5 Foolproof* Ways to Score a 5 on Your AP Exams

Hey, Shmoopers,

‘Tis the season to be panicky: yep, we’re talking about AP® Season. Things get started soon, which means you have just enough time to get your act together.

5 Foolproof* Ways to Score

a 5 on Your AP Exams

1. Make Educated Guesses on Multiple-Choice Questions

There’s no penalty for incorrect answers on AP multiple-choice questions, so even if a particular question is so confusing that it may as well be written in Akkadian, don’t leave the answer blank. Eliminate any choices that are obviously wrong, and then give it your best shot.

2. Zoom in and Zoom Out

No matter which exam you’re taking, you’re going to want to think big picture and…small picture. Sure, for AP World, you’ll want to know which empire was in power in East Asia in 618 CE, but you’ll also want to think about broader themes of history, patterns of change, or how different areas of the world relate to each other. Ditto for Biology, English Lang, Comp Gov…the list goes on.

3. Think Outside the Box

Turns out critical thinking is an actual thing. A thing that will help you thrive in college and in your career. And a thing that will help you ace any AP exam. If you’re not sure how to tackle a short answer question or an essay or a DBQ, start with some non-judgmental brainstorming. Like Forrest says, you never know what you’re gonna get.

4. Use Shmoop’s Test Prep

Uh…duh? If you don’t already have a license, subscribe to Shmoop for less than $1/day and get access to prep for literally every single AP exam on the market. Start by taking the diagnostic exam, and then read all the parts of the guide corresponding with your weakest areas. Next, focus on drills that match those weak areas. Two weeks before test day, take a practice exam. After you’ve inevitably missed a bunch of questions, read the parts of the guide that you skipped before, and test yourself by answering all the sample questions. With a week to go, revisit those areas that didn’t improve as much as you would have liked, drill like you’ve never drilled before, and take one last practice exam a few days before to (hopefully) boost your confidence.

5. Breathe

Seriously. In through your nose. Out through your mouth.

*Since you’re not a fool, there’s no guarantee.

You got this (and we got you),


Quote of the Week

“Nanu nanu.

Mork & Mindy 

When the sample questions start sounding like they’re from the planet Ork, it’s time to take a breather.

AP is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

The Future of Earth Day: 8 New Celebrations That Are Out of This World

Hey, Shmoopers,

Earth Day—or Mirth Day, as we like to call it—is tomorrow. Started in 1970, Earth Day is meant to get everyone on board with saving the environment: planting trees, thinking about renewable energy, recycling our Oreo sleeves…all to delay our inevitable planetary extinction. 

While we were sitting in the dark conserving electricity, we imagined what celebratory days would look like on other planets…you know, if we aren’t able to save our own planet and end up colonizing the rest of ’em.

Mercury Day

Mercury Day will celebrate Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, inventor of the mercury thermometer. (Sorry, Hermes.) The mercury on Mercury moves from -279 F to 801 F, so pack a Snuggie and an ice pack when blasting off to our solar system’s innermost planet.

Venus Day

Venus Day will celebrate the Venus de Milo, and kids all over Venus will make arms for the statue. Popular materials for sculpting the statue’s replacement arms will include dust, dust, and…dust. Hey, Venus is a dry planet. You have to make do with what’s there.

Mars Day

We’ll celebrate Mars Day by eating the last remaining Mars chocolate bars, stored in an airtight container for millennia. Just be careful: we hear the planet is prone to war (of the chocolate variety). Remember: M&M’s melt in your mouth, not in Mars’ average temperature of -85 F.

Jupiter Day

The largest planet, Jupiter, is a gas giant (they didn’t call him king of the gods for nothing). When the time comes, we’ll celebrate Jupiter Day by adding to the volume of the planet—which is already 43,441 miles in diameter—after a hearty feast of beans, Brussels sprouts, and ice cream, washed down with apple juice for good measure.

