Preparing for the 2021 Advanced Placement Exams

Students are always busy and crazily hectic in May, due to final exams, school events, and extra-curricular proceedings. Add to that the Advanced Placement exams, and you sure have a full plate by then. Hence, it is wise and smart to prepare for your review months before your examination has already been scheduled. 

The College Board of the United States requires the students to take the Advanced Placement exams in May every year. It was first initiated and administered in 1954 by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), but at that time, there were only 27 schools that have joined this testing program. A year after that, the College Board took responsibility for the program and testing procedures but continued to entrust the exam design and scoring to the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Finally, in 1956, this test was made available for all the schools nationally. 

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Advanced Placement (AP) has then been a permanent program intended for high school students. These are college-level course works and exams that allow an opportunity for high school students to take a shot at earning credits for college. These tests are formatted as a zenith for evaluation and assessment after a year-long education. Its primitive goal is to come up with a score scale that can be compared yearly.

AP exams and courses are sustainably given to 11th and 12th graders, which is beneficial for their academic experience. Certain subjects like History are provided for 10th graders. However, most schools should consider that students should not be rushed into taking up AP courses. 9th graders are proven unready to take up such a program. 

AP Exam Scoring

The AP exam scoring system is based on a five-point scale, which measures the student’s level of preparedness in proceeding to a higher level in college. It will, however, depend on the university or college as to what score they will be able to grant credit for. Although your AP exam scores do not assure admission to any particular college, schools can see your performance and be able to judge how you persevere in academic challenges.

The five-point scale for this scoring system pertains to 5 as the highest and is referred to as exceptionally well qualified, during one equal to no recommendation. The ultimate advantage of taking this course work, though, is that if you can earn a score of 3 or 4, you can receive some college credit and may exempt you from taking introductory courses and subjects.

AP Exam Formats

An AP exam format would vary depending on the course work. For an idea about the exam types and structures, you may check out the College Board’s AP website and see their list of AP tests. You can view each subject’s format for the exam, and you can have a glimpse of what kind of questions will be asked.

There are two kinds of exams for the advanced placement tests: a multiple-choice section and a free-response test. The multiple-choice is the conventional kind where you will need to choose the right answer from different choices. The free-response area consists of an essay and open-ended questions, where you will be asked to express and explain your answers freely. 

After the exams are conducted in May, the computer system automatically checks the multiple-choice quiz. Answer sheets will be scanned accurately and will produce the score for this part of the AP exam. As for the free-response section, specially chosen professors and instructors will score this component of the exam. The total composite scores of both units will then be computed and interpreted into the 5-point scale system. 

Here are some examples of formats for AP exams:

AP Calculus BC

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It takes three hours and fifteen minutes to complete the entire AP Calculus BC exam. The multiple-choice test has 45 questions in total, and it will be divided into two parts, and students can answer them in one hour and 45 minutes. A section allows you to use a calculator and another without one. As for the free-response part of the exam, there will be six questions given, and you can answer them in one hour and 30 minutes in total.

AP Biology

The AP Biology test consists of two parts. The first part is comprised of the multiple-choice section and grid-in questions. The multiple-choice entails 63 questions, and the grid-in questions have six short questions. This will last for 90 minutes in total. The grid-in items will require you to solve math and science problems where you need to write the answers into the grid on your answer sheet. The second part of this Biology exam would also last 90 minutes and provide you with eight open response questions. Six are short, and the other two are long.

AP Chemistry

You will be given three hours and fifteen minutes for the AP Chemistry exam. The multiple-choice has 60 questions, and it will take 90 minutes to complete them. As for the free-response section, there will be a total of seven questions and will take one hour and 45 minutes to finish them. 

AP Psychology

With just two hours of examination time, it seems that the AP Psychology takes a shorter time than most AP exams. The multiple-choice part has 100 questions, and you can have 70 minutes to answer them. And then, you will only need to answer two questions for the free-response section. And you will be given 50 minutes for this part. However, for its scoring, only one-third will be computed on the free-response area, while two-thirds will be taken from your grade in the multiple-choice test score.

