How to Prepare For the At-Home AP Exams

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything has changed, and AP exams are no exception. This year AP exams will be administered online to be taken at home on students’ computers, tablets, or smartphones. The exams will no longer follow their usual three hour format consisting of both multiple choice and free response questions, but instead all of the 2020 AP exams will be forty-five minute long, entirely free response exams. 

The College Board did push the exam dates back one week (click HERE to view the new schedule) and are also offering later exam dates in June, but they warn students that if they encounter a problem on the June test dates, they won’t have additional opportunities to retest like they will if they test on the May test dates. This is very important to keep in mind because the College Board has never administered AP exams online like this before, so the risk of technical difficulties is high. 

The changes to the exams don’t stop here though because the content that will be tested on the exams has been reduced. Make sure to check the College Board’s website for the specific updates for your AP exams, but most courses have had the last two units removed from their exam topics. 

With all of these changes and new variables at play, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and difficult to navigate how to go about succeeding on these exams. However, it is still possible to do well on the AP exams this year even with all of the last minute changes, so continue reading to find out what you can do to be ready for these at-home tests!

Familiarize yourself with the new format of your exams.

In order to give yourself the best chance of success on your AP exams, take the time to become comfortable with the format of the tests. Now that multiple choice questions will not be on this year’s exams, it is crucial that you figure out what type of free response questions you will have to answer. For example, AP history classes will have to write modified DBQs, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the new rubric and learn how to earn points. Click HERE to view the information the College Board has put out regarding the types of questions that will be on each exam. Additionally, since these are online tests you will need to become comfortable with typing your responses or prepare to upload pictures of your handwritten work.

Watch the AP live classes on YouTube.

The College Board hired AP teachers from all over the country to teach live classes on YouTube for every single AP course. These teachers livestream forty-five minute classes Monday through Friday covering all of the content that will be tested on this year’s exams. If you can’t watch live, all the classes are uploaded as videos on YouTube for you to go back and watch at any time. These videos are incredibly helpful to review content you have already learned and to learn content for the first time that you may not have gotten to in school. It is also incredibly beneficial to hear things taught from a teacher other than your own because it provides a new perspective on the content, and the AP teachers doing these live classes have been AP exam graders, so they offer great insight regarding what readers are looking for when scoring your exams.

Utilize your resources.

Another new thing about this year’s AP exams is that they are open book and open note. Don’t get too excited though because the exams are only forty-five minutes long and include more tasks than most students can complete in that amount of time, so realistically you won’t have enough time to be flipping through your notes if you want to finish and pass the exam. If having your notes next to you makes you feel more comfortable and confident when taking the exam though, you can definitely do that. A good tip is to make a fact sheet with the most useful content you expect to need when taking the exam and organize it by unit. This way you can easily take a quick glance without wasting time trying to find a specific page in your notebook. Keep in mind that with these exams being open book and open note, the College Board has stated that the exams will test your ability to apply concepts and analyze content, not just state the facts. Be prepared to write detailed explanations and develop your own arguments. A great resource you have to practice this is AP Classroom where the College Board recently put out new practice free response questions aligned with what you will see on the exams this year.

Make a review plan.

What you can be doing right now is making a plan for how you are going to review and when. Take a look at all the content covered for each of your exams and break it down into smaller chunks. Focus on a particular topic or unit every day and make yourself a schedule for what topic you want to work on each day leading up to the exam. It is important to set a schedule like this in order to make sure you save time to review each unit and don’t end up cramming the night before the exam. Making a review plan can also help motivate yourself.

Stay connected.

In these last couple of weeks before the exams, it is crucial that you stay connected with your classmates and teachers because they are here to help you prepare for the exams. Do practice problems and essays, ask your teachers and classmates questions, and be willing to help explain concepts to your classmates. On exam day, you will only have yourself and your own knowledge and skills to complete the test, so take advantage of the time you have now when you can still get help from others and learn from them! Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for help even though you can’t be with them in person right now; they will be happy to help you and glad to see you are still putting in the effort for this year’s exams.

Practice and reassess.

One of the few things that has not changed about this year’s AP exams is that the best way to prepare is to practice. Take the time to work through released free response questions from previous year’s exams and questions on AP Classroom. Determine your weak areas and strong areas so you know what you truly need to focus on in these last couple of weeks. Make mistakes now and learn from them in order to ensure you don’t make those mistakes on the actual exam.

This is my fourth and final year of taking AP exams, and I never would have expected to be taking them like this. It is certainly not ideal, but at least we still have the opportunity to earn the valuable college credit we have been working for all year. Hopefully these tips help out all of the AP students, and remember not to stress about these exams because the fact that you are still trying to master the content is what really counts! Keep studying and give it your best attempt on test day; good luck Cougars!

One comment

  • This was a very well written and very helpful article. I hope to meet the reporter in person some day soon.

    Best wishes and warmest regards,

    Mrs. Bloomington


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