AP Exam Experience: What to Expect on Your First Test Day


What is the AP exam?

Advanced Placement or AP exams are an essential component of a student’s study abroad journey. Students who are willing to go the extra mile and deal with college-level curriculum whilst in high school to gain advanced college credits from US universities. Students have to plan well ahead to excel in these exams. It’s not all about hard work though; it’s also about smart work. A student needs to be well versed with the content and the strategies required to answer each question type so that he can achieve a Perfect 5! You can enroll in an AP Course to better your performance.

Why create a study plan for the AP exam?

Creating a study plan well in advance is crucial to the success of this journey. In high school, a student has to juggle various academic and extracurricular activities. Hence, multitasking and prioritizing are two important skills that need to be developed. AP subject content can be quite comprehensive and if not started well before time, students may get overwhelmed. Starting early and preparing in short spells will ensure that the content is covered and completed well in advance before the test date, leaving enough time for full-length timed practice. We need to also bear in mind that most students take up multiple AP subjects which magnifies the importance of prioritization. AP Classroom is one such source for AP preparation that contains instructional resources for all the AP exam subjects.

How to control AP exam anxiety?

As the AP exam day approaches, most students get gripped by anxiety. That’s natural because firstly they know how important a part these exam scores may play in the overall admission process in fulfilling their aspiration. Secondly, the time constraints on each AP exam present a different challenge. No matter how much you practice, that test-day anxiety will remain. So the chief mantra is: make peace with yourselves – IT’s JUST ANOTHER TEST! REMEMBER THAT THESE SCORES ARE NOT THE ONLY PARAMETERS THAT DEFINE YOU. The whole application process involves various components that need to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to help achieve the desired outcome. So let’s look at what kind of mental journey and activity journey should a student undertake a week before the test day.

What to do the week before the AP exam?

A week before the AP exam day you should be ready to focus on overall content revision. By this time, you would have taken several full-length mock tests and figured out your areas of strengths and weaknesses. This would be a good time to further hone your areas of strength while quickly practicing a few AP-level questions in the weaker areas. This would also be a good time to finalize your pacing during the actual AP exam – which topic questions to deal with first in less than average time so that the harder questions can be left for later and dealt with more time on average. Once this plan has been finalized, it’s time to put this plan into action through a full-length mock test four days before the actual test day. Based on the outcome of this test, you will have to stick to this plan or tweak it slightly. At this stage, a major overhaul would not be advisable.

As the AP exam approaches

AP exam

Three days before the AP exam it’s important to de-clutter and focus. Revision of all concepts and glimpsing past questions and papers would be a good way to remember the variety of questions one could expect on exam day. Another common challenge students face as exam day draws nearer is mental fatigue. This could hurt the performance on the test day. Hence it’s important to tone down the intensity two or three days before the exam. What hasn’t been achieved in months before the actual exam cannot be achieved in the remaining two or three days. Hence it’s important to back your instincts and keep yourself relaxed. Two days before the exam a student should go over the recent mock tests he or she has taken and get into a deeper analysis of the mistakes made. An error log comes in very handy in such circumstances wherein a student would be doubly aware of often repeated mistakes and would be wary of not making the same mistakes again.

Now we move into the night before AP exam day! If you really wish to revise any concepts or browse some tests just to keep reminding yourself of certain aspects, feel free. Else take a complete break and relieve yourself of all worries. Focus more on ensuring that your exam day kit is arranged meticulously. Pencils, pens, erasers, sharpeners, an analog watch, calculator, ID card, 6-digit school code, test accommodations (if applicable) – everything should be in place and packed for exam day. The College Board website has a comprehensive list of permitted and non-permitted items at the test center. Make sure to go through that list. Plan your journey to the test center the next day so that you reach it well ahead of the stipulated time. Relax yourself with your favorite hobby the night before and most importantly, sleep early and sleep well.

What to do on the D-Day?

You finally wake up to D-day! Be confident of your own ability. You have taken on an arduous journey and you should feel proud of it. Have a substantial breakfast and leave for the test center as planned. Once you arrive at the test center, instead of loitering around, check in early and mentally prepare yourself by getting into the test center ambiance. You will start feeling better and will be eager to get the test started and done with.

During the AP exam, stay focused and think clearly. Avoid any kind of distractions. If you feel your confidence is flagging, remind yourself of how well you have prepared and ask a few questions about your areas of expertise to boost your confidence. You have taken similar exams before – you know the format, the question types, and the time constraints. If something really goes wrong such as incorrect bubbling in your bubble sheet for multiple choice questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the proctor who can definitely sort the issue out for you without wasting time. Take breaks if you absolutely need to.
Once the AP exam is over, take some time out to appreciate yourself for the effort. We are too often too critical of ourselves and judge ourselves only on the basis of the outcome. But what needs to be appreciated here is the effort you have put in.

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Can I bring a snack to the test center?

Snacks or bottled water are not allowed into the test room, unless it’s part of the test day accommodation, as prescribed by College Board. You can have a quick snack or a drink of water during the break between the two sections.

Can I bring my own scratch paper on the test day?

Students are not allowed to carry their own scratch paper into the test room.

Can I wear a watch during the AP exam?

 Students are allowed to wear an analog watch, as long as the watch does not beep or sound an alarm. Smartwatches are not allowed.

Where do I get the admission ticket for the AP exams?

Students do not require an admission ticket in order to enter the in-person AP exam testing facilities. However, a valid photo ID proof must be carried without which entry will be prohibited.

What if I get late in reaching the test center and the exam has already started? Will I be allowed inside?

As per the College Board’s regulations, students will not be permitted to enter the test room if the exam has already started. There are no exceptions to this rule. Later arrivals will be deemed as ‘no shows’ and there will be no fee refund or rescheduling facility available.

What if I am unwell and cannot attend on the exam day?

In such an unforeseen circumstance, please email the College Board immediately. There is a 24-hour window to request a make-up exam. For illness, a doctor’s note will be required.

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