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The Ursuline Chronicle

How to Survive the Worst Two Weeks of the Year

Celina Ceballos, Senior Editor

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Maybe you have an AP under your belt; maybe you have not yet taken one…. Either way, the advice below can help you prepare for these grueling weeks. Book mark these tips for next year, ladies.

The auditorium is stripped of its rows of black chairs and becomes a terrifying array of a large white tables with one or two chairs placed facing forward waiting to be filled with nervous students on the day of their doom. Number 2 pencils are sharpened, calculator batteries are changed, drying pens are replaced with crisp new ones filled with ink. Welcome to the week of AP exams.


AP may stand for Advanced Placement for some, but in my mind it should mean Added Pressure. This is how I feel during those dreaded first two weeks of May–stressed, anxious, exhausted, and defeated. These exams have challenged me more than any other type of exam, even more than the SAT and ACT in my opinion. They will be hard, they will be long, they will give you a headache for the rest of the day, they will push you to the breaking point, but for my scared freshmen sisters in APHUG never fear, for there is always hope. As someone who has been through this before, I would like to give some of my advice to you all who were brave enough to sign up for a class with those despicable two letters in front of the name.


  1. This is not your doom. Okay, I may have said that earlier, but that was only for dramatic effect. In all seriousness, this is not the end of the world, no end-all-be-all test of your academic capabilities. Do not make yourself into a huge wreck about these exams. As a wise teacher once said, it is only a few hours during one day of your life. The important thing is that you learned something from those many hours spent sitting in the classroom listening to your teacher or in the library deciphering the meaning of your textbook. The exam does matter, but it does not define you. As another wise teacher once said, you are not a number!
  2. Eat a good breakfast, get a good night’s sleep, and bring a watch! We hear this all the time as the standard preparation for a test, but it truly does help so much. You want your mind to be as rested and fresh as it can be on a day when you have to answer many multiple choice, free-response, and/or essay questions. I would also recommend bringing a snack for the break time to refuel that big organ inside your head for the next part of the exam. And by the way, the clock is behind you in the auditorium, so bring a watch (that doesn’t make noise) with you on the day of the exam! You do not want to be turning your head back to see what time it is every two minutes. It is necessary to pace yourself and know how much time you have used and have left. The worst thing is to run out of time when you could have answered more questions or checked your work!
  3. Take a study day. Whether you do it at home or at school (I recommend at school), take it and use it to your advantage! Come to school and chat about the material with your friends. Ask each other questions. Draw a chart or diagram on the whiteboard. Do a few practice exams. This is not the day to be studying the material, however. In other words, please do not cram! This should be a day to review, ask your teacher any final questions, and be in a nice relaxing environment to prepare for the exam.  
  4. Get a study book ASAP! You should have one by now, but if not get up and make a run to Barnes and Noble. They are not too bad price wise and they are very helpful. Do the practice exams in them and read through the review material that they provide. 5 Steps to a 5 or Barens are the best in my opinion. Although they are not made by the people who make the tests, they usually have a pretty good idea of what the test will be on, and provide another way to interact with the material besides your textbook and Ms. Churay’s PowerPoint.
  5. Do your best! That is all anybody can ask of you, and that is all you can do. Taking the course alone shows a tremendous amount of courage, let alone the exam. You are almost there! You can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Do not give up now!


In terms of specific exams, here is more advice I can provide for you:


APHUG: Ah yes the wonderful AP for my freshmen sisters. This was one of my favorite classes I took at UA. Please do not forget the Core-Periphery Model or the Demographic Transition Model. They are the keys to success. Of course there is a whole lot more you have to remember, but just take a deep breath and you will be okay! No matter what, remember the importance of industrialization and globalization!

AP Euro: Such brave Sophomores. This was the hardest AP history in my opinion. The day before the exam a few friends and I took over Room 5 and drew a giant chart on the whiteboard with all of the different time periods, listing the important issues and themes that occurred in each one. I believe our categories were religion, social, economic, political, war-related, revolutionary ideas, and maybe more and we went through each era and described what was happening in terms of these categories for each. I know, we went a little crazy, but it was incredibly helpful, especially if any of you are visual learners. However, do not try to take over Mr. Frazier’s room because he will not appreciate it. At least if you do, do not tell him it was me who gave you the idea. In all seriousness, make some chart somewhere if you can, or at least review the major eras and important themes in them. No matter what, remember your wars and your isms!!!

AP US: Mrs. McKinstry is right: mama bird is not around the first two weeks of May! It is up to you to know our nation’s history on your own! As someone who took this class with only two other people, it was definitely an interesting AP. Definitely be able to trace the progress of women and African Americans throughout US history, never forgetting the names Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and more. And don’t forget America’s early history because it can be easy to leave behind as you reach present day at the end of the year, but it is definitely covered on the exam. No matter what, in your essays, please please please remember to use your context and synthesis!!!  

AP Lang: The class that taught me to write, and so much more. Please go to study group because I can personally and officially confirm that it does help! (No, Ms. Waldron did not pay me to write this) When going through the multiple choice, take your time, but not too much time, because I almost ran out of it last year. Underline, circle, draw arrows, or do whatever you do to mark what is important in each passage. In terms of the argument, don’t try to be too fancy with it but also try to impress the reader. You want to be able to convince somebody that what you’re saying is true. Watch or read the news the day before the exam! In terms of the rhetorical analysis, again mark what is important and use it to your advantage. Do not forget about the author’s purpose, the tone, or SOAPS. In terms of the synthesis, do not take the road less travelled (pun intended) because it is just not worth it. Argue what is the most supported in the sources, unless you feel extremely passionate or think you can be Robert Frost the day of the exam. No matter what, use your ethos, logos, and pathos, and don’t be wrong!

AP Physics 1: Good luck to you. I think you should get a 5 just for making it to May. Seriously though, just do as many practice problems as you can, draw things out on the exam with pictures and free body diagrams, make sure the calculator has batteries, and try your best to understand the concepts (watch videos, explain it to a friend, etc.). No matter what, master Projectile Motion!


As for AP Bio, AP Environmental, AP Spanish, and AP Calc AB, if you need some advice for next year, see me after May 12th, if I am still alive!


Good luck to us all, and may the odds be ever in our favor as we do our best, fill in all of the bubbles, write beautiful essays and free-responses, and make our teachers, our parents, and ourselves proud!


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The Ursuline Chronicle:The student news magazine of Ursuline Academy
How to Survive the Worst Two Weeks of the Year