National Council for Geographic Education

Ninth graders and AP® Human Geography Top Ten List

The Top Ten Ways to Help Ninth Graders Prepare for the AP Exam
By Sharon Shelerud

 May 18th is not far away.  Some students are already beginning to plan (and panic – include teachers, here!) for that date.  Many ninth graders have never had to prepare for a test like this.  Here are ten things I have done to help my students prepare for the Exam.  The overall theme of this list is to make sure students get the message that “they can be successful IF they put in the appropriate amount of time and effort they need and not worry about what other people are doing or not doing.”  I also remind them all the time that I believe in them and that they can do well.  I have found the lack of confidence, for many students, and not what they know, has been their downfall when taking the Exam.

  1. Have before/after school review sessions starting right now (if you haven’t already been doing them).  Encourage students to create their own study groups and to meet at a set time and place once or twice a week to review on their own.
  2. Check vocabulary note cards from current and past vocabulary terms.  You can physically walk around and check them, give ON (open note) quizzes or play a game like Pictionary/Cranium.  This promotes reviewing of terms and concepts that were used months ago.
  3. Each week write a statement/question on the board and have students write an explanation/answer to it and turn in.  This is a modified FRQ and gets students to use concepts and terms from more than one unit to create a good answer.
  4. Strongly encourage students to purchase/borrow an AP Review book, and to start reviewing units now and taking the end-of-unit tests to see the areas they are strong or weak in.  Our library has five copies available for students to check out, in case someone just can’t buy or borrow one.  Students can also buy used copies of these books on, eBay or other online sources for very cheap prices.  This might be a good way for you to get a few copies for your classroom.
  5. If you haven’t done so already, give students a practice AP Exam.  I do it at the end of our first semester, which is the end of January.  This helps students to see what they do and don’t remember.  It also helps me to see what pat concepts I need to review with students.
  6. Meet with students and discuss with them what they need to  prepare for the Exam.  Some students need to go over entire units, some certain terms, some FRQ’s, etc.  Many ninth graders need direction on what to do to prepare for the Exam. Once they are given the direction, many will do the work.
  7. Put up a large piece of paper in the classroom and encourage students to anonymously write questions they have and terms/concepts they don’t understand.  Each week explain/review what they have written.  Students can repeat their questions/terms/concepts.  If they don’t get it they need to let you know, and not be embarrassed about it.
  8. Set up a “suggested calendar” for students to follow to help them with time management for reviewing for the Exam and balancing their other homework.
  9. Spend at least ten days just reviewing for the AP Exam.  Have unit min-tests available for students to take and check their own understanding, so they are studying what they need to study.  In class have a “quiet time” part of the hour and an interactive/instructional part of the hour.  I do a variety of informal lectures, games and pair or small group reviews.
  10. Be positive!! Build their confidence!!!  Tell students you believe they can do well and will do well on the Exam IF they have a plan, follow their plan, start reviewing now and allow enough time each day to study/review.