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How to Study / Self-Study For AP Environmental Science (APES)

wcclirl444wcclirl444 - Posts: 543 Member
edited February 2013 in Sciences
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.
Post edited by wcclirl444 on
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Replies to: How to Study / Self-Study For AP Environmental Science (APES)

  • zach12zach12 Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    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).

    You must read like a madman! I started self-studying yesterday too and it took me about 6-7 hours total to read the 180 pages of material (excluding test-taking tips and practice tests) in the Cliff's Notes review book, and PR is much larger too.
  • wcclirl444wcclirl444 - Posts: 543 Member
    ^Actually, I am quite a slow reader. The thing is, you are probably learning most of the material as you are reading which makes it take much longer. Once you know all of the stuff in Smartypants, you can breeze right through a lot of the stuff. Also, I don't think that PR has more pages of content than CliffsNotes does (if it does, it's not by much). Now that I think about it though, it probably was more like 5-6 hours that I spend reading PR.

    I read through Smartypants in just over hour after I learnt it all to review and PR is about 3x as long content-wise, but I spend about 6x as long reading it.
  • skisoccer2014skisoccer2014 Registered User Posts: 169 Junior Member
    Thanks for all these tips for everyone! It was very selfless of you to write this for us potential self-studiers...just wondering, did you end up getting a 5 on the exam with this plan?
  • wcclirl444wcclirl444 - Posts: 543 Member
    Yes, I did get a 5 (:
  • BlueTridentBlueTrident Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    I don't have an extensive bio/chem/geography background since I'm in grade 9. Would it still be possible to self study? I was planning on taking the exam this year, but I'm having second thoughts.
  • apscaredapscared Registered User Posts: 52 Junior Member
    This is a great strategy
  • subtrax42subtrax42 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    thank you.
  • Smile1997Smile1997 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    Thank you for this study plan! I'm currently taking AP Biology in school and am going to self-study APES since I heard a lot of the materials overlap. The reviews for Smartypants Guide were all pretty negative though? I bought the PR and will probably buy the 5 Steps to a 5 500 APES questions book. I'm really surprised it only took you two days to get a 5! I was worried I will have too less time to study but after reading your study plan I feel more relieved. But then, I'm a junior so I'll be taking several APs, SAT ll, and SAT l this year. I better start studying...3 month left ><
  • AopsMaster804AopsMaster804 Registered User Posts: 301 Member
    Lol I am self studying APES just because of this thread right here. Thank you for this.
  • monetomoneto Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    I just got my AP Score a few days ago for APES and got a 5.
    I can vouch that the combination of Smartypants and Princeton Review is sufficient enough to take the exam (and quick enough to pull off studying the entire subject in a week!). I didn't have the the 5 steps to a 5 book though.

    I just wanted to post for future students who are skeptical of this plan, as I was since the smartypants book is very skimpy.
    It works. Use this study plan.
    And put extra emphasis on the open ended parts.
  • MElf1231MElf1231 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    If we were to only get one book, should we get the smarty pants or Princeton? The exam is less than a week away!
  • sjwon3789sjwon3789 Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    Do the PR really only take 4-5 hours to read? Seems like it would still take me a long time even if I know the contents well :///
  • macey222macey222 Registered User Posts: 17 Junior Member
    Thanks so much! One of the colleges I plan on applying to requires a science AP and my school mostly recommends seniors to take ap bio or chem, and I'll be a junior next year. They also don't offer APES, so this is great!
  • AzaadiAzaadi Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    edited July 2015
    Thanks so much for posting this! I got my exam score of 5 a few days ago, so I can also vouch for this schedule. I was really doubtful about this method while I was cramming for the exam, but it seriously works! I really didn't have much time to study for this exam because I was panicking about 3 other ones.
    I followed OP's study schedule, but over 3 days instead of 2. I tend to memorise a little more slowly than suggested, so I started a bit early. I also didn't use the 5 steps to a 5 book.
    Overall, this plan is fantastic. Use it.
  • CS1211CS1211 Registered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    Since this thread was posted in 2012, could anyone tell me if the information in the smartypants guide is still relevant to the current exam? It's been 3 years, so I'm worried that the exam is different now.
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