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(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

By Mae Mastin, Joliet West

With multiple AP classes in my schedule this year and the PSAT (and the ACT and SAT) right around the corner, I’m finding test prep resources more valuable than ever. I use them as review for AP unit quizzes and exams and as a way to keep myself on track for studying for the big AP exams in May. Last year, I started looking at what review methods worked best for me, and this year, I’m pretty happy with my system!

When should you start reviewing?

Last year, I did a lot of reviewing and studying for AP testing during second semester. Personally, I think it’s helpful to wait until the new year to look at first semester material (I tend to need constant cumulative review to best retain information, and it helps to take the first half of the year to master that information). However, to cut down on my review time second semester, I’ve been trying to review as I go. Although I’ll still have to look at everything again before the AP tests, feeling more confident in the material going into my review will help me get through it more quickly.  

What test prep books should you use? 

I’ve used a couple of different test prep brands to help me review for past AP classes. Here are my favorites:

Barron’s: Barron’s is a comprehensive but concise system, and it works really well for me when I need a quick review of a whole unit. Their practice questions tend to be very “AP-style” and great indicators of how well I’ve mastered a topic.

Princeton Review: I’ve found Princeton Review to be very detailed, which is super helpful during the year to make sure I’m getting all of the information I need! They have great explanations—this is my go-to for when I need something explained a different way. Also, they have amazing graphics (in the form of charts and graphs and tables and images…they help a ton)!   

5 Steps to a 5 (500 Questions to Know by Test Day): Extra multiple choice practice is always good, and every 500 Questions to Know by Test Day that I’ve seen has had great AP-style questions. My AP Human Geography teacher used these for review, and I felt much more confident on every test and eventually on the AP exam than if I hadn’t had that practice. Before AP exams in May, I use the book to go through by unit and do every question to determine where I need the most practice.

Kaplan: I’ve heard great things about Kaplan, although I’ve never used them for AP review. This year, I’m using their book and their online PSAT Prep Live to review for the PSAT, and I’m really liking it! I’ll use them again for ACT and SAT prep when the PSAT is over.      

What other methods are available?

I use Crash Course a lot—it’s excellent for AP classes. The lessons are fun and interesting, and I love having them in video format, which allows me to multitask a little bit.

I also like Albert.io, which was formerly Learnerator. It’s another way to get practice questions in, and it’s great for doing on my phone when I’m on the go.

Finally, Khan Academy has awesome reviews for every topic. Some are in video format and some aren’t, which makes them helpful for all situations, and I like their practice questions a lot. I’m using them for PSAT prep now and will use them again for the ACT and SAT.  

How far in advance do you start studying for big tests? What test prep methods do you use? Please comment!  

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