Conquering AP Anxiety


Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

As a month of AP testing continues, students prepare for online exams by taking practice tests. Riyana Roy (10) notes how she plans to study for her AP World History exam: “Since world history is about remembering facts, I’m [going to] use active recall where I ask myself questions about important topics to see if I can remember them. I’ll probably create notes for every unit too, and sort them into various world history themes which would be useful on the DBQ (Document Based Question) portion.”

Westley Kim, Staff Artist

   The stress of a clock counting down until a final deadline, the anxiety of a pass or a fail, a five or a two. It’s AP season.

   With a seemingly infinite number of ways to study, however, it can be helpful to have a little guidance. Robbie Murata (11), who is taking AP Language & Composition, AP Biology, and AP Calculus BC, explained, “I find it most helpful to map out the amount of time I can spend on each section and gain a deep understanding of the exam itself before taking it.” Murata gains this deeper understanding of his materials by “studying via practice problems,” which allows him to “become comfortable with various types of questions, the ways in which they might be worded, and the best strategies to employ when solving them.”

   However, it can also be hard to find the drive to actually study in this way: “The hardest part of preparing for the AP exams for me is probably finding the motivation to study… [AP exams] take around three hours each, so setting aside enough time to take full length practice exams is difficult.” For Murata and many others, studying also conflicts with a busy schedule. Like many other involved students, Murata holds various leadership positions in band, ASB, and several clubs. Despite this rigorous agenda, Murata expressed, “Organizing my time during AP exam season, with a busy schedule, is easier than it seems. At this point in the year, AP teachers are typically done teaching new content, so most of class time is spent preparing and reviewing for the exams.” Another helpful tip that he gave was to spread out the lessons of the course instead of trying to cram: “I plan out a reasonable number of topics to review and practice, and try not to study the entirety of my classes’ content in one night.”

   Regarding his feelings about the AP exams, Murata admitted that it was quite a mixed bag. He explained, “AP exam scores are reliant on the difficulty and types of questions the College Board decides to place on exams, as well as a test taker’s mental and physical state on the day of the exam. AP exams, while they might seem like it, really aren’t an honest reflection of a student’s worth or even how much they learned from the AP class itself.” He emphasized a healthy and forgiving mindset when it comes to the exams, as “the learning is the most important part. I don’t ever feel that the studying and learning I did to prepare for any exam will be a waste if I don’t get what I deem as a ‘good score’ on said exam.” In addition, putting too much pressure on oneself to perform well could result in self-sabotage.

   A student taking AP World History, Riyana Roy (10) described her thoughts on the digital format of the exams: “It’s kinda weird since we’re being recorded and they could flag us if they think we’re cheating, which scares me because I don’t want them to think I’m cheating when I’m not.” However, she also added that she prefers the digital format due to feeling more comfortable at home. Roy also described hesitancy regarding her efficiency: “I’m honestly terrified — I’m generally bad at taking tests, and all we’ve been hearing about the AP exam is that we have to be fast, so I’m worried about how efficient I’ll be.” Especially for those taking exams for the first time, the fast pace of the tests is one of the most challenging aspects, even if students have a good grasp on the material. Keeping a cool head about the exams can also be a challenge this year because of the interesting approach the AP College Board plans to take to prevent cheating.

   Like Murata and Roy, many students taking AP exams find that the best ways to prepare include pacing oneself and not being too critical of the scores that might come out of it. Patience is important because of the delicate cheating detection, the short amount of time given during tests, and the large amount of work students have to put in to commit the course information to memory.