By Lauren Song

Are you sick of the word “AP”? Having trouble distinguishing between mitosis and meiosis; the Seven Years’ War and the War of 1812; horizontal asymptotes and vertical asymptotes? No problem, guys. I gotcha covered. In five (no, sorry–six) simple steps, I’ll show you how you can stop yourself from burning out–and still pass the AP exam with relative ease! 

Step One: Take Detailed Notes During Class!

  • You know, you’ll make your life a lot easier if you’ll just study in class. Everything’s at your advantage here: your teacher’s in front of you, you can ask questions. So by studying, I mean take some good notes, y’all.
  • Buy a couple packs of multi-colored, thick and thin-pointed highlighters (I recommend Sharpie highlighters), get yourself some cute notebooks (Size B-4 or 5, and lined) and at least two good-quality ballpoint pens. 
  • I try to use pens rather than pencils to take notes. It looks neater and it’s much easier to read. Also, never scribble on a word if you mess up; use Wite-Out. 
  • Label the tops of your notes. For example, if I’m in AP Biology, my heading will look something like this:
    • Subject (i.e. AP Biology: Mitosis vs. Meiosis)
    • Date (very important!)
    • Name of Instructor

Here’s an example of my notes:

*Important Note* 

  • I know most of y’all use your Chromebooks or whatnot to take notes. That’s never worked well for me; information sticks better in my brain when taking pen-and-paper notes. 
  • But it’s totally up to you. If you do choose to use electronic notes, I recommend using Google Docs. (You get cute fonts and awesome colors, so that’s a plus.)

Here’s a sample of what my Google Docs notes looked like:

Okay, so now we’ve cleared up  how to take notes. Let’s move on. *evil chuckle*

Step Two: Take Breaks

  • Please listen to me. (I’m begging on my knees here.)  Even if you don’t get anything else from this article, just remember this step. Taking breaks is essential. This is the key to not burning out.
  • I try to get up and move around every two–three hours. (Hey, this is an improvement; before, I’d sit around for six to seven hours without getting up. This, unfortunately, resulted in a bone spur forming on my spine, and very painful hips. Yes, there were days when I couldn’t walk, as a result.)  
  • Distinguish between your breaks and your study time. When you study for one–two hours, study. Don’t surf the Internet (unless for research), don’t check your Instagram feed (I deleted all my social media accounts, and I strongly suggest you do the same), and don’t pet your cat. 
  • When you take a break for 20-30 minutes, relax. Don’t worry about anything else. Grab a snack (I recommend nuts or fruit; they keep you satiated for a while. If you’re in dire stress, go for chocolate.) 
  • If you tend to study on a laptop, close it during your breaks. Your eyes will give. (Okay, okay, another example. At one point, my eyes began to develop styes. My left eye couldn’t focus for a while because I stared at my screen so much.) Read a book or go play a game with your siblings. (If you don’t have siblings, now’s the time to pet your cat. If you don’t have a pet, I’m really sorry. I have no other ideas.) 

Step Three: Don’t Cram

  • Study diligently throughout the year (by taking awesome notes, of course). There are a lot of cool resources you can employ if you are struggling in an AP class (i.e. YouTube, AP study sites, online AP tutors). Purchases study guides. I recommend The Princeton Review study books. Very comprehensive, thorough stuff, y’all. 
  • I’ll be honest–the last two months before the AP exam will be grueling. Here’s what I mean. 
  1. sleepless nights, 
  2. sudden affinity for caffeine-filled chocolate chips, 
  3. glazed-over eyeballs, 
  4. sincere apathy for life,
  5.  painful cold sores,
  6.  stress-related stomach pain, 
  7. non-existent social life,
  8. couple of extra pounds that’ll take a while to shed,
  9. tire-sized-snakes-chasing-you-through-the-Amazon-jungle nightmares (yep, that was an actual nightmare for me.)

My point? You don’t want to add to your stress by studying things you have absolutely no understanding about. 

Step Four: You Are Ready

  • Look, the fact that you even made it to the end of this article shows that you are made of hardcore AP material. I’m proud of you. If you took careful notice of the above steps and put it into action, you’ll ace your exams. No problem. 
  • Remember, you’ll probably be hyperventilating the night before the tests (at least, I was. If you’re not the kind of person to stress over tests, more power to you), so the best thing to do is get to bed early. Don’t text anyone, don’t eat a super heavy meal.  Try to sleep in a room without distractions. Trust me, sleep does wonders.
  • If you’re still having anxiety (like I did), open your notes and briefly–BRIEFLY–scan through them again before falling asleep. Unfortunately, it won’t actually do anything for you, but it’ll definitely put your mind to rest. After you get up, eat a good, light meal and do some breathing exercises.

Here’s an exercise I did: 

  1. Lie down flat on your back.
  2. Inhale deeply for 10 seconds; hold it for 5.
  3. Exhale slowly for 10 seconds.
  4. Don’t think about the exams.
  5. Repeat as many times as necessary. Yes, you will actually calm down. 

Step Five: Trust God!!

  • Guys, you are powerless without God’s help. You can try to do the above steps in your own power, but it will not work. Trust me, I’ve tried….and failed. *Reflective silence* 
  • Get someone to pray with you consistently before you ever take the exam. Commit yourself to the Lord; remember, only He can see your exam results! He will definitely reward you according to how hard you worked.
  • Remember that your AP exams are worth the pain. Just wait till you apply for college!
  • Just remind yourself to prioritize your relationship with God. He’ll take care of the rest. Psalm 37:6 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”