Saturn Day

Saturn Day will involve singing a titanic ditty about the 29.45-year orbit of the planet called “The 10,759 Days of Saturn.” It’s done to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” except it takes a couple weeks to sing, and every verse involves a number of golden rings. 

Uranus Day

Uranus Day won’t be a thing. Why not? Because no one can say “Celebrate Uranus Day” without giggling. The whole thing will inevitably be outlawed early on.

Neptune Day

While we’d like to celebrate Neptune Day with a trip to the beach (it’s only appropriate), we’re worried that the massive winds on the planet would turn our umbrellas inside out. Oh, and the average temperature of -328 F also might have us singing a different…Neptune.

Pluto Day

Pluto has already informed us that there won’t be a Pluto Day. When humans try to colonize it, Pluto will blast us out of the sky before we land, never having forgiven humanity for declassifying it as a planet in 2006. Pluto knows how to hold a grudge, and revenge is a dish best served in the cold, cold depths of space.

Earth Day will mark its 50th anniversary in 2020, so do your part to make sure we’re still around to see it.


Quote of the Week

“They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.

~ Joni Mitchell

We wonder if you can pave stuff without gravity.

Animal Farm Quiz

Hey, Shmoopers,

Everyone’s read Animal Farm, right? If you haven’t, go ahead and do it. We’ll wait.

Okay, fully traumatized and convinced that pigs are going to take over the world? Great. Now we’re going to see how well you know your Animal Farm symbolism.

Take our quiz below to prove your Orwellian chops.

Test Your Animal Farm Know-How

What do each of the characters represent?

Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with the answers.

But there’s way more to Animal Farm than just that symbolism. In fact, there’s way more to all literature than just symbolism. With our short courses on novels, you can become the expert on any book you want from Catch-22 to The Handmaid’s Tale to The House on Mango Street.


Quote of the Week

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

~ Animal Farm

Uh, something’s not right.

The AP Seder Plate

Hey, Shmoopers,

We’re celebrating Passover…while we study for the APs that kick off in less than two weeks.

Modern Jews celebrate Passover with a Seder—a ceremonial dinner—which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. During the Seder, the Seder plate holds various symbolic foodstuffs and plays a big part in the rituals.

So while we were procrastinating—er, getting hyped—we decided to see which APs would fit on the Seder plate. Here’s what we came up with.

The Shank Bone

The shank bone, which symbolizes the sacrifice the Israelites made the night before the exodus, represents last-minute cramming the night before the…exam. But unlike the shank bone, which you don’t eat, you’ll have to devour those APs.

The Egg

The roasted egg is meant to remind us of springtime and new beginnings (along with loads of other stuff). So we’d say egg duty on the AP Seder plate would be split between AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science, which kick off exam week Monday at 8:00AM.

The Bitter Herbs

On the Seder plate, the bitter herbs (a.k.a. maror and hazeret) represent the bitterness of slavery. During AP season, AP Capstone represents the bitterness of the other exams when they heard that they could have had cool names like that, too. Sorry, “AP Physics 2: Algebra Based.”

The Charoset

The charoset (usually represented by fruit, cinnamon, and nuts…mmm) symbolizes the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to build stuff. In AP land, the honor goes to AP Computer Science. You may not be able to build pyramids with Java, but you can build websites…and a killer resume.

The Parsley

The parsley (a.k.a. karpas) gets dipped in salt water, representing, on the one side, the initial prosperity of the Israelites in Egypt, and on the other side, the tears of the Hebrew slaves. It’s the AP Comparative Government and Politics of the Seder plate.

Read up on your Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy for all the details on Passover (yeah, the Bible likes to repeat itself), and then get to studying. We hear matzah is good brain food.

Chag sameach,


Quote of the Week

“Let my people go.

~ Moses in Exodus

And while you’re at it, let them ace their AP exams…please?

