AP: Advanced Punishment


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Me after writing three essays in the course of two hours:

After months of stressing about the ACTs, I only had five weeks to prepare for an even greater beast: AP Exams. Failure to get it together would result in nearly two hundred dollars going straight down the drain 


As a first-time AP test-taker, I was unsure of what to expect (other than hours of my brain cells being brutally massacred). took two exams, the AP Psychology Exam and the AP Language Exam.  


First, I had the AP Psychology Exam, which took place at the Delta Hotel and began at noon. Rather than go to school for my first three classes of the day, I decided to have my parents excuse me for the whole school day. This way, I was able to relax and allow myself time to meditate on what compelled me to put myself through this torture. In fact, I was so deep into my meditation (or nerve-fueled internal implosion) that I completely burned my grilled ham and cheese sandwich, causing smoke to fill my kitchen and my final scrap of mental sanity to evaporate 


I arrived at the Delta ridiculously early and armed with my No. 2 pencils and black ink pen. However, I severely overestimated how much time I needed to get to the Delta and ended up sitting in the testing room for twenty minutes before the examanxiously bouncing my leg and wishing I could go home. When the test finally began, I rapidly began to fill in the one hundred multiple choice questions on the first half of the exam. 


After the brief ten-minute intermission, it was time for the free-response question (FRQ) portion of the exam. Surprisingly, this went significantly worse than I thought it would. Because the FRQs are handwritten, I could not use a process of elimination technique to work my way to the right answer. Nonetheless, I answered the questions to the best of my ability and finished the FRQ section within the permitted time frame. 


The next day, my most daunting task awaited me: the AP Language Exam. For those who have not taken the AP Language exam, it begins with a forty-five-minute multiple choice section and is followed by a two-hour period in which you write three full-length essays for the prompts provided. This is the part I feared the most. Leading up to the exam, I did individual practice timed writes, but I had never tried to do three timed writes consecutively. worried about if I would be able to correctly time when I needed to start and stop writing an essay, or if I would even be able to understand the prompt.  


The exam began at 8 a.m. (rather ungodly hour to be taking such a mentally rigorous test in my opinion). I woke from my slumber full of loathing and dread for what was soon to come, and anxiously nibbled on my chosen breakfast for standardized testing, peanut-butter toast. Once again, I arrived at the Delta early in an attempt to calm my nerves, but soon found out that I was not allowed to be in the testing room early. I found the nearest disappointingly firm armchair and waited for my doomed fate to be sealed. 


As more and more test-takers trickled in, we found our seats in the ballroom. I was very pleased to find out that I was seated directly in front of the clock for both the AP Psychology and the AP Language exam (perhaps the AP gods were more merciful than the ACT gods). The multiple-choice section started promptly after everyone arrived, and again I finished the section with some extra time to spare. 


During the short break between the multiple-choice and the essay sections, test-takers shared a moment of comradery as we herded together in flocks to perch on armchairs and speculate on how difficult the essay prompts would be.  


As soon as the essay section began, the test proctors advised us to spend fifteen minutes reading the sources and prompts, even though it was not a necessity to do so. I decided that, despite it taking up time, I was going to approach the essays with this tactic, as well as allow myself at least five minutes to outline a plan of action for each essay. Even though it seems like too much time to be wasted, I genuinely would recommend this method to anyone taking the AP Language exam in the future and found that it really helped to give my essays more structure. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that the test proctors announce when it is advised to move on to the next essay. This relieved some of my stress regarding time-management and helped me figure out which essays I needed to use more time on.  


I wrote furiously, sitting with my back hunched over my paper like a little AP test gremlin. My incomprehensible scribbles began to fill the page, and magically, the first two essays came and went like a breeze. However, there was a slight hiccup, causing my breakneck speed to slow. My sole pen had run out of ink, and for a moment I felt my stomach drop. Fortunately, a very benevolent fellow test-taker lent me an extra pen before the exam started, which I had naively believed I would not need. I quickly uncapped my new writing utensil and finished the last essay with a triumphant flourish.  


At long last, I left the Delta for good, this time with a soaring sense of freedom. Although it physically pained me to stretch my right hand after tightly holding a pen for two hours straight and my knuckles were screaming in pain, I was ecstatic that I had finished all my standardized tests for the year. I got in my car, played the most feel-good music I could find on my Spotify playlist, and drove home with the windows down, enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon. 


And here we are now, with summer swiftly approaching and all the standardized tests for the year finished. For all the students who also went through an AP test, feel proud of yourself! Standardized tests in general are brutal, but now is the time to enjoy the final weeks of school. Forget about your AP scores, and instead enjoy some sunshine (we all need it after sitting in those windowless testing rooms for so long)! 


Author’s Note: It is important to note that not every experience with the AP Exams will be the same. Clearly, some people may have a completely different test-taking adventure than I did. Also, I am legally not permitted (according to an extremely official AP Exam contract that I signed with a No. 2 pencil) to share any sort of test questions or answers in this article, so this article is a satirical recount of my mental processes (or lack thereof) while taking the AP Exams. 

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