With all the uncertainty in the world these days, it can be difficult to know where to focus your time and energy. If you’re taking AP classes, it might be tempting to see AP exams as far off and studying for them as a challenge to tackle in the Spring. However, there are a multitude of reasons why scoring well on your APs can be extremely useful later on, so starting to study early is key.
On one hand, the AP exams are formulaic. No matter which test you’re preparing for, there are a limited range of question types that the College Board draws from when writing the exams.
This means that any AP humanities exam can be mastered.
The College Board tells you exactly what to study, publishes the scoring rubric, and has a library of past tests available for practice.
However, the allotted time for essay writing practice in class is generally not enough to master the essay format and analytical skills required to ensure a 5 on the actual exam. You need to know the rubric by heart, be comfortable writing under timed conditions, and most importantly: you must be certain that what you are writing will be sufficient to earn points when an official reader grades your work. Ample feedback and critique, as well as essay workshopping and editing, is critical for mastering any AP exam—and the time your teacher has to work with you on improving your writing is likely too limited, especially if you’re struggling.
Generally, it takes about 10-20 practice essays for each question type to master the necessary skills.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that some AP exams feature three or more essay questions. This means you may need to write 30-60 practice essays before you are ready to ace the exam.
Of course, it is possible to do this work in the month before the exam. But if you’re studying for multiple APs, have other end-of-year projects, or are starting to feel fatigue, this might not be plausible.
If you begin practicing for the AP exams now, you’ll still need to write and workshop the same number of practice essays, but you’ll be able to do perhaps one per week rather than one per night. This will significantly reduce the stress of studying and make it a much less daunting task.
You will not regret working hard to study for an AP exam.
Whether your success on AP exams gets you college credit or not, the improvement AP humanities exams will bring to your writing and arguing is unparalleled. Even beyond success in college, being able to craft a quality argument and back it up with thoughtful analysis is a life skill from which everyone can benefit.
It is worth becoming familiar with rubrics, starting to look at practice prompts from past years, and practicing writing AP essays sooner rather than later.
If you’re looking for feedback, critique, or essay workshopping—which we highly recommend to really solidify your AP testing confidence—ESM mentors are trained in most AP subjects and happy to assist.