13 Novels That Deserve a Zombie Mash-Up

Hey, Shmoopers,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people love zombie fiction. Seth Grahame-Smith’s book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, even got the big-screen treatment. We started to wonder: what other books should get the zombie treatment? We racked our brains—before they get devoured—and here’s what we came up with.

13 Novels That Deserve a Zombie Mash-Up

1. The Joy Luck Zombies

The heartwarming tale of four zombie mothers and their zombie-American daughters trying to live up to their zom-moms’ expectations.

2. The Scarlet Letter and Zombies

When Hester Prynne has a “Z” emblazoned on her chest, the local townsfolk suspect zombies, Zorro, or zombie Zorro.

3. Gone with the Zombies

“If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill someone and eat their brain. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

4. 1984 and Zombies

Big Zombie is watching you.

5. Jurassic Zombies

Zombies find a way.

6. To Kill a Zombie

They told us the dog Atticus shot was rabid. “Rabies.” Sure it is. We smell a government cover-up.

7. Ulysses and Zombies

No one else has actually read the book, so they’ll believe you when you say there are zombies in it.

8. Of Mice and Zombies

Lennie will hug him and squeeze him and tear his limbs off and eat his brain.

9. The Bluest Eye and Zombies

Get that eyeball out of his mouth.

10. A Tale of Two Zombies

It was the worst of the zombie apocalypse, it was the worst of the zombie apocalypse. (Yeah, the zombie apocalypse has no best.)

11. The Perks of Being a Zombie Wallflower

“And in that moment, I swear the zombies were infinite.”

12. Charlie and the Chocolate Zombies

These zombies don’t want brains. Just sugar.

13. The Walking Dead and Zombies

Not redundant. You can never have too many zombies.

If you make the next big mash-up sensation with one of our ideas, we want a cut. Otherwise yours is the first brain we’re sinking our teeth into when the zombie apocalypse happens.

Have more thoughts on potential zombie mash-ups? Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ShmoopZombies.


Quote of the Week

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

~ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The original ain’t bad either.

6 Fun Tax-Related Facts

Hey, Shmoopers,

It’s April. We’ve turned our clocks forward and eaten Creme Eggs till we dropped, but it doesn’t feel like spring has truly sprung until the first tender growth bursts from the frozen ground, claws its way out of the soil, and takes about a third of your income.

We’re talking about the IRS.

The tax deadline’s coming up, but to help you procrastinate until the absolute last minute, we’ve compiled a list of tax-related fun facts that you don’t have to declare on your 1040EZ.  

Who Wants to Tax a Millionaire?

The IRS attempts to make taxes fun with the Tax Trivia Challenge! (Their exclamation point, not ours.) It includes questions every American should know the answer to when filing their 1040 forms, like “What is a duck stamp, and how much is it worth?” and “How many cocoa beans do you think you would need to buy a rabbit from the Aztecs?” We’re not making this up.

Survivor: Taxes

The winner of Survivor‘s first season, Chatty Naked Guy (also known by the nickname “Richard Hatch”), served jail time for not paying taxes on the $1MM dollar prize he earned after eating rats and being forced to live in the jungle and literally jump through hoops. Reality TV: even tax evaders love it.

Indulgence Tax

You know Lady Godiva as that woman on your grandma’s favorite box of Belgian chocolates. But Lady Godiva didn’t ride bareback through England for the fun of it: she did it to protest high taxes. Hey, at least they don’t tax chocolate. Oh wait.

Leaving Lost Wages

Noted vampire Nicolas Cage built a pyramid-shaped tomb in New Orleans’ historic St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The tomb will never hold the the body of Nicolas Cage because, as a vampire, he will never die, so what is it for? Some suggest he hid money from the IRS inside his tomb after being charged for $6MM in back taxes in 2009.

Virtual Insanity

While you don’t have to pay taxes on all the Miitomo coins you’re hoarding in your virtual piggy bank, you do have to pay taxes if you’ve been conducting transactions with Bitcoin. It’s even more complicated than figuring out what a Bitcoin actually is. 

