Saturday, May 7, 2011

Well, It Sounds Like a Good Enough Answer, but I've Marked "C" Four Times Already...

When gazing out into the distance in a studying-induced haze yesterday, I realized something: Hey, I can actally READ again! After having ritually sacrificed a part of my soul and sanity on the altar of college preparation yesterday, I realized that after 3 hours of filling in bubbles and scratching out a couple of essays, AP US History testing was finally done with! Relishing my renewed freedom from practice tests and reference books, I discovered that my bookshelf was no longer bound from me.

(However, instead of immediately running into the now-open pages, my Dad took the Cheerleader out of school early, and the three of us celebrated with mall food court Chinese and an afternoon viewing of Thor). :)

The thing is, though, that my mind still was hooked on AP knowledge. I really wish I had done better. Don't get me wrong, I know I did pretty okay, to at least a passing grade level. However, I also know that there was plenty I could have done beforehand to get an even BETTER score. Everyone agreed afterwards that they wished they had commenced with the "freak-out studying" earlier, and it was only the ones with the best prep books and study habits that survived with their self value intact. Here are some bits of advice for future AP students - slightly obvious, but none the less true.

1. You need to ignore your friends. Obviously not completely, as in, make sure you're still on speaking terms by the end of it, but, for the most part, ignore their study habits and feelings about the test. Most of my crew didn't study hardcore until the week before, and attempts any earlier than that were roundly ridiculed. Study as much as you think you need to, regardless of criticism. Also, ignore the school-wide mythology that surrounds the test: that "one guy with a photographic memory who read the entire textbook the night before the test and got a perfect score" does not exist.

2. Cover material again after your teacher goes over it, and pay EXTRA attention to the material that they DON'T. My friend may have shown up for the test dressed exclusively in red, white, and blue, but certainly even the AP US History gods couldn't help her when confronted with a subject we never even covered in class. The point of AP testing is to gauge your mastery of the material. Therefore, master ALL of the material.

3. Realize that the test won't be as serious as you think it will be. It's fun, and don't forget it. Of course, the test ITSELF won't be fun, but the comradery you experience as a group will be. For instance, my friends organized study groups during lunch, after school, even in the middle of particularly useless classes, and we came away with not only a deeper understanding of the material, but a lot of hilarious inside jokes ("Was he the fat one?"). When we all opened our essay booklets, and an audible terror swept across the room, it was followed by a louder round of giggles, as we realized that, yes, we were sunk, but the rest of the crew would be going down, too. It's a bonding experience, so make the most out of it.

When it comes to the books, the prep I used was Fast Track to a 5: AP US History, as a companion to our school textbook. It was relatively well organized, and was extremely condensed. The things I appreciated about it the most were the AP Tip Sections sprinkled throughout, telling where information may come up on the test, and where to use it to your best advantage, as well as the focus points of the time period that were highlighted at the beginning of every chapter. Another great prep book was 5 Steps to a 5: AP US History, which two of my friends used. That one had a particularly useful glossary in the back, with the names and info of important phrases, occasions, and people.

So, now that I'm done with APUSH, and I'm totally prepared for the AP Eng test on Wednesday, I have plenty of time to get geared up for the ACT and SAT in June. :) And Finals, of course.

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