Preparing for the AP Exam

Well, the AP exams are just about a month away.  I have finished teaching most of the new material and we are heading into review mode.  My students have taken a released exam for practice and are going through item by item, correcting what they missed and trying to determine where there are gaps in their knowledge base.

Later this week, I will ask my students to write a short essay describing their plans to prepare for the AP exam.  I really think that this exercise can work well in preparing for any major exam for any discipline.

Students will write a one to two-page essay addressing the following issues:

WHY? Why is it important for you to prepare for this exam?  What do you hope to accomplish by earning a good score?

WHO? Who will be your study partners?  I think there is great value in getting together with one or two other students to study material.  Ideally, you will know material that your partner(s) does not and vice versa.

WHEN? Considering your other classes, job, extracurricular activities, etc., when can you set aside blocks of time to study the material from my class?  Many students have off periods during the school day that they can utilize effectively.  Perhaps you can study before school or set aside time on weekends.  Don’t forget that you will need to coordinate with your study partners.

WHERE? Where can you meet to study?  My classroom is open in the mornings, during A lunch and after school.  Perhaps you can use the local or school library or meet at someone’s house.

WHAT? This is a BIG question.  On what three or four topics do you plan to focus your study?  Having taken and gone over the first practice test, where do you see holes in your knowledge?  Are there some topics that you feel entirely confident about and that you feel you could teach your classmates?

HOW? What specific things will you do to address deficiencies in your knowledge?  Will you make flashcards for theorems and formulas that you don’t know?  Will you read sections of your text?  Will you look for on-line videos over particular topics?  Will you make up an interpretive dance to help you master some of the material?  Be creative here.

I often hear from students that they have no idea of how to study for a major exam and I think that having to write out a study plan might help some of them to get moving in the right direction.  Soon, they will be off to college where studying for exams will take on added importance and they won’t have parents and teachers pushing them to prepare; they will have to do it all on their own.  By reading the essays, I often see that many students will identify the same areas of weakness and so then I know that is something to which I should devote some of our class time.   Students who come up with a particularly creative study idea (making up a rap or an interpretive dance) might be asked to share with everyone.

In my next blog entry, I will share two ways of using released free response questions to prepare for the AP exam.

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