What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)
Francesca Jette
7 AP Guides

The Perfect Study Timeline for AP Exams

What’s Covered:


Even if your AP exams are still months away, early spring is a great time to start preparing for whatever tests you might be taking in May. By April, you’ve learned enough in your AP classes that you can study effectively for the exam, and it’s this kind of extra prep that will allow you to go into your test with confidence, and leave with a great score to send to colleges. It’s normal to be nervous, but you have plenty of time to study and prepare so that you’ll feel more than ready by the time the test comes. 


This year’s test schedule can be found on the AP Central website. Once you know when your test is, read on to find out what your next steps should be. 


March: Get Organized


March may seem too early to meaningfully prepare for a test you won’t take until May, but there are still some important steps you can take to set yourself up to succeed. The earlier you begin to prepare, the better, especially if you plan to take multiple exams, have a busy schedule, or are aiming for top scores. If any of this applies to you, March is the perfect time to start thinking more concretely about your AP exams.


Gather Your Study Materials


Your notes, textbooks, handouts, and assignments from your AP classes will all be crucial during your studying. March is a great time to collect past papers or exams, notebooks, or any other materials that may have gotten misplaced during the year. You may also want to check our AP Guides, which contain all kinds of helpful information that may help you prepare or get your materials in order. 


Take a Practice Exam


Beginning your studies with a practice exam helps you know exactly where you are and what you most need to work on. Once you have a benchmark, you can set realistic goals, and start game planning for how much dedicated study time you’ll need to reach them.


A practice exam can also provide you with an overview of your course—even if you’ve stayed on top of your studies all year, some of the material you covered at the very beginning of the year may have slipped your mind.


Start to Make a Study Plan


Using the materials you’ve gathered and the information from your practice test, you can start to make a study plan. For example, you might make a list of major topics, review bigger concepts and ideas, and identify which areas you feel confident in, ones that need some brushing up, and ones where you want to focus serious extra time. 


This study plan can be as precise or as vague as you’d like. You don’t have to write down exactly what topic you’ll cover on each day, or what materials you’ll use when, but even having a vague outline will help you stay on track when the time comes to really dig in and focus. 


Beginning of April: Identify Strengths and Weaknesses


April is when you should be focusing a bit more on AP exams. You may already have some studying under your belt, or you may just be starting out. Either way, there’s plenty to do to help ensure success in May. 


If you’re just starting out, look through the March suggestions to see if they may still be useful to you. If you’ve already completed these steps and are ready to step it up for the first few weeks of April, we have some tips below to guide your way. 


Prepare for the Writing (If Necessary)


Almost every AP exam has a writing component, even more technical exams like Psychology and Biology. Check to see if yours does or does not—most does not mean all, and you don’t want to waste time studying for a component your exam won’t have. 


Once you’ve ensured that your exam does have a writing section, it’s time to start practicing! Sample prompts are the best way to do this. Whenever you are practicing with a sample prompt, be sure to time yourself, to get used to being efficient and not making errors under time pressure. In addition, you’ll want to make sure that you are comfortable with the format of each writing section, and know how to write in the style that your specific exam is looking for. For example, you wouldn’t write a World History Document-Based Question essay in the same way you would write a Psychology essay.


Familiarize Yourself with the Exam Format


As mentioned above, tests can vary significantly from one to another. Make sure that you’re comfortable and familiar with the layout of your exam, whether it includes multiple choice, short answer, essay questions, or any combination of the three. You don’t want to be surprised on test day. 


Identify Focused Areas for Review


Everyone has areas where they shine, and areas where they struggle. Maybe there’s a specific time period on your World History exam that’s giving you trouble, or you’re forgetting to show your work on Calc problems. Remember, content recall isn’t the only thing that improves with practice. Your overall exam skills may need some extra attention in order to show your knowledge as best as possible on exam day. 


End of April: Focused Study


Now that you’ve spent a few weeks laying groundwork, it’s time to buckle down and get to work. Whether it’s practice problems, reviewing notes, watching videos, or working through exam review books, now is the time to make that study plan a reality and get to work. 


Targeted Review of Tricky Concepts


By now, you’re likely aware of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to this particular subject. Going over the content a few extra times may be helpful, but you should also consider switching up your study strategies if that doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe targeted practice questions, flashcards, or explaining the subject as thoroughly as possible, as if you’re teaching someone else, will prove helpful. Studying in a different way can help old, difficult material seem fresher and more doable. 


You might also reach out to your teacher, to ensure you aren’t misunderstanding a foundational concept that’s causing you bigger-picture issues.


Group Study


Classmates and friends will likely be studying for some of the same exams you are, so you should consider taking the opportunity to study together. Studying with others gives you the chance to talk through topics, practice teaching them to someone else, and hear others’ tips and tricks both for remembering content and mastering exam formats. Don’t underestimate your classmates and peers as a resource to help you be as prepared as possible for your test!


May: Crunch Time!


Well, it’s AP test time! All AP exams happen within the first two weeks in May, so the time for extensive studying is over. At this point, it’s just a matter of doing some last-minute concept review and making sure that you have everything you need for test day. Don’t try to overstudy at the last minute—trust in the preparation you’ve done so far, rather than risking confusing yourself by re-reviewing a concept you already understand.


Final Review


You don’t need to go into the nitty gritty details of each chapter. Just skim through each topic/concept and make sure that you know the main ideas, formulas, and basic strategies. Pay extra attention to areas you may have struggled with in the past. 


Take a Final Practice Exam


It’s incredibly rewarding to see how much more you know after taking that initial practice test, and how much you’ve improved your score as a result. Seeing your score jump on a final practice exam helps put many students’ minds at ease before test day.


Don’t Cram the Night Before


On the night before the exam, you pretty much know everything you’re going to know for the exam. Don’t bother with last-minute cramming. Instead, gather all of your testing materials and get a good night’s sleep. Countless neuroscience studies have showed that being well-rested is going to boost your performance more than reviewing your materials one last time, and plus, AP exams are long—you don’t want to find yourself nodding off halfway through!


Collect Your Testing Materials


AP exam testing facilities are fairly strict about what you can and cannot use during the exam. You will need both a Number 2 Pencil AND blue or black pens (no other color is permitted), an eraser, a government-issued ID, a calculator (if the exam you’re taking requires it), fresh batteries, and NO electronic devices. You can also bring a water bottle and a light snack to have during your breaks if you’d like. Having these things together before the morning of the exam will help put your mind at ease, eliminate the risk of scrambling the morning of your test, and ensure that you have what you need to succeed. 


Be Confident


You’ve spent months studying and preparing, and now is your chance to demonstrate all that knowledge. Eat a good breakfast, and go into your test ready and excited to show off all that you’ve learned! Having a calm, confident attitude will allow you to approach the test with a clear mind, ready to get the best score possible on your AP. 


The Impact of APs on Your Chances of Acceptance


While AP scores themselves don’t play a major role in the college admissions process, having AP classes on your transcript can be a crucial part of your application, especially at highly selective institutions. College admissions officers want to see that you enjoy challenging yourself intellectually, and that you’re capable of handling college-level coursework, and taking AP classes demonstrates both of those qualities.


If you’re wondering how your course rigor will stack up at the colleges you’re considering, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, which evaluates a variety of factors like grades, course rigor, extracurriculars, and standardized test scores to estimate your odds of being accepted at over 1,600 schools across the country. Our admissions calculator can also give you suggestions for how to boost your chances of acceptance—for example, by taking more AP classes in your junior or senior year.

Short Bio
After graduating from Wesleyan University, Francesca Jette is pursuing a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at George Washington University. She has been helping high school seniors with college essays for three years now.