General Tips for Taking the AP Exam

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  • 0:01 AP Exam
  • 1:42 What to Bring
  • 4:13 What Not to Bring
  • 5:19 Other Tips
  • 7:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Advanced Placement exams can save students time and money by granting them college credit through taking an exam. This lesson will give general tips for AP exams, including what to bring, what not to bring, and tactics for taking the exam.

AP Exam

Carly is a high school senior, and she's very excited to be going to college next year. She's worked really hard this year, especially in her Advanced Placement classes. But now, she's getting ready to take several AP exams, and she's really nervous. Advanced Placement, or AP, exams allow students to get college credit by taking a test. Usually, students take an AP class* at their high school to prepare for their test, but sometimes they prepare through tutoring or independent study.

No matter how a student prepares, AP exams test knowledge that a person would learn in a specific college class. For example, one of the AP tests that Carly will be taking is the AP World History exam, which tests the same kind of knowledge that she would learn if she took a college class in world history. Think of the AP exam kind of like a final exam in a college class, except Carly can take it without having to take the college class.

Knowing the content area is very important for success on AP exams. Whether it's world history, psychology, English literature, or another of the many AP exams, it's important for Carly, and students like her, to understand the subject. As we mentioned, taking a class or studying on your own or with a tutor can help with that.

But, what else should Carly know besides just the content? How can she be fully prepared for her AP exams? Let's look at some tips for taking AP exams, including what to bring and what not to bring on the day of the test, and other strategies to help.

What to Bring

It's the night before Carly's first AP exam and she's very stressed out! She's studied a lot, so she knows she's prepared. Now, she's getting ready for the next day: she's laying out her clothes so she doesn't have to think about it in the morning, and she's packing her backpack with everything she needs. But, what, exactly, does Carly need to bring with her?

The answer to that question varies somewhat from test to test. What she'll need for a physics test will be different from what she'll need for a French test. For example, on many of the AP math tests, like calculus and statistics, Carly will need to bring a graphing calculator with her. But calculators are not necessary (or allowed) on some exams, like macroeconomics. But there are some things that Carly will want to pack for each AP exam. They include:

  • Several pencils - She'll want more than one pencil, in case one of them breaks. She'll also want to make sure that all of her pencils are sharpened and have erasers. Mechanical pencils are not allowed on the AP exams, so Carly will want to bring non-mechanical, number 2 pencils only. And if she decides to bring a pencil sharpener with her, she'll want to make sure that it is a manual one, not battery-powered or plug-in.
  • Pens in dark blue or black ink - Most AP exams have some multiple choice questions, which must be answered with a pencil, and a free response or short answer section, which is usually filled out using a pen. Like pencils, Carly will want to bring several pens just in case one runs out of ink or there's a problem.
  • A watch to keep time - AP exams are timed, and cell phones or other electronic items are not allowed, so Carly will want to have a watch with her to keep track of how much time has passed and how much time is left over. However, watches that beep or have an alarm on them are not allowed, so the best bet is for Carly to bring an old-fashioned watch with hands that move around.
  • Finally, on AP exam day, Carly will need her school's code - If she's taking the test at her school, this will likely either already be on her exam booklet or will be given to her on the morning of the AP exam. But Carly has to take one of her exams at another school because it's not offered at her school. In that case, she'll need to bring her own school's code with her to fill in on her booklet.

What Not to Bring

Okay, so Carly is packing her bag, and she knows what she needs to bring to her AP exams. But, what about what she can't bring? What's not allowed at the AP exam?

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