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History and Social Science
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Study Skills and Test-Taking Tips

History & Social Science
The following strategies for answering the free-response questions were developed by faculty consultants to help you on exam day:

  • Answering essay questions generally requires a good deal of training and practice. Students too often begin to write immediately, creating a string of disconnected, poorly planned thoughts. You need to learn to attack questions methodically and to plan your answers before putting pencil to paper.
  • Carefully analyze the question, thinking through what is being asked, and identify the elements that must be addressed in the response. Others require you to consider all the similarities between people or events, and then to think of all the ways they are different.
  • After you have determined what is involved in answering the question, consider what evidence you can incorporate into your response. Review the evidence you learned during the year that relates to the question and then decide how it fits into the analysis. Does it demonstrate a similarity or difference? Does it argue for or against the generalization that is being addressed?
  • Whenever you offer evidence to illustrate contrast or similarity, clearly state your intent. Then, with additional information or analysis, elaborate on the ways in which these pieces of evidence are similar or different. If there is evidence that refutes a statement, explain why it argues against the statement. Your answer should reflect an understanding of the subtleties of the questions.
  • Begin writing only after you have thought through the evidence you plan to use, and have determined what your thesis statement will be. Once you have done this, you will be in a position to answer the question analytically instead of in a rambling narrative. You will also know whether you are going to argue on a side that supports or refutes the statement, and whether similarities outweigh the differences.
  • Learn how to present your thesis statement: describe your overarching framework and then position your supporting evidence so that it is obviously directed to the question—not just a string of abstract generalizations. State your points as clearly as possible, not leaving it to the reader to infer what is meant or how something illustrates a point.
  • If you have done the analytical work required prior to writing, you should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of the question. You should be able to state your thesis, introduce the elements that support the thesis, and demonstrate the logic that led you to link the elements in support of the thesis. By applying these ideas you will construct an excellent essay.
  • While essay writing in general is a valuable exercise, you may wish to work specifically on free-response questions from previous AP Examinations. This will allow you to compare your own responses with those that have already been scored and evaluated by faculty consultants. Free-response questions are available through the Advanced Placement Program® in numerous formats.

 Math & Science
The following strategies were developed by faculty consultants to help you on exam day:

  • Before beginning to solve the free-response questions, it is a good idea to read them all to determine which ones you feel most prepared to answer. You can then proceed to solve the questions in a sequence that will allow you to perform your best.
  • In the exam booklet there is an insert that contains the same questions without the blank answer spaces. This can be removed from the booklet and used for reference. No credit is given for anything written on the insert; be sure to write your answers and do all your work for each problem in the pages provided in the answer booklet.
  • Show all your work; partial credit is given for partial solutions to problems. If the answer is not correct, you are not likely to receive credit for correct thinking if the person scoring the examination does not see evidence of this process on paper. If you do work that you think is incorrect, simply put an "X" through it, instead of spending time erasing it completely.
  • Organize your answers as clearly and neatly as possible, showing the steps you took to reach your solution. If the faculty consultants cannot easily follow your reasoning, you are less likely to receive credit for it.
  • Many free-response questions are divided into parts such as a, b, c, and d, with each part calling for a different response. Credit for each part is awarded independently, so you should attempt to solve each part. For example, you may receive no credit for your answer to Part a, but still receive full credit for Part b, c, or d. If the answer to a later part of a question depends on the answer to an earlier part, you may still be able to receive full credit for the later part, even if that earlier answer is wrong.
  • It is not necessary to simplify all numerical expressions or to carry out all numerical calculations. You will generally receive most, if not full, credit for answers that contain expressions like sin 40° or ln 2, or that contain symbols for irrational numbers.
  • It is important to pay attention to units for quantities that have them. If you keep track of units as you do calculations, it can help you express your answers in terms of the proper units. It is possible to lose points if the units are wrong or are missing from the answer.
  • You should not use the "scattershot" approach: i.e., write a bunch of equations hoping that the correct one will be among them so that you can get partial credit. In such cases, faculty consultants may well deduct points for the extraneous or incorrect information.

World Languages and Cultures

In today's global community, competence in more than one language is an essential part of communication and cultural understanding. Your study of another language not only provides you with the ability to express thoughts and ideas but also gives you access to perspectives and knowledge that are only available through the language and culture. Advanced language learning offers social, cultural, academic, and workplace benefits that will serve you throughout your life.

Developing Your Communication Skills

As you develop language proficiency, you learn to use your language skills within the three modes of communication.

Interpersonal Communication

Take every opportunity to use the language as much as you can. Participate actively in class discussions, get to know exchange students and other advanced students of the language, or connect with students from around the world using technology. Don't worry about making mistakes, just use the language. If you find yourself struggling to remember a word, think about another way of expressing your idea.
In this mode of communication, you'll need to be able to ask and answer a variety of questions, exchange information and ideas, and state and support your opinions. You'll also need to interact appropriately in formal and informal situations.

Interpretive Communication

You should read, listen to and watch a variety of materials from countries where the language you are studying is spoken. Explore your personal interests and find podcasts, web sites, and videos that are especially interesting. Learn about current events by watching the news or reading online newspapers and magazines. For enjoyment, watch movies or cartoons, read stories, or listen to music. The important thing is you are using your language skills—and learning something about the places where the language is spoken.
In this mode of communication, you'll need to be able to understand main ideas and some details, recognize purpose and points of view, and think about perspectives different from your own. You don't have to understand every word to be successful.

Presentational Communication

Being able to present your ideas in an organized way to various audiences is an important aspect of communication. Presentational Communication includes telling a story, making a speech, writing an essay or movie review, and making a presentation to your classmates or members of the community. No matter what the situation, you'll need to prepare your thoughts and ideas in an organized fashion to reach your audience effectively.
In this mode of communication, you'll need to be able to organize your presentation around a main idea and develop it in a logical fashion with relevant details and support. Depending on the goals of your presentation, you'll need to be able to narrate, explain, compare, or
persuade.

Languages and Cultures