AP English Literature and Composition

The AP English test will take three hours in total. There are 55 questions provided on the multiple-choice section, and it will last for one hour. You will be given two hours then for the free-response part, which has three questions. This part takes up 55% of your overall score for this test.

AP Spanish Language and Culture

Your AP Spanish exam will last for three hours long. It will have two parts, as usual. The multiple-choice section on itself will involve two sub-sections, which are the text part and the audio recordings on the other. Both of these will take 95 minutes. For the free-response test, it will have four sub-parts on its own. You will need to write an email reply, write a persuasive essay, respond to conversations, and present any Spanish cultural topic. These will all give you 85 minutes to finish.

AP Art History

The AP exam in Art History will also take three hours in total. One hour goes to the multiple-choice, which has 80 numbers. The remaining two hours will focus on answering the free-response section. This part consists of two 30-minute essay questions, and the other four items take 15-minutes each.

AP US History

With 3 hours and 15 minutes duration, the AP Exam in US history is divided into two sections. One is the multiple-choice section and the short answer portion. You have 55 minutes to answer the 55 questions on the multiple-choice part. As for the quick answer portion, there will be four questions provided, and it must be finished in 50 minutes. The second part of this US history exam is the open-response section. There are two subparts for this, and one is the document-based question. You will be given 55 minutes to decipher a source document and answer questions about it. And the other task is to answer an essay that will provide you with 35 minutes to complete.

AP Music History

The AP Music History exam will last for two hours and 40 minutes in total. There are 75 questions in the multiple-choice section and divided into auditory cues and non-auditory cues. The entire part will take approximately 80 minutes to finish. On the other hand, the free-response section will provide you with seven written exercises and two sight-singing exercises. Both of these parts will take 80 minutes in completion.  

Tips to Prepare for Your AP Exam

An AP exam checklist will allow you to prepare and know what to anticipate when the examination day comes. Your AP exams usually happen during the first two weeks of May.

The AP Exams for 2021 will start on May 3 until May 14, in a total of two weeks, respectively. While others may doubt and feel unsure of what 2021 will bring due to the current status of the pandemic, students still need to prepare well, regardless.

AP Central at College Board has waived the fees for 2020 for students who have decided not to take the test or opted to cancel their exams. If you need to register for your exams on time, you will incur a late fee charge of $40.  

By 2021, most schools will have an in-house AP Program testing. In cases when health and safety are compromised, a contingency plan will be provided.

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Now, consider these tips to be part of your AP exam day checklist. It can help you become ready when the AP exam day comes:

Organize a studying schedule and familiarize yourself with your AP exam test dates.

If you are the time of person that breaks under pressure, then forget cramming and get on with your studying pattern earlier. As you may already know, when the two-weeks long AP exams are happening, prepare for your tests before May. You will have ample time to study every lesson and topic without extreme stress. If you need to go through consecutive examination days, you need to feel well-rested during that week. A last-minute cramming style won’t do you right and will burn your opportunity to get good credits, possibly. 

Practice on AP review tests.

Getting rid of procrastination and cramming will benefit you in many ways. Before May comes, make sure that you have already taken at least one practice exam for all your AP course tests that you are planning to take. You can increase your confidence and feeling of ease when you somehow have already tried taking a simulated AP exam. Review lessons that were difficult for you to decipher and challenge yourself to understand them well. 

Focus on your weak points.

Even geniuses have weak points too. So, do not be lenient even if you are doing well with your academic grades at school. Remember that an AP exam is a consolidation of year-long theoretical curriculum coverage. Prioritize to focus more on reviewing for the subjects you don’t feel strongly about. If, for instance, you have two-course work exams enlisted on the same day, give more time to review the topic that you are least confident of. 

Develop a strategy that works for you.

Different strokes for different folks are what they usually say. This also applies to exam-takers. Some students might find it easier to answer questions one by one. Some may find it convenient to start with the easiest part of the exam. Whatever works for you, please do it. Formulate a strategy and a rhythm that works productively for you, and don’t forget to time yourself. You can discover what works for you as you take on some AP exam simulations.

Don’t overthink.

