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How to Balance AP Test Prep With Your Other Schoolwork

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Taking AP classes can make it feel like you're balancing two full course loads at once. This blog post offers tips for how to handle your AP test prep on top of all of your other school work.

Balancing Act

High school these days can mean a lot of pressure, and all the more so if you're taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses. However, these courses are very much worth the effort, not only for their ability to boost your GPA and help prepare you for college-level academic rigor, but also because they can help you save money on university tuition by earning you dual high school and college credit. If you want to optimize your chances of succeeding on your AP tests but are struggling with a pile of AP test prep on top of your other schoolwork, these suggestions are for you.

AP test prep books

Determine Your AP Priorities

Any time you have a lot of conflicting demands in your life, the first thing you need to do is develop a strong understanding of your priorities. When it comes to balancing a lot of schoolwork, you'll want to prioritize which courses you're going to give more of your time, focus, and energy to. We recommend putting the most emphasis on the classes you need in order to graduate from high school and/or get into the college of your dreams. If you're taking multiple AP courses, prioritize those that will be the most useful to you in the future. If, for example, you're taking AP Calculus and know that, for a fact, you want to take as few math classes as possible in college, you'll want to put a lot of effort toward passing your AP Calc test.

A high school student struggling to balance AP test prep with other schoolwork

Use the Pomodoro System

A great way to tackle a large workload is to structure the time you spend working - and not working - because, yes, break time is just as important for your brain's ability to function as study time. We recommend trying the Pomodoro method, or your own variation of it, which breaks up 25-minute work periods with short (3-5 minute) and long (15-30 minute) breaks.

The key to this approach is that, during your work periods, you work - and only work. That's right, you'll have to avoid checking your social media accounts, texting, and seeing what's new on Netflix. Do absolutely nothing during that time but study and whatever else you want to during your breaks. You may find yourself getting a lot more done than usual.

Find Your Study Groove

If you're in high school and taking AP courses, you've probably done a lot of studying in your life. Do you study differently for each test, or type of test? Or have you tried honing in on the study method that's most effective for you? We highly recommend working toward the latter.

Find the study strategy that works best for you and use it for each one of your classes, taking advantage of the inherent ability of routine to function as a heuristic process that can save you time. For example, you might prep for each test by:

  • Studying your notes.
  • Turning the notes into flashcards.
  • Drilling using the flashcards.
  • Doing practice problems.

The study approach itself is up to you. However, if you can find the one that produces the most successful results, you can save time by fitting each new test into the same study template.

A student takes an AP test

Use Your Phone

One of the best ways to fit a lot of studying into your day is to identify any unexpected pockets of time during which you can get some review time out of the way. For example, you can study during your lunch break at school, in line at Starbucks, or on the bus ride home. And, no, we're not suggesting that you carry your heavy AP test prep textbooks with you on all of your errands. Instead, just use your phone! The proliferation of academic study apps available in mobile app stores should make it a breeze.

Talk to Your Teachers

Finally, we want to mention that you shouldn't overstudy yourself into a permanent stress migraine. If you find that your workload is just too intense for you, know that teachers can, indeed, be sympathetic. They might be able to give you a break on any upcoming deadlines for your non-AP classes during the crucial AP testing period. It never hurts to ask.

For trusted AP test prep resources, check out Study.com's content library of thousands of courses.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
January 2019

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