As test day gets closer, make the most of the time you have. Although you'd ideally be reading this on a calm day months before the test, chances are you're getting close to crunch time. Here's how to profitably spend the precious time you have.
Say you have only a month to go before the exam. Now more than ever, paying attention to your schedule and timing determines your success. Here are a few basic tips to get you started:
- Stick with the AP History review your teacher has planned for you. Ask your teachers for copies of previous AP test questions.
- Work your way through this book like you do your school review — a little each day.
- Plan a time to study that you can stick to. A lot of brainy people spend a little time studying at night before bed and a little time reviewing first thing in the morning. This study technique lets you sleep on the information and double-check it in the morning with a clear mind.
At some time during this month, the age-old dilemma of "Study or a movie?" will arise. Before you jump in the car, remember that you're on a mission for college credit. You can save a whole college course by getting a good score on the AP — a college course that would otherwise have cost you and your dear parents a few hundred (or possibly thousands of) dollars. And just think about how much better it'll be to party later with advanced credit (and money) under your belt. Meanwhile, do something you like that goes well with studying. Perhaps you can take a refreshing run in the park and/or treat yourself with some double-good premium ice cream. Then get back to work.
The following sections show you how to prepare for the AP exam so completely that the actual exam will come as naturally as opening a candy bar in the dark.
A study strategy
You can make preparing for the AP exam as fun and easy as possible by turbocharging your study time with the best techniques.
How much should you study? That depends; how smart are you? Despite what you've heard, smart doesn't mean good, brave, or even successful in the world. Henry Ford was weak on facts and no good at theory, but he built an industrial empire. You have some facts to remember to get through the big test, but they should be facts that you know how to use — not just rote memory pop-ups.
The following list presents some tips to help you set up your studying schedule and strategies you can use to maximize your strengths (and your grade):
- There are different kinds of smart. Some people (call them Copy Machines) can photocopy facts in their head. Some folks don't remember facts as well, but they can write essays like Shakespeare could write sonnets. You have the kind of intelligence that you were born with, but you also can build up performance through exercise — just like muscles at the gym. On the AP exam, you'll need to be both a Copy Machine and a Shakespeare, so you need to study based on your strengths. If you're good on multiple-choice, your Copy Machine is running strong. If you're shaky on essays, you want to work on your inner Shakespeare.
- Study enough to know the themes and topics (outlined in the earlier section "Important themes and topics on the test"). An hour a day is reasonable for the AP U.S. History exam — more if you have a thick head for facts and less if you can already ace through the tests in Part IV of this book.
- Studying should never be just reading; it should be work with a marker in your hand. Take notes in this book. If you can't write in your school textbooks, mark key passages with sticky notes. Remember: Highlight only the most important parts; if you use the highlighter to turn the whole book yellow, you're just coloring, not studying.
- Make lists of key events and themes and write out their definitions and years (perhaps on notecards). Always quiz yourself. What was the first state to permanently allow women to vote? (Wyoming in 1869.) Who was the guy who took over after Lincoln? (Andrew Johnson in 1865.) What year did the Constitution take effect? (1789.) What was the big deal about the Second Great Awakening? (It renewed personal salvation and linked churches to social reform — 1800 to 1830s.)
- Use the best programs and apps to practice for the test.
Another way to prepare for the AP exam is to figure out what historical periods or facts tend to stump you. To do that, take one of the tests in Part IV of this book. Time yourself and stick to the schedule you'll have to follow on test day. How many multiple-choice questions did you get right? Were you a little foggy about a certain time period? How did the essays come out? Ask somebody you trust who's wise in the ways of history to score them, using the criteria in Chapters 4 and 5. Need more experience writing these short but loaded factual stories? Practice until writing them becomes easier.
Don't get too stressed if you didn't do well the first time through a practice test. That's why you call them practice. Use the knowledge you just gained to focus your study efforts on the areas you had the most difficulty with.