Tips From an Orange County AP Tutor: Reasons to take a Practice Test before taking the AP Exam

Although nearly every student of the SAT and ACT will take multiple practice exams, many AP students don’t take a full-length practice exam in its entirety until the real test in May. There are several reasons students fail to take a practice test for any given AP subject.


For example, they feel they have gotten enough help from their classroom teacher at school, they are already exhausted from taking multiple SAT or ACT practice exams, or it’s their first Advanced Placement experience. However, failure to take at least one full-length practice test leaves students in a bad spot when it comes time for the real exam – need further help on you AP exam? Book your Orange County private AP tutor today.

Reason #1 – Get a realistic view of your score

Many students don’t understand the grading process for AP or how much each section counts for. The only way a student can truly find out what their expected score will be is to sit down and take a full length test. So many students feel confident they will get a 4 or 5, but come home with a 2 or a 1, neither of which counts towards college credit. However, students who take a practice test in advance have time to work with their tutor on their test prep skills (READ: “AP Exams and the DBQ: How to Improve”).

Reason #2- Get used to sitting for a very, very long time

Students in AP classes, especially those taking their first AP, forget how long the actual test it is. Of course, students who have already taken the SAT will have some idea of what it’s like to sit for extended periods, however, it’s a good idea to think about issues such as mental fatigue, back and hip pain, and other issues associated with taking long standardized tests in one sitting.

Reason #3- General test prep

Students who are taking their first AP exam are probably not familiar with test prep techniques. A big portion of the multiple-choice exam is basically learning about these techniques. If terms like ‘process of elimination’, ‘going with your gut’, ‘looking for evidence’, and ‘choosing the best option’ are not intimately familiar, the student is in need of more practice. A private tutor can sit down with the AP student and explain why certain answer choices are there to confuse them and why and how to eliminate these answer choices. This can make a big difference on test day and can also help prepare AP students for the all-important SAT and ACT exams later on (CLICK: “AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms”).

Reason #4- Each AP classroom experience is different

Each AP class will be a little different. Although teachers have a certain syllabus and rubric they are required to follow, every educator has a different teaching style. Some will focus on the essay while others may work on test prep techniques. Some will be easy graders and others may be exceedingly strict. The issue with this is that the AP test is standardized, meaning it will be the same throughout the country. On the real test there’s no room for leniency, different grading styles, or anything other than the standard rubric for the AP exam.

Reason #5- One chance and only one chance

Students taking the SAT and ACT often have to take it two or three times. This has become fairly normal and takes quite a bit of pressure off of students who don’t do that well on the exam the first time around. In fact, students who happen to have an ‘off’ day when they take the SAT simply never show that particular score to colleges they are applying to and no real harm is done. However, there is one chance and only one chance to take the AP exams. Students who are unprepared will have to find a way to get it together for the exam or risk losing a full year of college level study (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Grades and AP Class”).

Bottom line

Choosing to take an AP class and exam is a big responsibility. Although many students don’t want to spend multiple hours sitting down to take a full length AP practice exam, they’re advised to remember that if they don’t score at least a 3 on the exam they will lose their college credit option. This means that they may have traded those few hours one day in high school for an entire semester of Math or English 101. At the end of the day a practice test is totally worth it.

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