To help students prepare for the upcoming winter finals, Octagon staffers share tips and tricks for finals in subjects in which they’ve done well. The Octagon will be posting these how-to guides over the course of this and next week.Garrett Bio

Teacher Sue Nellis’s AP U.S. History final probably seems daunting, since it covers everything from pre-colonial exploration to the Reconstruction Era.

To make things more nerve wracking, the test is essentially a real AP exam (which are designed to be hard enough that a score around 70 percent will most likely earn a 5) modified to include only material you’ve covered so far.

The multiple-choice section is a step harder than what you’ve seen on your other tests, and you have to write a full Document-Based Question (DBQ) for the final instead of a regular essay.

Don’t be too concerned, though: the test is graded quite fairly.

The multiple choice is curved so that the highest score in the class becomes 100 percent (if the high score is 60/70 points, then the multiple choice would be worth 60 points for everyone).

The best strategy, therefore, is probably to sabotage the smartest students in your class—well, maybe not.

If some people do manage to get ridiculously high scores on the multiple choice, Nellis will curve it to the next-best score—last year’s curve was actually set so that the third-best score became 100 percent.

To study for the test, I primarily recommend reviewing the “People, Places and Things” Nellis hands out like any other test, reviewing them in whatever way works best for you. You could also go back and reread the textbook if you have the time, but that may not be worth the effort.

Also, I would recommend looking at some practice AP exams both to review and to get a feel for the types of questions you’ll be asked.

The multiple choice is similar to what you’re used to, but there are some different types of questions—the AP loves using political cartoons, for example.

And it’s important you have a good idea of how to write a DBQ, as that essay is as much about technique as history knowledge.

If you have an AP review book, use that to study. Otherwise, you can find sample tests online pretty easily. The College Board releases prior years’ tests along with sample essay responses that you can look at (which could be valuable if you have trouble writing DBQ’s).

Obviously, you can’t take a full practice test as you haven’t learned half the material. But you should still do most of the questions to get an idea of what to expect.

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