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Three Things I Wish I Knew Before Taking My AP Exam

TASIS students in Florence

By Joy Mack ’21

#1: You learn the most in the classroom.

Yes, although that is undoubtedly one of the most clichéd phrases you can hear about school, for my course specifically, I and many other students do agree with it. For me, AP European History was one of the most interesting classes that I genuinely looked forward to every day because of how my amazing teacher, Mr. Kirsch, explained every new era or event. Without any sense of boredom, my classmates and I would sit at our desks and engage in the storytelling-like period that would so often intrigue us. This is where I believe my class and I learned the most amount of material. Even if history is not one of your favorite subjects, listening to and taking notes on these lectures truly helped me remember the material to the fullest extent, more so than any homework would.

#2: Class grades and AP scores do not correlate.

Advanced Placement LogoThis is a known fact throughout the AP community, but it is truly emphasized to every student after taking the test. Ideally, it would very nice if you automatically received a 5 on the AP exam for having an A in your class, but the sad reality is that that is just not how the system works, and whether or not your AP exam score is better or worse than your class grade, you must accept it. While I am still waiting for my AP score to be released, I’m sure many along with myself have realistic expectations for our scores that don’t correlate to our class grade, and it is wise to not get our hopes up in any way.

Also, earning an A in your class does not mean you do not have to study for the AP exam, as there are many things everyone has to review and work on. So it’s important to study for the sake of remembering an event or person you may have forgotten about, as the course does spread through two semesters.

#3: There will be one or two things you will not understand on the exam, and that’s okay.

In a perfect world, every student who takes this exam would walk out feeling completely at peace with their answers and their test. But, for the majority of students, this is not the case, and after weeks of torturous contemplating on why I didn’t understand one or two questions, I realized that it was genuinely going to be all right.

We will always have that one question that haunts us until we see our scores, and that will always tie into tests such as an AP exam because of the pressure we feel to do well. But what no one bothers to tell us before the test is that getting a bad score on it or receiving a score you did not expect is not the end of the world. We, as high school students, have so much stress about college, social lives, and parental pressure—amongst many other things—that we end up holding ourselves back as we continuously blame ourselves for being so “stupid.” For many high school students, this AP exam will be one of many, and, to put it into perspective, we will not necessarily remember that one question that we just did not understand on the AP European History Exam 30 years from now. So, as a reminder, once you complete the test and walk out of that exam room, try to recognize the weight that’s been lifted off your shoulders rather than focusing on the more negative parts of your test.

Of course, these are just a few of many different pieces of advice I could’ve written about, but I genuinely believe that they would’ve helped me prepare mentally and academically for this exam. As the school year comes to a close, I would like to congratulate everyone who has either completed their exams or is still waiting to receive their scores. Good luck to all!

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