Advanced Placement (AP) classes are a rite of passage for many high school students, and prepping for AP exams is often one of the most stressful parts of the end of a semester. So how should you go about maximizing your chances of getting great scores on your tests while also, you know, not going insane? The first step is to make sure that you understand the basic logistics of AP tests: format, scoring, the registration process, and accommodations. Many students are also looking for advice about how best to prep for AP tests, particularly as they try to sort through the various online prep options. After all, you want to be sure that you’re prepping in the most effective and efficient way possible. Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood Inspirica Pros test expert is here to help with every aspect of the online AP test prep process.
AP Test Format
Advanced Placement classes give students the chance to take college-level courses, master college-level content, and earn college credit while still in high school. College Board offers almost 40 different AP courses in a variety of subject areas, and every AP course has a corresponding exam. These exams are administered at the end of the term, and most colleges and universities will offer credit only to students who achieve a certain score on the relevant exam.
The format of the AP exams varies from class to class, but most contain both multiple-choice and free-response sections and last approximately three hours. Some AP tests also contain digital components, such as the listening portions of the AP language exams. Visit the test-specific page at the bottom of this post that corresponds to your course for more information about the format of that particular test. Remember, though—with the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s very possible that the format of the tests could be different again this year, which leads us nicely to…
AP Testing in the Time of COVID
The 2019-2020 AP exams saw some pretty substantial changes to the structure of the tests. College Board was forced to roll out an at-home testing option to ensure that students could get AP test scores while staying safe. In order to accomplish this, they significantly changed the format of the tests, doing away with the multiple-choice portion and reducing the number of essay questions, then shortening the time limit accordingly.
While these online AP exams allowed thousands of students to earn college credit from the safety of their homes, the process was (predictably) not 100% smooth.
So what does this mean for AP exams in the 2021-2022 school year? College Board has said that the AP program will administer the tests as paper-and-pencil, in-school exams this year. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned by now, however, it’s that COVID has a tendency to laugh at the best-laid plans of mice, men, and testing organizations. It’s a long road from here to May, so make sure you keep an eye out for any changes to the AP test format and exam dates.
AP Test Scoring
All AP exams are scored on a scale that ranges from 1 to 5, and that score is the one that colleges will use to determine whether you earn course credit and if so, how much. The requirements that must be met to attain each score vary depending on the composition of the specific test, but they are always determined by a committee of college professors using an introductory-level college course as a reference point. The weight of each portion of the exam also varies from test to test; visit the test-specific page at the bottom of this post that corresponds to your course for more information about the scoring of that particular test.
It’s also important to note that while AP test scores determine whether you receive college credit for the AP course (and potentially place out of certain prerequisite courses in college), the grade that you earn in your AP class often receives as much—if not more—weight as your test score during the actual college application process. So don’t get so focused on prep for the AP exam that you forget to do your homework!
AP Exam Registration and AP Test Dates
AP exams are administered in mid-May, at the end of their corresponding courses and near the end of the school year. Visit the page at the bottom of this post that corresponds to your specific AP class for more information about when your AP exam test date will be.
Exam registration is done through your College Board account. In order to register, you’ll first need to log in to your My AP account and join your class section online; you’ll then be able to register for the AP exam. Payment of AP exam fees and acquisition of exam materials are typically facilitated by your counselor or AP teacher.
Remember that the deadline to register for your AP test is usually sometime in the fall, well before the actual test date; the specific date of the registration deadline can vary from school to school. Visit the College Board website for more general information about registering for AP tests, and talk to your counselor about how your school handles the registration process.
AP Test Accommodations
If you have a documented disability, you may be eligible to take your AP exam with accommodations, particularly if you get accommodations at school. College Board offers a wide variety of AP test accommodations, including extended time, large-type exams, and the ability to use a braille device.
In order to apply for exam accommodations, you’ll work with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) coordinator or college counselor at your school, who will help you apply through the College Board’s online portal.
List of AP Classes & Exams
- AP Art History
- AP Music Theory
- AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
- AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
- AP Studio Art: Drawing
AP History & Social Science
- AP Comparative Government and Politics
- AP European History
- AP Human Geography
- AP Macroeconomics
- AP Microeconomics
- AP Psychology
- AP United States Government and Politics
- AP United States History
- AP World History: Modern
AP Math & AP Computer Science
- AP Biology
- AP Chemistry
- AP Environmental Science
- AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
- AP Physics C: Mechanics
- AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
- AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based