NOTE: Be sure to order the books listed later in this guide ahead of time so that you have them for the weekend before the exam to study. Almost no store carry's the Smartypants Guide, so you will have to order it online.
Hey everyone. I self-studied for the APES exam this year and started literally 36 hours before the exam. In order to make the best use of my time, I spent hours trying to figure out the most efficient way to study and thought that I would share what I have learned. Although I would recommend to start study for this earlier than I did, if you have the dedication and use my methods listed below, I believe that you should be able to learn the entire AP class in just 2 days like I did.
I would recommend the following to study:
-Smartypants Guide (make sure you know everything in it... the book is small and you should be able to do this in about a full day of serious studying) Link: http://www.amazon.com/Smartypants-Guide-Environmental-Science-Exam/dp/1411644778/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336448288&sr=8-1
-Princeton Review (read through this entire book after you read smartypants and use it to connect ideas together and to expand on the concepts that were in the Smartypants guide. Also, this will help with understanding the weather patterns and a few other important topics which Smartypants just skims over. I was able to just read through this the night before the exam and I retained most of the additional information) Link: http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Environmental-Science-Edition-Preparation/dp/0375427295/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336448311&sr=1-1
-5 Steps to a 5 500 APES questions book (note that this is NOT a review book... it just contains 500 MC questions. Personally, I think that these were quite realistic in terms of what was on the exam but perhaps a little more difficult. Use this to figure out what topics you need to reemphasize after reading through the Princeton Review book) Link: http://www.amazon.com/Environmental-Questions-Advanced-Placement-Examinations/dp/0071780742/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336448340&sr=1-1
-1998 Released Exam (this was an incredible resource that I neglected to take advantage of until just hours before the exam. This provided incredibly useful insight as to what they are looking for in the FRQs that might not be explicitly stated in the questions. Also, many of the FRQ questions and multiple choice were incredibly similar to the ones on the actual exam) Link: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/env-sci-released-exam-1998.pdf
If you are self studying this or have a bad teacher and have waited until the last minute to start studying (the weekend before the exam), I would recommend the following STUDY PLAN:
Use Saturday to memorize and know everything in the Smartpants Guide by heart. Although it is a fairly short book (about 65 pages of content), this will take all day to get a thorough understanding.
Use Sunday morning to read all of PR and expand on any topics that were not covered enough in Smartypants (try to retain as much additional info as possible. Also, wake up around 8ish for this and it should take about 4-5 hours to do).
Then, go and do the 1st 10 MC questions in each section of the 5 steps to a 5 500 questions book and review any sections where you missed more than 2 questions in by using the PR book (also go over the answers in the 5 steps to a 5 book... several of the questions in here were actually covered on the exam).
At about 3-4ish, you should try the 1st 40 questions of the 1998 exam to give yourself an idea of where you are. I got about 37 of these right and you should be close to that. Also, go over any question that less than 85% of people who got 5s got correct (you can view this at the end of the exam in the answer key).
By around 5, you should begin to go over the FRQs on the released exam and pay close attention to how they grade and give points which is shown in the answer key (focus on how they are grading the questions instead of the questions themselves... by now, you should already know the answers to them).
Lastly, try to get a good nights rest if you can. If you don't know the material, you may have to pull an all nighter, but that should not be the case if you have followed this plan. When you wake up, go over all of the terms in the back of the Smartypants Guide and PR and get ready for the fun!
Hopefully this will help some people in the future. I spent several hours trying to find the most efficient way to study for this, and I believe that my method is by far the easiest and most efficient way to cram for this exam.
EDIT: I forgot to mention this... do NOT use Barron's!!!! It has an incredible amount of untested information that will clog your brain and make it impossible to retain the actual tested information. Trust me, knowing the stuff in PR and Smartypants will not only help you more on the exam, but it is actually less info! Also, the MC on Barron's are insanely difficult and do not even represent similar content to that on the APES exam. To get an idea of the question difficulty, do the MC in PR, 5 steps to a 5, and the 1998 exam.