Common Mistakes Students Make When Preparing for AP Exams & How to Avoid Them

The first weeks of May are quickly approaching and AP teachers are ramping up their review sessions.  However, there are a few things your students should know as they step up their studies at home.

Below are three common mistakes students make when studying and ways to avoid them.

1. Not recognizing that all exams have the same structure.

All exams have multiple-choice and free response/DBQ (document-based question) sections.  Therefore, the idea that your biology-free response is easier or harder than your history DBQ can be debunked if you realize that in both circumstances, you have to make an argument and support that argument with evidence.

Remember: never make a statement without backing it up with evidence!  For history, that evidence will come directly from the documents; for biology, it’ll come from a set of data or your own personal knowledge.

2. Taking a practice exam without analyzing the results.

If you have access to a study guide, you typically have two practice exams at your disposal, plus a pre-test.  After each practice you do, go back through all of your questions and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Did I guess on this question?
  2. Did I know the answer to this question?
  3. Did I have the right answer but changed it?

Label the questions A, B, or C using the categories above. Once you’ve done this, you will have a better idea of which topics you need to focus your studies on. This does not mean you don’t study the topics you know, but that you spend more time reviewing what you don’t know while continuing to review all topics.

3. Only now starting to study.

If you haven’t been keeping up with your AP studies all year, you’ll have to target them. The dates of all your AP exams are posted online and/or given to you by your teacher.

Remember, all students all over the country take the same AP exams on the same day.  So, look at your calendar now and make a study plan based on your practice exam analysis. View the AP exam calendar here. So, if you’re taking AP Chemistry and AP World History, you should spend the bulk of your time studying Chemistry first since the exam comes before AP World History, with brief history reviews.  But don’t save all your history review for after the Chemistry exam!  Preparing now for both will help you incorporate your knowledge into your long-term memory.