The Octagon will be running Q&A’s with students taking AP exams over the course of the next two weeks, May 4-15. AP exams, which are more than three hours long, are graded on a scale of 1-5 (5 is the highest.) Exams include a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. Senior Emma William took the AP Biology, AP Physics: Mechanics, and AP Physics: Electricity and Magnetism exams on Monday, May 11.
Q: Have you ever had more than one AP exam on the same day?
A: I’ve never had it before. (Senior Erin Reddy) was the only other one who had.
Q: What was the worst part?
A: There were two really awful things about it. Usually when you have one AP per day you can really study for that test the night before. When you have more than one, you have to equally divide your time or focus on one. On the weekend I found it hard to cover all the topics just because there was so much.
Also it was hard during the test. Not really during bio because it was the first one. During physics, especially, I would want it to be over. There was always another section. It was very tiring.
There wasn’t any time between tests to prepare for the new subject, so it was all stuff that I’d been learning over the weekend rather than from recent memory.
Q: What advice would you give for students who have to take multiple AP exams on the same day?
A: Start studying way earlier than I did. I did studying in class and things, but I didn’t really start studying outside of school until the weekend before. It made it hard to cover all the subjects because there was just so much.
It also helps to kind of make a list of priorities because it’s so hard to cover everything. You really have to decide which AP you most care about, which one you really want a 5 on versus other ones you are okay with getting a 3 or a 4 on.
I decided AP biology would be my 5 because I felt like I could do well on it. And then on AP Physics: Mechanics I thought I could get a 4. (I didn’t actually get a 4). On Electricity and Magnetism I felt like I could get a 3. I didn’t.
Q: How did you feel about the AP Biology test?
A: It went really well. I was really surprised because I spent a lot of time learning the different terms and memorizing a bunch of things, but most of the questions, both in the multiple-choice and the essay sections, were on big-picture ideas. So there was a lot of stuff on evolution and how organisms interact – a lot of stuff you can kind of think through, which was nice because I didn’t really study immunity or plants. It was helpful to have big-picture stuff. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of memorizing terms.
Q: How did the Mechanics test go?
A: Not too well. The multiple-choice section was really hard. I didn’t really finish it. I got all the way through, but there were a few questions I left blank and just went in and filled them in at the end. There were some problems that I felt like if I had more time on, I would have been able to do much better.
I spent too much time on questions that I had to figure out, so it took me like an extra five minutes.
It’s really a matter of managing your time. The free response was better. There was one question where I knew how to do every step of it. And the other problems I felt like I could do half of them, so I probably got some partial credit.
Q: What about the Electricity and Magnetism test?
A: Uh, that was not good. Unlike the Mechanics, both the sections were really hard. I could actually finish the multiple choice though. I didn’t have to like straight out fill in random bubbles on as many questions. On almost every question I was able to eliminate at least one answer.
There were a few questions that I actually knew what to do, and I felt really good about that.
I’d say the multiple-choice section was much more doable than on Mechanics, just because I wasn’t as rushed for time. There wasn’t as much time spent just typing things into my calculator.
What annoyed me about both tests was that the reference sheets are in the front, and that costs like five seconds per problem. I found it really frustrating because I had to keep going back and forth.
Q: What advice would you give to AP Biology students next year?
A: Don’t worry too much about the details. I got those Barron’s flashcards with the terms, and I got really stressed out going through them. There were like 500, and I got through 200 of them.
There were things I had no idea what they were, and I felt like I had to learn these things before the exam. I just couldn’t learn all that material. It’s easy to get lost in all of the details, but it seems that what they care most about is how everything interacts and works together.
I think it would be more helpful, instead of getting flashcards and doing all those things, to just flip through the book and refresh your memory.
I also watched a lot of YouTube videos—Bozeman science videos on YouTube. They have an AP Biology playlist. I found that really helpful because it related everything to each other. And in each video there would be something like “How does this relate to natural selection or how does this relate to the community as a whole?”
(AP Biology teacher Kellie Whited) gives out this review packet that has a summary of each topic with diagrams and stuff, and it’s like a centimeter thick and it’s a lot of information.
If you went through that packet just the night before, you would be able to get a 3 or higher on the exam.
Q: Any advice for the physics students?
A: Do your homework on time so you don’t hold the class back. Focus on doing practice problems rather than conceptually studying things. I did a lot of reviewing my notes and making sure I understood it. Everything on the exam was just like solve a problem. A lot of it is being quick about it, too, and you can do that by doing more practice problems. For the free response I think it’s helpful to look through as many free-response questions as you can. I got through about half of the packets that he handed out. I felt like if I had even just looked at the answer keys for the other ones, it would have helped
I felt like I had the capability to do everything on the test. It was more a question of did I remember enough to do it, and did I have the time to do it? It was all something that I had, at some point in the past, felt confident about.
I finished the Electricity and Magnetism free response 10-15 minutes early because I had gotten to the point where I just didn’t know how to do anything. (The proctor) gave the 10-minute warning, and I was just sitting there feeling depressed about life. He gave the two-minute warning, and I was like I should just look through this. I realized there was another page of questions. I had just assumed the questions ended.