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AP Exams: Students Tell Parents How They Can Help

Students say parents' encouragement and support is critical during these two weeks of exams.

Advanced Placement Program exams If you have a student taking these exams, they likely have been studying for weeks, if not months. But it's time. And doing well on the exams can mean college credits and often factor into college admission decisions, so the stakes are high.

Here are some things students around town say parents can do to help them do well this week:

Pay attention to : Parents should stay informed about their students' AP schedule so they don't plan activities, family outings or dinners during the time the students should be studying, said Ashley DuBois, and Andover student who is in five AP classes and has a full schedule of tests in the next two weeks.

Be encouraging and supportive: The pressure is on, and these tests are long and tough. Students feel that pressure, so encouragement by parents is important. "Encourage us to study, but be supportive without making us anxious," said Stacy Hanus, a senior at Andover who will take six AP exams in the next 10 days. "Let us know you have faith in us." Lia Grabowski, a senior at Troy High School added: "Parents should understand that these classes are made to be really challenging. We're not going to get A's on every test, every lab, every essay."

Give us space and trust us: Let the students take charge, suggests Aaron Appel, a senior at Roeper School in Birmingham, but stay informed and be supportive. "The rest is on us," Aaron said.

Provide a quiet study environment, and encourage or allow breaks: Perhaps for these two weeks you turn off that TV, quiet the rest of the family, or clear out an area for quiet study. Studying for AP exams is exhausting; help by bringing snacks, or having your child get up and take a walk with you.

Make sure we get sleep: Sleep is really one of the most important factors in doing well on a test. No matter how hard they've studied, students' brains just don't work as well on a few hours sleep. Even if you have a late-night kid, encourage him or her to get at least eight hours' sleep the night before an exam.

Make sure we eat breakfast: Even if your child is not one to eat breakfast, make it a point to encourage them to do so on days of exams. Ask your teen what they'd most like – and if it's pasta, not pancakes, make that. If it gives them energy, it doesn't matter whether it's breakfast food or not. Eating is what's important.

Care packages and caffeine: Little things mean a lot, and students stressing about the tests appreciate being pampered. "Maybe do something nice like make a little good luck basket with healthy snacks for studying," Ashley said.  "That is cheesy – but always appreciated!" Caffeine for late-night study sessions is also a godsend, said Lia. "One time, my parents came home with like a 32-pack of Coke from Costco and it was pretty much the best thing ever," she said. Lifesaver mints are Stacy's study companion.

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What your child should have

The College Board, which administers the tests, advises students bring:

  • Several sharpened No. 2 pencils with erasers for all responses on your multiple-choice answer sheet.
  • Pens with black or dark blue ink for completing areas on the exam booklet covers and for free-response questions in most exams.
  • Your six-digit school code. 
  • A watch.
  • An approved calculator if taking the AP Calculus, Chemistry, Physics or Statistics exams. Visitwww.collegeboard.com/ap/calculators to learn more about the calculator policy for each of these exams, and for a list of authorized calculators.
  • A ruler or straightedge only if you’re taking an AP Physics Exam.
  • A government-issued or school-issued photo ID if you do not attend
    the school where you are taking the exam.
  • Your Social Security number* for identification purposes (optional). If you provide your number, it will appear on your AP score report.
  • If applicable, your SSD Student Accommodation Letter, which verifies that you have been approved for extended time or another testing accommodation.

What to leave home

These materials are not allowed in the testing area, unless preapproved for students with accommodations. Best to leave them home, says the College Board.

  • Cell phones, digital cameras, personal digital assistants (PDAs), BlackBerry smartphones, Bluetooth-enabled devices, MP3 players, e-mail/messaging devices, or any other electronic or communication devices.
  • Books, compasses, mechanical pencils, correction fluid, dictionaries, highlighters, notes or colored pencils
  • Scratch paper; notes can be made on portions of the exam booklets.
  • Watches that beep or have an alarm.
  • Portable listening devices or portable recording devices (even with headphones) or photographic equipment.
  • Computers.
  • Clothing with subject-related information.
  • Food or drink.

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