Educators want to prepare students for all aspects of life, including secondary education. Advanced Placement classes and exams can further students’ knowledge and skills for college-level courses. AP exams are held every spring for thousands of students across the country. It is beneficial for students to do well on the exams as they can receive college-level credit at different colleges and universities. However, students can only receive credit if they take the exams and score high enough. Therefore, educating students on the importance of positive outcomes on their AP courses and exams is essential. Research has shown that students who take AP courses and exams are much more likely than their peers to complete a college degree on time. Additionally, it can build students’ academic profiles and save money. Exam preparation is recommended, and providing students with the necessary resources benefits them in the long run. Utilize the best practices below to help empower your students’ success on AP exams. 

Prepare Students for Free Response Questions 

The importance of preparation for Free Response Questions (FRQs) on AP exams must be recognized. FRQs are a pivotal part of students’ AP exams (worth nearly 55% of the exam grade) and being prepared for them can lead to an increased score and knowledge of the topic. Almost all AP classes contain FRQs, except AP 2-D Art and Design, AP 3-D Art and Design, AP Drawing, AP Research, and AP Computer Science. All other AP courses require FRQs, which can be difficult if students aren’t prepared. Educators can help prepare students by providing access to past and common FRQs. Viewing past FRQs gives students a sense of what to expect from the test and may better prepare them for the multiple-choice section. Allowing students to see the layout of an FRQ will enable them to understand time management during the exam and the variety of points given per section. 

In-Class Strategy: Educators can effectively implement knowledge of FRQs by utilizing them as an entry question to kick off the few minutes of class, allowing for a deeper understanding of the curriculum. Using FRQs as an entry/exit ticket enables a view of the student’s learning and provides students with an opportunity for feedback before the exam.  

Outline a Study Plan for Students

Encouraging students to create a study plan aligned to key course topics that you outline allows less stress and more learning. Creating a schedule a few weeks before the exam leads to less procrastination and higher scores on AP exams. The College Board recommends studying 15-30 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week for a few months to help students to prepare for the exams. Reviewing in small chunks allows students to process information gradually, resulting in higher scores on AP exams than students who procrastinated and crammed before. 

As exams approach, it’s beneficial for students to give their brains a break; in fact, research shows that taking a break can help with memory on the big day. Relaxing the night before and the morning of the exam gives students time to decompress and clear their minds, further decreasing their stress levels before the exam. Additionally, encouraging students to go to bed early, stay hydrated, minimize caffeine, and eat a good breakfast is a great way to ensure that students are physically prepared for the exam. 

In-Class Strategy: Provide students with an outline of course topics covered and align to chapters covered throughout class to provide them guidance on creating a personalized study plan. You can take this a step further by creating a study calendar and printing it off to give them an easy way to remember to study, as well as a visual checklist.

Review Key Study Methods  

As educators, preparing students for AP exam content is essential to help them succeed. Reviewing previous content, using or creating study guides and making timelines are all helpful ways to provide students with relevant content for the exam. Most AP exams consist of multiple-choice sections and FRQs. Providing students with a study guide containing multiple-choice questions and FRQs gives them a sense of what the test will look like on exam day. 

Making timelines is also a helpful review method for students in history-centered classes. Creating a timeline with important events can help students remember the chronological order of events. It allows students who learn better visually to see the events physically lined out in front of them. 

Another beneficial study method is sorting knowledge into three “buckets”: what the students know, what they somewhat know, and what they don’t know. This method shows students what they need to focus on studying and what they already understand. This helps with time distribution, as many students won’t need to review what they already know compared to other categories. Students can focus their time on what they need to learn and somewhat know until they feel confident in all areas of the content. After all, knowledge of content present in AP exams is the key to success. 

In-Class Strategy: Provide students criteria to add to a shared study sheet. An example may be to create 10 answers for questions they can’t currently answer, then research them and add them to a study guide. This method ensures active learning while compiling a frequently used study guide. 

Provide AP Exam Study Resources  

It’s imperative to provide students with easy access to study resources; if they’re too hard to find, many students will quit before they’ve started. Kuder’s partnership with Peterson’s Test Prep tools offers students on-demand resources to prepare for AP Exams. Resources include practice tests, which are a quick and easy resource for preparing students for exams along with study guides. Kuder offers AP exam materials for Sciences, Math & Computer Science, English, History & Social Science, and World Languages and Cultures. The practice assessments contain multiple-choice sections and unlimited retakes so students can study as often as possible. For students who learn better through audio or visual, the College Board can be a great choice. This non-profit organization creates standardized tests and has daily videos from professors for students to watch in their given AP courses. 

In-Class Strategy: Utilize a question a day from the AP practice tests as an entry or exit ticket for students in class to introduce them early and often to the types of questions to be asked on the exam!

Outline the Importance of Setting Goals 

Encouraging students to set goals gives them ownership and helps them to take more responsibility for progress towards them. Students are most likely to succeed when they have control and accountability over their learning. Setting aside time for students to create reasonable and attainable goals seems like a small step, but it can change their progress and scores. It’s highly beneficial for students to evaluate their knowledge and estimate their ability to complete the exam, and these skills will prepare them for secondary and post-secondary lives. The ability to create goals sets students up for success in all aspects of their lives. Setting goals alongside creating a study plan gives enormous resources to the student. Creating a goal with time constraints that is positive and attainable gives students something to strive for, then physically writing or speaking the goal puts it out into the world that they’re going to do it. 

In-Class Strategy: At the beginning of the semester, ask students to submit three goals for what they’ll gain from taking your course and what they hope to achieve through their learning. At the end of the semester, provide their submissions back to them and ask them to reflect on their progress and what one piece of advice they would share with the next class would be to set them up for success. Share those responses each semester!


Study Plan Calendar  

April-May Study Plan Calendar 

Goal Setting Strategies  


About the Author

Lily Fleming is a current high school student who is actively exploring her career interests in marketing and communications via her district’s School-to-Work program. This opportunity has led Lily to becoming a highly valued marketing intern at Kuder, Inc., where she is able to expand her skillset and uncover new areas of the marketing industry that have piqued her curiosity.