How to self-study for this year’s altered AP exams

PHOTO: Resources used in past years, like AP study books, are still helpful for reviewing for this year’s AP exams.

By Allyson Kang, Editor–

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the College Board has modified AP exams so students can take an online test from home. According to an update on April 3, most of this year’s AP exams will be in the format of one or two open-book, free response questions. Students will need to log on 30 minutes before the start of a 45-minute-long exam, with an additional five minutes given afterwards for uploading answers. 

Knowing at-home tests come with added security risks, the College Board announced that they will allow students to use digital or physical personal notes, classroom resources and previous assignments.

“We designed this year’s AP Exams knowing you have access to your notes and resources, so the exam questions will ask you to apply concepts from your notes and resources in new ways. […] Points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online,” College Board said.

In order to do well on the exam, students need to continue studying as before. Here are a few tips on how to study for this year’s updated AP exams: 

Review with study books and College Board’s AP videos 

The breadth of material covered on the AP exams has been shortened to account for students whose school closures’ have cut their education short. While this means certain chapters in study books like Barron’s or Princeton Review will not be on the test, the books still serve as resources for necessary review.

“You should prepare for an open book/open note exam just as you would a traditional AP Exam,” College Board said.

In response, students have decided to continue studying through materials they already have in their possession. “I also bought the AP test books so I’ll probably just do those,” junior Amanda Kwok said.

College Board has also set up free, live AP classes that can be found on its Youtube channel. 

Right now, posted videos cover important topics usually taught past early March. These topics will not be on the AP exam. Later videos throughout April will review concepts from the first three-fourths of each course. 

For a full schedule of live classes, click here

Complete assignments on MyAP

As the exam format has been severely modified, one of the most important studying resources is College Board’s AP Classroom. 

Teachers for non-portfolio subjects can use AP Classroom to ask topic questions, assign personal progress checks and create new quizzes with the question bank. They will also have the opportunity to unlock updated practice free response questions that will follow this year’s new format.

AP U. S. History teacher Michael Kanna has quickly adjusted to the AP exam format change and announced that he will prepare new practices. 

According to a loopmail to his class, “we will [be] back in school virtually on April 13. At that time, we will do a series of [free response questions] that will be timed and go into turnitin.” 

Many other Davis High AP teachers, including AP Chemistry teacher David Van Muyden and AP Biology teacher Timothy Peevyhouse, have also released new assignments on College Board’s AP Classroom for students to utilize during the break in school.

Prepare organized notes and review College Board guidelines

Because this year’s AP exams will allow students to use notes, it is especially important for students to fully prepare their testing materials beforehand.

Before May, dedicate time to prepare well-organized, easily-navigable notes to use on the test. For science or math tests, note commonly used formulas. For history tests, note key terms or set up a timeline. 

If you are using the Internet to add to your notes, be sure to double check sources. It is also better to research before the test and use your own understanding to respond to a free response question.

As a list of College Board open-note tips read, “the more time you spend looking for information, the less time you’ll have to use it in writing your answer.” 

Finally, continue to check College Board’s guidelines for what is allowed and not allowed on the test. Violating exam security can result in consequences from canceled scores to notifications to colleges where students have sent or will send College Board scores to.

Additional information about navigating new AP exams online will be released on the College Board website throughout April.

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