Diaries Magazine

Applications, Classes, and Prep Books Oh My.

Posted on the 11 August 2012 by Hannahr395
This summer flew by way too fast. One minute, it was the end of June and I was done with the SATs forever and ever and ever (I was a tad bit emphatic). Now, I'm a little over two weeks away before AP classes and everything else begins. I'm also painfully aware of an entire book that needs to be read for lit, four chapters that need to be read for comp sci, and a whole lot of application filling-out/planning/stressing over extra-curriculars. It's pretty sad really. One second there were two months of pure glorious relaxation in front of me, and the next it was all taken away and replaced by work. Not that I don't like academic work, but it's still depressing to see such an amazing summer come to an end. I'm also a little bummed, because the college I want to apply early-action to (cough cough Princeton) still hasn't uploaded its supplement onto its website. I had wanted to get started on that before I became busy with school and activities, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
And then there is the matter of books. I had to get books for all my classes, and let me tell you, it's really frustrating. I was able to find some of the books used for a lot less than the "new" price. But my stats textbook, which is specifically used for AP, has been really hard to find used. We (my dad and I) did find a copy on ebay. We're still waiting for the outcome of the auction. Expect to see a blog post on ez sniper in the near future. I've found a ton of books on ebay, and as long as I checked the edition/seller reviews/feedback rating, I never had a problem. I've actually found that the deals are sometimes a lot better on there than on Amazon marketplace. It depends on the book you're looking for. There is also the matter of prep books. I think these are even more finicky than the textbooks honestly. Barron's made me feel like I had the intelligence level of a pea. Not fun. Princeton Review made me feel a bit too confident. Cliffs AP English Lang made me want to tear up the practice multiple choice tests and burn them. But they did help, so I won't complain any further. Here's a rundown based on my own personal experience with the different prep books I used for science/math tests (I'll save the English ones and the SAT/PSAT ones for another day).
Barron's AP Chemistry--This book had so much information that I started reviewing it three weeks before the actual exam. This is not a book you want to use a couple days before the exam to refresh your memory. I generally completed each chapter (there may have been some chapters on topics I felt really good about that I skipped). The practice problems at the end of each chapter are a nice touch. The actual practice exams are a total ego killer. I thought that chemistry was going to be the easiest exam for me until I took one of those Barron's exams. I think I ended up getting less than 50% on the practice MC. Bottom line: A lot of the important information can get lost among the massive quantity of other information. If you know your weak spots, it's a lot easier to navigate this book. Don't let the tough MC crush your dreams of majoring in chemistry or acing the exam or any other pre-Barron's notions of chemistry.
Princeton Review Chemistry SAT Subject Test--Sadly enough, someone at my library had the Princeton Review AP checked out for a very long time. I didn't get to use it (thought I've generally heard good things about it), but I did get to use PR for the chem subject test. I liked the book well enough. I literally read through it the night before the test. My biggest issue with the actual test had to do more with timing than content. If you know chem really well, and if you already took AP Chem, I would advise taking a bunch of practice tests, since you only get an hour for 80 questions. The content might seem easier, but the timing is most definitely not. Bottom line: this is a good book if you're doing a fast review and don't want to deal with a book with a ton of details. It was sweet and to the point.
Barron's Math Level 2--This is the book if you're aiming for that perfect 800. Seriously. Get this book. It is amazing. My friend Viktor (shout-out!) recommended this to me (it's also widely hailed online), and it was exactly what I needed. I strongly suggest going over ever single part of this book. It's not super huge, but it provides questions at the end of each chapter on the different topics covered. Those are helpful if you're brushing up on your precalc. The exams at the end of the book are hard--I never finished any of them within the time limit. They also made the real exam seem a lot easier. For a confidence booster, I took the Math Level 2 exam out of the Official SAT Subject Test book, and I was able to finish on time with only a couple questions wrong. Bottom line: This book is awesome. The diagnostic test may crush your ego, but in the end it's worth it.
Be Prepared for the AP Calculus Exam--My calc teacher assigned us this book. At the beginning of the year, I hated it. I think the reason I hated it was because I still didn't feel confident with things such as differentiation and integration and the Chain Rule. When I went through the entire exam again a couple of weeks before my final and AP exam, I understood it a lot better. I thought that the practice questions covered a lot of what I found on the actual exam, and I thought the practice exams were pretty dead-on in difficulty level, if just slightly more difficult than the actual exam. Bottom line: it's a well-written book that covered everything I needed to know. The practice exams were very accurate. I didn't feel the need to use another book along with it.
Another thing that I found valuable was taking released exams. I ordered the two most recently released chemistry exams, and then found a free released one on the College Board site which can be accessed here: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/213049.html. I also did a ton of the released FRQ's in the two weeks before the exam. I did the same thing for english and calc. Taking advantage of the released FRQ's made the actual FRQ's less stressful and more routine. The nice thing is that the College Board includes both the solutions and how the questions are broken down into points. If you do enough of these problems, you'll start to notice that certain types of problems always have the same point break-down. Anyway, happy getting ready for classes/ordering books/enjoying the last few weeks of summer.

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