Everything Is Bigger in Taxes

Video games are a billion-with-a-B dollar industry. U.S. states like Texas and California offer tax breaks for video game companies, but the U.K. is trying to lure digital entertainment across the pond. They’ll provide tax breaks if games prove they are British enough. If Nathan Drake talks like a chimney sweep from Oliver Twist in the next Uncharted game, you know why. 

P.S. The IRS will not accept funny stories in lieu of actually paying your taxes. If you want real tax information, like, uh, what your taxes are used for, check out our Finance Learning Guides…and consult a tax professional.


Quote of the Week

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

~ Benjamin Franklin

And Shmoop.

6 Extension Activities for History

Hey, Teach,

As an educator, you’re familiar with the following types of student:

  • “Boom! I’m finished!”: The student who does an assignment in five minutes, throws their pencil on the table with flair, and goes to sleep.
  • “I’m failing…is there anything I could do for extra credit?” …Yup.
  • “I don’t feel intellectually challenged enough; do you have something I could do for more fulfillment and to satiate my curiosity?”: JK, this student doesn’t exist.

Want to handle them all at once? Welcome to the magic of extension work. Back in the 2000s, when Shmoop was a classroom teacher, we kept a hanging folder of extension worksheets for students to grab on the way out of class. Now that we’re in the digital age, there are even more opportunities to challenge, reframe, and expand a lesson—all courtesy of Shmoop.

We’re going to focus on History class in today’s newsletter—cuz English would have just been so obvious. But these suggestions are quite adaptable; we’re sure they apply to your own subject, from P.E. to Geometry. (Skeptical, phys ed teachers? Just try the tips and see.)

1. Our suggestions for differentiation and extension (duh).

All the new Shmoop humanities courses have suggestions for differentiation and extension included in the teacher notes. (So it’s sorta like you’re buying three lessons for the price of one.) Buy a subscription and steal our ideas.

2. Our Literary Theory Learning Guides.

Yup, we said it: Literary. Theory. While the concept seems a little ivory tower, letting students extend lessons by doing independent research and applying theory to history is a great idea. (Plus, our Literary Theory Learning Guides are super-accessible and well written. Just sayin’.) Challenge students to use our guides on Feminist Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Marxism, and more to examine the historical era you’re studying from a different perspective than ye ole textbook. Mind. Blown.

3. DIY Shmoop.

It’s a crime our website doesn’t have more videos about the Salem Witch Trials, huh? For extension, have students script and film their own witty, irreverent, and all-around exceptional Shmoop-style videos, be it with live action, puppets, or animation. Having them explain difficult concepts in a humorous and simple way will show total synthesis of the subject.

4. Shmoop-aided timelines.

As you well know, a visually-enhanced timeline is one of the best ways to review material, gather primary sources, and see the bigger picture. Have students review our History Learning Guides and Historical Texts Learning Guides—they’re like Lit Guides, but, uh, with history and historical speeches and documents—and use the information to make a timeline. Then, have them use an in iconic image from back in the day at each point in their timeline. Just remind them to cite us—it’s the cool thing to do.

5. Flashcards.

Gotta catch ’em all. Challenge students to make a full set of flashcards for the unit and share them with their classmates. That way, they’re extending their own learning and helping those around them. (Kinda like Shmoop, areweright?)

6. Did we say Courses yet?

Seriously, Shmoopers: Our Online Courses are a veritable treasure trove of lessons and ideas, and signing your students up for one of our electives (or just printing out a reading or activity from one and passing it out) is a great way to supplement your traditional curriculum. You can bolster a lesson on the Gulf War with Shmoop’s ’90s Music and History course or add to a lesson on the Federalist Papers with Shmoop’s course on…The Federalist Papers. Whodathunk?

Keep your eye out for our next installement, when we’ll talk about using Shmoop’s quotes in the classroom.

‘Til then,