Hey Melissa, do you have any tips on taking APs? I know you took a bunch and got 5s on most of them. Which ones did you take again and how were you able to do so well on them?
Melissa, you got As in your AP classes, so you got 5s, right?
Alright, I’m gonna stop you right there before we get too far into this.
I got As in all of my AP classes (except APUSH… screw history). But I did NOT get a 5 on ANY of them. And I’ll explain why.
Getting an A in an AP class does not mean you’re going to get a 5 on the AP. Why? Because teachers can teach classes however they want. Meaning they can make them as easy as they want or as hard as they want. So here I was, a happy little senior in high school studying all the time for my favorite class, AP Bio, thinking I was going to get a 5… Because I had a 98 average in that class. So clearly I knew, like, everything, right? Wrong.
Freshman year of college when I was taking general biology I talked to some people who got a 5 on the AP (for some reason, bio majors at my college have to take General Biology I even if they got a 5). Literally everyone I talked to who got a 5 said their AP Bio class was horrible. It was so difficult that almost everyone in the class had a C average or was failing. But you know what? Almost everyone in those classes got a 5 on the AP, maybe a few 4s. It hurt their high school GPAs a bit (not incredibly important, but a discussion for another post), but at least they got a 5 on the AP and wouldn’t have to retake those classes in college.
All of those kids I talked to happened to go to a fancy private school, so the education was rigorous. But I thought about it. And it seemed reasonable. Because even in my own lame public high school, the AP Calculus teacher was notorious for being really difficult on the AP calc students… But by taking that class they were almost guaranteed a 4 or a 5 on the AP. And all my friends who took it did, in fact, get a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam. Despite being from my same lame public school.
If my class isn’t challenging enough, how can I still get a 5?
You don’t necessarily have a choice as to where you go to school or what teacher you get. But there are still things you can do about it. The biggest of those things would be practice exams. This was probably my downfall. I did a ton of practice questions from both of my AP Biology review books (Barron’s >>> Cliff Notes) but I don’t remember really doing practice AP exams. (Then again, this was like 4 years ago.) So. Definitely do practice exams. That’s the best way you can simulate how the actual exam is going to run.
I think the AP exam grading criteria has been changed since I took it. But make sure you completely understand how the grading works. I think there was something like, you lose points for wrong answers, you gain 0 points for not answering, and you gain points for correct answers. Something like that. So, in that particular case, guessing doesn’t really help. So there’s some strategy to the exam. Look into what the actual rules are for the current exam.
I’d say if you can maintain and A average in your AP class in general, though, you should at least be able to get a 3. Which, although it probably won’t eliminate any classes you have to take in college, you will start college with more credits, which will help you register for classes and reduce the amount of required electives you have to take (most likely; you should check with the schools you’re applying to just to make sure).
And hey. If you get an A in the class but not a 5 on the exam and thus have to retake the class in college for credit… You’re probably going to ace it. And getting good grades in college is arguably way more important than getting good grades in high school. So. Take it as you will.
Which APs did you take? How did you study for them?
I took AP Language and Composition, AP US History, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics. I could absolutely have taken AP Econ, AP Euro, AP Lit, etc. but I really didn’t need to… So I didn’t want to. Haha. Taking APs is great and impressive and all. But you don’t need to take all of them, necessarily.
As for how to study for each of those exams… That was a long time ago for me (I just finished my 4th year of college). So. I barely remember. I do have a post on AP Biology, though, which you can find here.
Also, check out the Subject Tags page on @studyblrsubjects. There are several AP classes on there and some general AP tips. (I think I need to update the tag list, but if you search the tags you might find more.)
One last comment, though, and something I think is really important that most people don’t realize… If your study sessions feel easy, you’re probably not getting much out of your study session. Really think about what you’re doing. Are you just memorizing material or are you actually learning it inside and out? Can you answer questions you haven’t been asked before or would you really be struggling? So challenge yourself. That is how you learn.