Review for the AP Exam

Part of our challenging profession is to determine what teaching strategies to use for our classes.  There is no one best way to review for the AP Exam. What you choose to do depends on your school community and expectations, whether your students have experience with AP tests, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Popular Strategies to Review for the AP Exam

  • Practice Exams
  • Review Sessions
  • Mock Exam
  • Quizlet Live and Kahoot
  • Big Study Cards
  • Math Review
  • FRQ Practice
  • FRQ Writing Strategies
  • Review Sites such as Albert IO
  • Review books such as Barrons, 5 Steps to a 5, or Princeton Review
  • Chalk Drawings to Review Processes

    Acid rain chalk drawing

I do not give content review sessions anymore. I used to, but the longer I taught, the less students showed up…and my pass rate increased. So apparently, the kids didn’t show up, because they felt they didn’t need the review…and they were right! I became more strategic in my lessons as the years progressed and organically incorporated review and strategies throughout the year.

I recommend focusing on SKILLS during class time and tell the kids that they need to review knowledge at home. That’s the easy stuff. I give a 6 week study plan for them to review content at home. The AP Exam is mainly higher level thinking. Talk to the kids about this.

Make sure the kids know the AP science practices
“Remember” and “Understand” are lower level thinking . The AP Exam is mainly “Apply”, “Analyze” and “Evaluate”

Sample Schedule to Review for the AP Exam

I allow about 2 weeks of class time to review. Here is a typical schedule that focuses mainly on skills.

  1. Start with a released multiple choice exams with a diagnostic worksheet. I use either the 2003 or 2008 exam along with a diagnostic guide I made for the chapters in my textbook (Withgott). Kids can see what their current score would be on the AP Exam, how much they need to study and what specifically to study in the next couple of weeks.
  2. Math review problems. This is often homework if I don’t have enough class time. Click for what they need to know about math.
  3. Geography review. Many released exams have a world map with questions about events, plate tectonics or biomes and kids need to know some basic geography.
  4. Another practice exam and diagnostic. I like the “Practice Exam” found in the audit site. This one is difficult so the kids have experience with a harder exam.
  5. Review the 2016 released exam. I use questions from this exam in my chapter exams so the kids have seen many of the questions before. We spend about 30 looking at the exam and the length of the questions so kids can see how the exam has changed to have longer reading problems. The amount of pages can be overwhelming too since some problems take an entire page. Kids need to physically get their hands on it to feel it.
  6. Experimental design review. I give a lesson on ways to strategize multiple choice questions and FRQs with experimental design.
  7. Quizlet Live with mainly vocab questions.  Warning: I have to adamantly warn the kids that they will NOT pass the AP exam by knowing all the vocab. They must be able to apply the vocab in complicated questions.
  8. FRQ strategies lesson. I copy a set of the 4 questions from one year (2015, for example) and show the kids what Question 1, 2,3 and 4 look like. The students write all over the document with strategies for each question.
  9.  Review. I use Withgott’s online companion site for online quizzes.  They have a lot of “coaching” assignments in which kids drag and drop, sort processes in order (like eutrophication) and critically think through issues. These assignments are extra credit and done at home.

Final Exam Before the AP Exam

I give my final exam before the AP exam.  I give a released exam-multiple choice only. 50 questions in 45 minutes for two days in a row. My kids are good at FRQs by this point and I have too many students to grade all of them so I don’t give FRQs for my final exam.

The next school day, students get to see a Zipgrade printout of their final exam and fill out another diagnostic guide. They can use the remaining couple of days to cram if they need to.  Many students see they are on a borderline score and if they study a little more, they may get to a passing score…or go from a projected 4 to a 5!

Example of a Zipgrade printout along with an exam for students to analyze their mistakes.

Giving the final exam before the AP Exam is beneficial for several reasons

  • EVERYONE in class reviews-even those not taking the AP Exam.
  • Many students will ironically study HARDER for their final exam than the AP exam.
  • Kids are really burned out after the two weeks of AP Exams and giving them a final exam at that time is cruel.
  • They can study really hard and get both out of the way.
  • Gives the kids a fairly accurate prediction of their AP Score so they cram if needed so as not to waste the cost of the AP Exam.

Good Luck!



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