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

Updated March 2019

If you’re like many other teachers, the spring months can be stressful as you rush to finish the curriculum and prepare students to take exams in May. To help relieve the year-end stress, here are some tips you can use to 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 curriculums and test measures is the Advances in AP Web page. Stay up-to-date with new techniques and advancements in your discipline like bioinformatics and citizen science programs that are local, regional, and even global.
  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 course descriptions:

  3. Administer practice free-response questions (FRQs) to help your students improve their writing skills and give them practice writing full, concise answers. Use FRQs from previously released exams to help prepare students. Here are some links to course descriptions containing FRQs and resources from past exams:

    Some sample FRQs include grading rubrics, which can help students learn how the questions will be graded on the exam.

  4. Use appropriate 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 teachers use questions from released exams, textbook test banks, and other review materials.
  5. Practice math without calculators. It is important to remember that calculators are NOT permitted on some exams, so consider prohibiting calculators during practice exams.
  6. 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.
  7. Help students develop critical-thinking skills. Use case studies from online resources and colleges and universities to encourage students to build these skills.
  8. 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 teachers. Many conferences are offered at state and regional levels, so extensive travel is not required.
  9. 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 or come to you for extra help.
  10. 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.

By following these tips and using the recommended tools and resources, you can prepare your students for exam success.

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