By Emma Bowen
AP tests are here and along with that, the nerves and stress that accompany them.
Mrs. Joyce Hannula, one of the AP psychology teachers at Bozeman High School, witnesses every year the ups and downs that come from AP courses. While Hannula says she would “definitely” recommend taking an AP class, she asserts that the pressure to load up a schedule with AP courses makes not only for a hectic schedule but creates more pressure in the class for the student.
“If you want to challenge yourself, then AP classes are a good thing,” says Hannula.
AP, or Advanced Placement, classes are taken by high schoolers all across the country to achieve college credit and get a faster-paced and more enriched curriculum.
Yet AP courses can cause a high level of stress for students. Hannula says that, as a whole, AP students appear to be subject to some of the toughest pressure in the school.
“There is so much pressure on us to prove ourselves in terms of grades and I think that many of us become really anxious,” explains Hannula.
This anxiety is most commonly known as test anxiety; and according to the TestEdge National Demonstration Study it afflicts at least 61 percent of high school students – 26 percent of them report being completely handicapped by test anxiety.
Having been in the midst of the AP frenzy for many years, Hannula tells her students to work on putting the class in perspective.
“This is a small piece of your life and it is not your whole life,” she explains, adding that getting a B or a C is “not a terrible thing.”
But for those who still feel the immense pressure of impending AP tests, Hannula gave valuable insight into the best ways to deal with test anxiety and prepare yourself for taking an AP course. Here are her tips:
Studying: If there is one thing Hannula would never recommend, it’s cramming.
“It just doesn’t work and it also promotes a lot of anxiety,” she explains. Instead, she says, focus on comprehensive, all-year review and use the SQ3R method: study, question, read, review, and reread. Hannula also asserts that in order to be successful “know how you function best” in terms of studying, whether that be solo or with a group of friends.
Know your strengths: Loading a bunch of AP courses into your schedule just to say you have taken them doesn’t benefit most students due to the intense amount of pressure it causes.
“Some students have incredible talent in math and some students have incredible talent in history,” says Hannula, so find classes that you will enjoy taking.
Take care of yourself: Hannula says that students should be getting eight or more hours of sleep a night. The psychology teacher explains that staying up late studying “in a sense defeats the purpose because when you are staying up that late and depriving yourself of sleep your brain isn’t encoding information.” Essentially, if this sounds like you, you’re wasting your time.
So before your test make sure you are well-rested, have eaten a meal with protein and exercised the night before to relax which brings us to the final point.
RELAX: “Overcoming test anxiety can be done and it takes concentration,” explains Hannula, and recommends that if you “visualize yourself as relaxed and successful,” it will produce better results for you.
“I’m really glad that students believe in themselves and will sign up for AP courses even though they know it is more of a challenge,” smiles Hannula.
Don’t stress over AP tests!
By Emma Bowen