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  • Writer's pictureCathy Keller

You don't take a break 100 yards from the finish line!

An AP or IB class is definitely a marathon. You spend a year perfecting skills, mastering content, figuring out what the heck the College Board and I.B. are looking for on great exams.

It's a long haul.

Your teachers get that and have seen students deal with it in various ways. Some organize an amazing review schedule months in advance and start going over old content early on. Some decide they'll pull an all nighter before the exam and drag themselves exhausted but wired on caffeine into the exam.

Which student do you think is showing up on exam day ready to do their best?

The runner is you. The finish line is your AP and IB Exams! Dig deep.

I know you're tired. I know you may already know where you're going to college, and you may already have a full ride to your dream school. You still want the credits! Or you may be a sophomore just trying to figure it all out and try to survive the exam. Either way, you're going to perform much better on test day if you enter the exam confident and well prepared.

Sure a power pose might help pump you up, but a power pose on shaky ground is useless.

It's crunch time, people. The marathon of the advanced class is coming to an end. You can SEE the finish line (the exam) and the after party (summer break.) Now is not the time to stop for a quick nap. Now is the time to kick it into gear and find out what you're made of deep down. You've got some reserves. Now let's muscle through and finish strong!

So what to do if you haven't started reviewing at all?

Step 1: Examine your mindset.

  • Why are you taking the exam? To please parents? To get into college? To earn college credits and save tuition money? To flex with your friends?

  • You're going to be more motivated if you're in it for YOU. Take a walk and think about what you get out of it. Take some pride in wanting to show how much you've learned. Be confident but humble enough to realize you can't remember everything you did in September.

  • Even if you have a full ride to your dream school, wouldn't you rather take a fun class in your major than retake this AP/IB class for a general credit? College is amazing. Be ready to squeeze the most out of it.

Step 2: Figure out what you need to review.

  • There are lots of practice tests available in subjects. Even if your teacher isn't able to assign a whole one, carve out the time to do one yourself.

  • This will help you recognize content where you struggle, and you can use a score calculator like THIS to figure out how you're doing.

  • If you're NOT where you want to be, it's time to figure out how to achieve your goal.

Step 3: Know what you'll be asked to do

  • You need to have some familiarity with the structure of the exam and how it will be assessed. The last thing you want to do is to waste precious exam time reading directions.

  • KNOW YOUR RUBRIC! The AP exam essay rubrics are very much like a checklist. You need to know you need to do to earn that check. The IB Exam rubrics are a little more subjective, but you need to break them apart and figure out what they're asking for if you've never looked at them. There are some key points that can move you up into the markbands.

Step 4: Create a study plan and stick to it!

  • Now that you've figure out where you're weak, try to devote a little more time to those weaknesses, but still review topics you think you know well.

  • Start by looking at the course outlines and breakdown your studying so that you give equal time to each unit on the exam, though you might give a little extra to the units you did earlier.

  • You want content to be quick and easily accessible in your brain so that if you're nervous during the exam, it's easier to retrieve.

  • This allows you to focus on analysis and deep thinking (which is how you get top marks!) instead of spending all of your energy on trying to remember "that one guy's name who did the thing to make the stuff all, you know, change...the thing?" <- This will not score well on any exam.

Step 5: Put in the work

  • Sorry. No way around this.

  • Review your notes! A lot. Rewrite some of them if you think they're cluttered. The reorganization can really help the info sink in. Make a "cheat sheet" of key information for each unit on the exam for quick reviews.

  • Make a Quizlet. It doesn't help nearly as much to study somebody else's quizlet. You remember by doing. Regular notecards work great too, if you're more tactile. Adding doodles to your notecards can help with retrieving information because you'll remember the image. Barons has a nice set of flashcards on a lot of topics. If I were going to use pre-made ones like this, I would annotate the heck out of them.

  • Watch review videos on your topic. Crash Course is a great place to start, and there are great teachers out there who have done review videos on most topics. These can really help you to figure out some deeper analysis, memorize content and they're funny enough to help trigger your memory.

  • Study groups are a great way to keep yourself accountable, IF you know your group is productive. Choose wisely. You want people who are motivated, knowledgeable and responsible. It's ok to say no to people who you think will distract you, even if they're friends.

Step 6: Consult a professional!

  • If you don't know where to start, talk to your teacher or tutor. They should be able to give you a pretty good idea of where you're weak and might have suggestions about breaking down the material. Experts can't help you if you don't ask!

  • Sometimes your teacher isn't enough, I know. There are only a few of us and a lot of you. Jump Ahead Tutoring can connect you with an AP or IB teacher to work with you one-on-one in almost any subject. They will be content experts who have marked the exams and can help you review whatever you need!

We help students across the country with online tutoring services! Fill that blank screen with an expert!

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