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Top 10 Tips from AP Summer Institute Instructors to Prepare Students for an AP Exam

If you are like many other AP teachers, the spring months can be stressful as you rush to finish your curriculum and prepare your students to take a College Board AP exam in May. To help relieve the year-end stress, here are some tips to help you incorporate test preparation and practice into your curriculum throughout the year or semester.

  1. Review the latest standards and updates. The first place to go for official, up-to-date information about the latest updates to AP curriculums and test measures is the College Board’s Advances in AP Web site: http://advancesinap.collegeboard.org. In May 2013, students will take the revised AP Biology exam; the Advances in AP Web site includes the revised course’s curriculum framework and sample multiple-choice and free-response questions. To review changes coming to the AP Chemistry course in 2013–2014, click here.
  2. Cover all the tested topics in your course. If you will not finish the curriculum, spend the last few weeks covering the remaining tested topics. Allow extra review for the concepts that will be tested most heavily. To determine what to cover, review the AP course descriptions.
  3. Administer practice free-response questions (FRQs) to help your students improve their writing skills and learn how to answer an AP-level essay fully and concisely. Use FRQs from previously released exams to help prepare students. Here are some links to course descriptions containing FRQs and resources from past exams:
  4. Some sample FRQs include grading rubrics, which can help students learn how the questions will be graded on the exam.

  5. Use AP-level questions throughout the course to help your students become accustomed to the questions they will encounter on the exam. Remember to include both essay and multiple-choice questions. Some AP teachers use questions from released exams, textbook test banks, and other review materials.
  6. Practice math without calculators. It is important to remember that calculators are NOT permitted on some AP exams, so consider prohibiting calculators during practice exams.
  7. Emphasize lab work. Students should have as much practice with data analysis and experimental design as possible. Lab simulations are also available online; however, examine them critically before recommending them to students.
  8. Help students develop critical-thinking skills. Utilize case studies from online resources and colleges and universities, to encourage students to build these skills.
  9. Share information with fellow teachers. Use a virtual dropbox for sharing lessons with other teachers and to learn and share information about all facets of the course. For professional development, attend conferences that allow you to meet and share ideas with other AP teachers. Many conferences are offered at state and regional levels, so extensive travel is not required.
  10. Encourage your students to study outside class. Prepare a study outline so students can focus on the concepts most likely to be tested. Try offering tutorial sessions for students after class. At some of these sessions, students may study in groups to go over difficult concepts, and seek answers from the instructor when they have difficulties.
  11. Prepare your students with tips and reminders. Distribute a list of tips for test day. Remember to list the materials they need to bring. Also include basics such as getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy breakfast, dressing comfortably, and bringing a jacket.

We hope these helpful tips give you some tools and resources you need to prepare your students for AP exam success. Be sure to follow the changes and prepare for next year’s curriculum by visiting the College Board’s Advances in AP site.


*AP and Advanced Placement Program are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this article.

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