Although an AP exam might start taking its toll on you, don’t let it get the best of you. You have a life outside of this. If you are beginning to feel burnt out, divert your thoughts, and do other things that can sidetrack your attention. People lose focus when we are over-perplexed and stressed out. So, take a day off from studying and do anything you love, whatever hobby or activity that can rejuvenate your soul.

Know your balance.

Unfortunately, the AP exam weeks do not exempt you from attending your standard classes. Sure, some teachers would go easy on students during these times. However, you still need to accomplish academic requirements, such as assignments and projects. You have other obligations and activities that require your time and effort. Be keen at balancing and managing your time. 

Stay focused on your goals.

Always go back to the reason why you want to achieve a high score on your AP exam. Perhaps you wish to bypass a specific course subject when you become a freshman in college. Focus on acing that test, and you may escape that introductory course finally. Having your eyes on the goal will enlighten you to stay motivated. Remember that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. 

How to Register for the AP Exam:

Because of the Covid-19 situation for the year 2020, the College Board has decided to provide the AP Exams online. However, as of the current update, they are not planning to hold a similar remote exam for 2021. You may check their site for updates from time to time if they ever plan to make changes for the AP Exam on 2021.

The steps to registering for AP exams come in easy steps; try to follow these, and you’ll have no worries.

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  1. Access the MyAP at College Board. Sign in and join your class section. If you haven’t joined yet, follow this guideline to join your class at MyAP
  2. Register for the AP Exam online. Press the Register button on your My AP page. You won’t have to do anything else but click the button. It will automatically notify your AP coordinator about who and how many students are interested in taking the AP exam. If you do not see the Register button, it’s okay. The coordinator may have already registered you. 
  3. If you are a new student or transferee and need to take the exam after November, you may be exempted from paying the late fee. Your coordinator can arrange for you to be included in the AP exam at the most convenient schedule. However, if you are a continuing student but prefer to take the AP tests in November, you must shoulder the late fee of $40.
  4. Communicate and arrange with your AP coordinator regarding the exam fees. The website does not accept any payment, so you need to settle your income in your own school’s AP coordinator.
  5. Your MyAP page will then guide you to the date and time of the exams. The morning exam usually starts between 8 to 9 in am, while the afternoon exam begins between 12 to 1 pm. You need to verify and follow up with your coordinator for specific and additional information about schedules and venues. 

Benefits of Taking Advanced Placement Classes

Since 2003, the College Board has observed that the number of students taking the AP classes has doubled. These tests cover 34 subjects that range from Statistics, Biology, and Psychology, to Art History and Drawing. Kids need to prepare for their college journey, and these AP classes and tests will help them earn a competitive advantage with other students.

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Once you take the College Board AP exams and earn credits, here are some factors you can take advantage of:

Save money.

Once you decide to take an AP exam, you will be required to pay for $95 per exam, but you can save a lot more money on tuition fees if you get credits from your college courses. Some schools require a score of 3 or higher on your AP exam before they exempt you from enrolling in that specific course. 

According to US News, the average college tuition fee for the school year 2020-2021 was $41,411 at private colleges. So, if you can get credits for several AP courses, you may come up with the overall savings you can get.

Graduate sooner.

Getting college credits because of acing the AP exams will enable you to cut and save time from attending all the courses required in your major. Bypassing subjects not only entail financial savings but will save you time too. It has a chain effect and will impact more financial savings in other school expenses like room and board, book, and other living expenses.

Improve college-preparedness and academic records.

Colleges and universities will have a view of your AP educational and academic performance background. With your AP exam records, these schools will acknowledge how you made efforts in preparing for college and for taking the challenge to handle pressure in these course workloads. Doing this helps you stand out from the rest of the applicants.

Increase the chances of getting financial aid.

With a concrete record of taking the AP exams, financial aid officers representing different institutions, universities, and organizations will be more attracted to your profile. If you have taken AP classes, there are more chances for you to land a scholarship than those who don’t. 

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Open more opportunities to grow.

Now that you have more free time because of the credits you earned, you will have more opportunities to explore and enjoy. You can afford to pursue a new hobby, sport, or extracurricular activity because you will have free time. Escaping several college courses can give you the liberty to have a more flexible schedule to take up other majors and elective subjects. If you wish to study abroad, that could also be possible.