AP® Test Day Checklist

You’ve studied for months. You’ve read countless textbooks, and answered tons of practice questions. And you’ve written so much, your fingers are numb. That’s good. It means you’re now ready to take the AP® Exam. Before you head off to the test center, make sure you’re as ready as you possibly can be with our AP® test day checklist. After all, you don’t want months of hard work to go to waste because you forgot something.

We’ve laid out exactly what you need to do and have in order to be best prepared for the exam with the following checklists:

  • Pre-Test Day Checklist
  • Test Day Checklist
  • Post-Test Day Checklist

Let’s jump in.

AP® Pre-Test Day Checklist

The day before the exam is just as important as the day of the AP® Exam. That’s because what you do the day before lays the entire foundation for how you perform during the test itself.

If you want to perform to the top of your potential on test day, be sure to follow this AP® checklist:

1. Don’t cram for the exam

Do you honestly think you can learn an entire year’s worth of knowledge in one night? Unless you’re a savant or a human computer, that’s simply not possible. Some studies have even shown that cramming the night before a big test can be detrimental to you—especially if you forgo sleep to do so (which students often do). One study by researchers at UCLA found that sacrificing sleep to cram typically results in more academic issues the next day.

2. Get 8 hours of sleep

Sleep is absolutely vital when it comes to performing to the best of your ability. Some researchers have even discovered that the lack of sleep is as detrimental to your mental capacity as being drunk. Do yourself a favor and make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night in the week leading up to your AP® Exam—and especially the night before the test itself.

3. Stay calm

Let’s be honest: This is an incredibly stressful time.

But guess what? That’s okay. You’ve spent an entire year preparing for this moment. You have every right to be a little nervous. However, there’s no use letting your nerves get the best of you.

So make sure you keep your stress in check. That might mean a little bit of student self-care. Try some mindfulness exercises or even some meditation. By remaining calm and focused, you’ll be able to best mentally prepare yourself for the big day. Read more about dealing with text anxiety.

4. Lay out everything you need for the next morning

One way to help alleviate your stress and to help you prepare for the exam is to physically lay out everything you need to bring to the testing center before you go to sleep.

That means setting up everything you need—from putting your pencils, calculators, and ID (more on that later) in your backpack, to even laying out your clothes and shoes. Think of it like academic meal prep! Once you have everything prepped, you can sleep easy knowing that as soon as you get up, all your things are ready for you. You won’t have to think about any of the organization and can focus on the task at hand instead.

AP® Test Day Checklist

The big day is here! Our checklists below will tell you all the things you can (and can’t) bring with you—as well as some best practices to get the most that you can out of exam day.

What you CAN bring

Here is a comprehensive list of all the things you can bring with you into the exam room. Note: It’s possible that not all of the items below will apply to you as some are dependent on case-specific situations (e.g., Student Accommodations Letter).

  1. Two No. 2 pencils with erasers. These will be used on the multiple-choice portion of the exam.
  2. Two black or dark blue ink pens. These will be used for any free-response questions you must answer. Be sure to bring black or dark blue ink pens only. Leave the gel pens at home.
  3. A watch. This is a simple analog or digital watch with no Internet access or alarms. Don’t even try to bring your smart watch in the room.
  4. Government- or school-issued ID. If you don’t go to the school where you’re taking the exam, you must also bring a government- or school-issued ID.
  5. College Board SSD Student Accommodation Letter.  If you require accommodations beyond the regular exam, you’ll receive a letter that verifies this (e.g. you need a braille or large-type exam). Additional information about how to apply for accommodations can be found on College Board’s website.
  6. A lunch. The exam allocates time for a break for lunch, so pack a nutritious lunch and drink. And don’t pack anything too ‘adventurous’. You don’t want to find yourself needing to run to the bathroom every five minutes because you brought that new spicy three-bean salad your mom made the other night.

NOTE: You cannot bring any food into the exam room—but they will provide an area where you can store food until the lunch break.

What you SHOULD do

1. Eat a balanced meal

Though you’ll get a break for lunch, your brain needs fuel in order to work as much as it will during the exam. That means having a full and balanced breakfast before you step into the exam room.

The only thing worse than really having to go to the bathroom, is really having to go to the bathroom during your AP® U.S. History Exam. You don’t want to find yourself sick to your stomach because you decided to risk chugging gallons of coffee and a protein shake on the morning of your exam. Don’t take any chances, and stick to what you know and usually eat for breakfast.

2. Warm up your brain

Before the test, make sure you wake up early (after 8 hours of sleep) and review your notes.

This isn’t a cram session or an opportunity to learn new information. The key here is to lightly go over your material to make sure you’re ready. That’s all. Think of it like a track runner’s warm-up stretches. You’re just preparing your brain for the hours of testing it’s about to go through.

Another benefit of the warm-up is to help you remain confident and calm for the exam—which brings us to…

3. Relax

Like the night before, you need to remember to remain calm and relax. At this point, you are as ready as you will ever be. Whatever happens now, will happen. Walk into the exam confidently and calmly. Breathe. If you believe in your ability to perform well, you are more likely to do so when it comes down to it.

What you CAN’T bring

Below is a list of things you absolutely cannot bring with you into the exam room. Failure to adhere to the rules of what you cannot bring into the test room will result in your expulsion from the exam center.

That would mean an entire year’s worth of tests, essays, and research down the drain—so don’t take any risks and stick to this checklist of what NOT to bring:

  1. Cell phones
  2. Watches with alarms (e.g. smartwatches)
  3. Tablets
  4. Laptops
  5. Cameras or other photographic equipment
  6. Bluetooth devices
  7. Recording devices
  8. Food or drink
  9. Timers
  10. Certain calculators (check the College Board calculator policy page for more)

Good rule of thumb: If it’s an electronic item, don’t bring it into the exam room.

See the official list of what students can and cannot bring to the exam here.

AP® Post-Test Day Checklist

Congrats! The exams are over. That doesn’t mean you should just rest on your laurels though. Here are a few things you can do after you’re done taking your AP® Exams.

1. Check your scores

Your AP® Exam scores will be made available sometime in early July. Once that day hits, you can jump on the College Board website to check your score. All you’ll need to check this is your AP® number.

2. Submit your scores to the schools you’re applying to

…or not! You might not want to if you didn’t score as well as you wanted. But most schools only require a 3 or higher in order to qualify for credit.

For more information on how to submit your score to your school of choice, College Board website. You’ll likely have to pay a small fee in order to submit the scores.

3. Celebrate!

Remember: No matter what score you got, you took a college-level course while you were still in high school. That’s an incredible achievement and you should be proud of yourself.

Be sure to take some time to celebrate your accomplishment and reflect on all the newfound knowledge you’ve gained. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.

The things you’ve learned in your AP® courses are lessons you’ll carry with you throughout your college career.

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