Acing an AP Exam without Taking the Class

Tiffany Sorensen, Varsity Tutors' Contributor

March 10, 2015

Acing an AP Exam without Taking the Class
When you can't take an AP class, the secret to a high score on the AP exam is self-discipline and ample prep.
Unfortunately, not all high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) classes. However, you can still register for and do well on AP exams even if you don’t have the option of taking an AP course. Here’s how:

Take advantage of the College Board website.

The official College Board website has excellent resources that can help you prepare for AP tests. These resources include sample exam questions and test-taking advice. Most importantly, however, are the course descriptions that the College Board maintains for each AP subject that it offers. These course descriptions are available as PDF files, and they are completely free to download.
Each PDF file contains valuable information about the structure of the exam, how each test is graded and the material that will appear on the exam. You’ll also gain useful information for after the exam, such as how the final exam scores are reported (on a scale of 1 through 5, 5 being the highest score) and how to earn credit for your scores.
Be sure to review these files in their entirety so that you know what to expect when your test day arrives – and what to study in the meantime.

Supplement your review with practice tests.

The College Board only provides a limited number of free practice questions. For this reason, consider supplementing your review with outside materials. This might mean borrowing or purchasing an AP study book, or it might mean completing online practice tests. Study materials are especially vital when you are not in a classroom environment. An AP course allows students to compile notes over an extended period, as well as to assess their understanding with chapter exams and writing assignments. Your challenge is to substitute this in-class work with out-of-class resources. Highlight or underline key information in your study guide, or take notes in the margins of a practice test. Remember that to receive a high score on the AP exam, you must be deeply familiar with the test’s formatting, subject matter and timing.

Form a study group.

There may be other students in your situation who would also love to earn AP credit. Why not join forces with these individuals? After all, you have the same goal! Ask around at your high school to determine who else would like to – or already plans to – take the AP exam. You can even make a flyer and hang it up on a bulletin board to call attention to your cause. Then, form a study group with any students who express interest. A study group is a highly useful tool, especially when your resources are limited. You can work with classmates to discuss difficult material, proctor timed practice tests and keep one another motivated. Since you will not have an AP teacher to answer to, it can be helpful to feel accountable to someone. Students who work alone, for instance, may fall behind schedule. If you are part of a study group to which you feel responsible, you are more likely to stay on top of your review material. When you cannot take an AP class, the secret to a high score on the AP exam is self-discipline and ample prep. By following the above advice, you will be well on your way to a perfect 5 in no time!

Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Spanish Language & Literature from Stony Brook University.

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