambling to finish up their studying for their practice exams, muttering formulas and definitions to each other, or highlighting furiously.

But what happens when the stress gets too overwhelming? Do we set down our highlighters, throw away our Crash Course books, and dole out the $15 to cancel our test? No. When AP students get stressed, they step up their study game. But what’s the best way?

I’m a firm believer that Quizlet is every AP kid’s best friend throughout the entire school year, but especially around AP exam season. Completing a set before bed is my personal go-to strategy, which is also supported by scientific research.  A study by Jessica D. Payne and Matthew A. Tucker et al. found that information retention was higher in subjects who had a goodnight’s sleep than those who went a day of wakefulness.

Junior AP student Luis Tobon advises students to start studying early in the game and to take advantage of the resources provided on Khan Academy. Cramming certainly isn’t the best way to retain information in the long-run, and the bulk of content required to know on AP exams is another reason to ensure that there’s no pressure to learn concepts last-minute.

Senior Heidi Lynch thinks along these same lines. 

“Don’t wait to start studying at night; make sure you start it during the day,” Lynch recommends.

Though completing a routine flashcard set before bed can be a beneficial complement to your studying, the late hours of the night are not the most ideal time to crack open your books for the first time that day. Procrastination, busy schedules, and academic burn-out are something AP kids know all too well, but don’t let that stunt your progress. Start early, be consistent, and try not to fall victim to early onset senioritis.

A rewards system also seems to work for many. Setting a goal and a reward for meeting it is a fun and efficient way to ensure you’re getting the perfect balance of work and play. For example: make yourself complete, say, 3 pages of whatever you’re working on, and in return, you can have a cookie, play a round of a mobile game, or check your Snapchat for a few minutes. Make sure to set time constraints on your rewards, however, as it’s easy to let the breaks take over.

Studying is all about personal preference, and what works for one person might not be one-size-fits-all. Keep this in mind when trying out different methods, and don’t get discouraged if you find one thing doesn’t mesh with your learning process.

Jessica Marvin is a stressed senior who lives for participating in dance and theatre. When she’s not dancing or at rehearsal, she enjoys writing poetry (usually in Spanglish) and hopes to one day have the confidence of a telenovela villain.