Written By Sims Yun | Director of Academic Services and Tutoring
Sometime between my AP Calculus class and my AP Calculus test, I had a panic attack. I knew I hadn’t actually learned anything from that class–truthfully, I had been coasting all year. I definitely wasn’t interested in finding “best practices” in studying in high school (whatever that means), but I still managed to pass the test with a 4, relying on some cramming techniques I had perfected since middle school. Not bad for having slept through almost every class. If I could go back and coach myself knowing what I know now, though, here is how I would have handled it.
Preparing to study…
Winter is coming. Yes, studying requires preparation. Make sure you have water, pencils, erasers, a calculator (if applicable), and an old-fashioned timer. You will want to be in a quiet space, without your phone or with your phone turned off. Keep a copy of the official formula sheet with you–this will help you figure out which formulas, if any, you still need to memorize and which ones you can just look up during the test.
The Pomodoro Technique: Set your timer to 25 minutes. Once those 25 minutes are up, you can take a 5 minute break. Rinse. Repeat.
Do a TON of high quality practice problems. You can find copies of past Free Response Questions here: https://www. collegeboard.org. Make sure that you are reviewing your mistakes, and not just looking through the solutions. There are four basic checkpoints you want to cover on these tests:
1. Vocabulary: What is a standard deviation? Are you remembering those weird Greek symbols and what they stand for?
2. Concepts: Would you know how to find the integral of a function if given a graph?
3. Formulas: Memorize these or know where they are on the reference sheet.
4. Calculator: this is your bff on the test.
Resting (yes… I said REST)
I know everyone tells you to relax before the test. Before you do, make sure that you are packed and that your calculator is charged. You want to get good quality sleep, starting AT LEAST 2 days prior to your test.
Yes, you want to study hard when you are studying, but remember that all you are doing at that point is inputting information into your brain. Your brain actually processes this information during sleep, so you aren’t doing yourself any favors by pulling all-nighters with the Red Bulls, Coffee and Highballs. Plus, you are more likely to make stupid mistakes during the test itself (that’s a terrible feeling… don’t put yourself through that).
THE DAY OF THE TEST
The version of you that’s going into the test isn’t you. It’s the best possible version of you. You have the the cunning of Tyrion, the ruthlessness of Joffrey and the raw ambition of Daenerys, MOTHER OF DRAGONS. That knife move that Arya did on the Night King? That’s you on every single question.
In the wise words of Jon Snow, “Stick em’ with the pointy end.”