Preparing for AP and IB Exams: Advice from Student Caffé

It’s the end of the school year, and students everywhere are feeling the pressure to pass exams. For high school juniors and seniors, AP and IB exams carry enough weight to tip the scales between failure and success. These exams are about three hours long and are the determining factor as to whether or not high school students receive college credits. Needless to say, this is the time when students are really put to the test!

To prepare for your AP and IB exams, here are some tips from our team:

  1. Billy Madison claims "I am the smartest man alive."

    Billy Madison / Giphy

    Actually study. It can be tempting to blow off studying because of the sheer amount of material that you are required to know for the tests, but you’ll do better (obviously) if you study. To make it a little bit less overwhelming, use a study guide, spend 30 minutes each evening going over specific chapters, and start early. The sooner you start studying, the more time you’ll have to finish learning the material before test time. - Megan C.
  2. Eat your (brain) food! While coffee may give you a boost, it will also grant you a caffeine crash. Rather than grabbing a cup o’ joe, try eating foods that will help you feel energized and focused. Some snacks you could put in your backpack are chocolate, nuts, blueberries, or bananas. - Katelyn
  3. Take a walk. Close the books for an hour to get some exercise. Treat your body right, and use the break to digest the information you’ve been cramming into your brain. - Gwen
  4. Practice the Pomodoro Technique. Discovered by Francesco Cirillo in the late ‘80s as he struggled to focus for his exams, this exercise is intended to increase mental agility and productivity. This time management technique is named after the Italian word for tomato, pomodoro, because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. With your own timer, dedicate 25 minutes to studying without distractions. Then take a short break to rest, check your phone, or talk to your library buddy. - Katelyn
  5. Stay hydrated. Our brains are made up of 75 percent of water. It’s no wonder that being even slightly dehydrated can affect our ability to think clearly. Drinking water before you feel thirsty will help you stay sharp and energized while studying and taking exams. Consider downloading the Plant Nanny app which will encourage you to drink up, or take a few sips of water every time a new song plays on Spotify. Remember to bring a water bottle with you to the test center too! - Megan R.
    Staying hydrated is key to passing your AP and IB exams.

    Broad City / Giphy

  6. Make a study guide with your entire class. AP and IB tests expect you to retain information that you’ve been learning all year, but studying a year’s worth of material is overwhelming. Ask your teacher to help you construct a study guide. Each student could be assigned to outline a specific chapter of the textbook. Then, each outline should be collected, copied, and redistributed to the entire class. Voilà!—instant study guide. If your teacher won’t assign you an outline, get a study group together to put together something similar. You’ll master a specific chapter in the process and benefit from the notes your classmates make. - Gwen
  7. Optimize your sleep and study schedule. It is incredibly important to be well-rested for your test. Pulling an all-nighter can decrease your memory recall and concentration. Map out your study schedule so you are able to get eight or nine hours of sleep nightly for at least a week. If you can, study between 6 and 8 p.m., the most favorable time for brain functioning. - Megan R.
  8. Take practice tests. If you have the time, take a couple of practice tests. You may be able to find them online, get them from your teachers, or use the ones that are in the back of study guide books (if you’re willing to pay). Sometimes teachers will dedicate class time to taking practice tests. The idea is that you get an insider’s look at what the test is going to be like when the time comes. You’ll be aware of how questions are asked, what phrasing to look for, and generally what to expect. - Megan C.
    Bert is angry at Ernie for disrupting his reading; Ernie may be reading up on study tips for AP tests.

    Sesame Street / Giphy

  9. Explain concepts in your own words; don’t memorize definitions. Unlike many of the exams your teacher has given you, the AP and IB tests don’t use phrases and definitions cut straight from your textbook. These tests draw on your critical thinking skills. When you’re studying, flashcards are great, but be sure that you actually understand the definitions that you’re reciting. Being able to explain concepts in your own words is going to help you crank out the essays. - Gwen
  10. Don’t spend too much time studying. This may seem counter to the other points expressed in this list, but there is definitely a chance of burning out when you’re studying for standardized tests. In order to stay fresh for test day, limit the amount of time you’re spending with your textbooks each day, and don’t study the day before the test. Take time to relax, eat, and sleep. - Megan C.

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