Last Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The College Board states that AP classes aid high schoolers in “achieving their college dreams” by allowing them to stand out on their college applications, earn credits, and gain the skills necessary for students to succeed in their college careers. And with 2.7 million students sharpening their #2 pencils for AP tests every May as the College Board reported in 2017, the importance of AP classes and testing can’t be denied.
However, even the benefits of AP classes can’t change one thing: May sucks.
The month of May is easily the most stressful part of any student’s year; it’s the end of school, there are projects you totally forgot about until right now, grades that are right there, and final exams just around the corner. For AP students, May also means taking a test—maybe even several tests—you’ve prepared all year for. The added pressure to perform well on these exams can cause a lot of stress. So if you’re feeling particularly burned out by the AP exams this year, here are some tips to handle that stress.
Related: Tips for Surviving AP Classes
Go to sleep
I know, I know—getting more sleep is the most clichéd advice. But that’s for a good reason. Sleep is a natural stress reducer. SleepScore Labs asserts that sleep “calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making.” They also say that sleep makes it easier for you to handle stress. So make sure you’re getting your full eight hours before exams.
Make a plan
Letting stressful thoughts run around in your head only creates more stress. Instead of fretting over all you need to do, come up with a concise plan to prepare for exams. Break it down in a way that works for you—do you want to plan by the week, day, or objective? And after you create your map to success, stick with it instead of leaving it all until the day before your test(s). If you need help crafting your study plan, check out this schedule created by U.S. News & World Report.
Related: Upgrade Your Study Habits
Make time for yourself
Overloading yourself with practice tests and study groups isn’t the solution to alleviating AP exam stress. No matter how prepared you are or how precise your study plan is, you need to take care of yourself. Balance study time with self-care time. Get your nails done, take a bath, play some basketball—whatever self-care means to you, make sure it happens during May.
People who meditate often get a bad rap: you’re a tree-hugger, a hippie, or a monk. But in reality, you don’t need to be any of these things to meditate. Meditation is a great way to hit pause on stressful thoughts and gives you an opportunity to take a breath. Before AP exams, make time in your day to sit down and unwind with some breathing exercises or guided meditation. If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, Headspace offers a good beginner’s guide.
Don’t focus on the score
Everyone wants a 5; it’s the highest score on any AP exam and looks amazing on your college applications. However, in the days leading up to the exams, it’s important not to prioritize getting a perfect grade. Instead of being set in receiving a 5, make your goal to feel prepared and satisfied in how you perform the day of the exam.
The AP exams will always cause stress. But by getting yourself to bed, creating a study plan, carving out time for self-care, meditating, and redefining your goals, you can enter AP testing calm and prepared.
Need more studying advice? Check out our Test Prep section.