In case the sweaty palms and late-night cram sessions didn't tip you off, AP® exams can cause stress like no other. Are you gearing up for battle against European History, priming yourself for Psychology, or calculating the probability of acing Stats?
Whatever's on the horizon, it can be tough to keep your cool with so much on your plate. We're serving up the answers to your big questions to help you stay sane during AP season.
What do I need to bring?
- An approved calculator, if needed. It'll vary by test, so check here to see which type will be accepted.
- A watch. Your testing room may not have a clock. Either way, you'll be safer if you discreetly glance at your watch instead of crane your neck around suspiciously and risk getting tackled by a proctor who probably moonlights as a linebacker.
- At least two No. 2 pencils. A tip from past experience: sharpen them before you start the test.
- At least two pens with black ink. Pick ones you like, although maybe not your lucky Hello Kitty ninja chef glitter pen from third grade. On a related note, make sure your pens have ink.
- Driver's license or other photo ID. Yes, we can still tell that your terrible DMV photo is you. Sorry.
- Social security number. It's like Ronald Reagan said: Trust, but verify.
- Your SSD Student Accommodation letter if you've been approved for special test-taking procedures.
If we didn't mention it, you can't bring it. (Do wear clothes, though. That's a good idea.) More specifically, don't bring:
- Blank scratch paper. The test booklets will give you plenty of room for notes and calculations.
- Phones. Blah blah blah, this isn't your first rodeo. Who you gonna call, anyway?
- Things that go "ping," even metaphorically speaking. Computers, iPads (i-anythings, for that matter), Kindles, and cameras. If it's vaguely electronic, plugs into things, and has a screen, then it's a no.
How much does it cost to take an AP exam?
The fee for every AP Exam taken in the U.S. is $94, whether you're taking French, European History, Biology, or whatever. At schools outside of the country, the fee goes up to $124 per person—that's still in U.S. dollars, not euros or rubles or whatever.
We know paying to take a three-hour exam might seem as weird as paying to receive a punch in the stomach. However, it may help to remember that students save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by potentially earning college credit through this test, so in the long run, $94 isn't that bad. Students concerned about being able to afford all of the exams can talk to their school's AP coordinator. He or she will likely be able to help with applications for federal or state financial assistance.
How do I study the night before the exam?
Cramming the night before is not your best option. Instead, on the eve of the exam, concentrate on reminding yourself of the big pictures instead of all the details. Review key concepts, equations, big events, etc. Of course, if there are small details you always forget, feel free to remind yourself of those things, but most importantly, try to review all of the course material in a way consistent with the representation of each section on your exam.
Is it okay to guess on the exam?
"Yes, yes! Please guess!" Okay, of course it's always better to know the answer. However, in a circumstance where the answer is not known, based on the way the AP exam is graded, it only makes sense to take your best guess. Use the process of elimination to funnel out obviously incorrect answers to increase your chances of accidentally landing the ace. When you don't know an answer, guessing is your best chance at racking up a few extra points.
Am I supposed to know every passage that comes up?
If you open up your test booklet and realize that you possess an in-depth knowledge of every passage cited and discussed within its pages, you have won the lottery. (The metaphorical lottery. Sorry.) This is on par with an asteroid traveling from Saturn and landing in your precise lap at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. Let's just say that it's improbable—and that's okay. Regardless of which AP you're taking, there is no expectation that you will have read or even heard of every author or topic that is addressed within your exam. None. (Whew.)
Will I earn college credit if I score a 3 or higher on my AP exam?
Maybe! Every university is different. Be sure to check with the school to see whether or not they accept passing AP test scores.
The final grade for the exam is a whole number on a scale of 1 to 5. A 3 or better often qualifies for college credit, but a 4 or a 5 on the test generally guarantees that credit is given where credit is due at any school—that offers credit for AP scores, that is. Once you've found out that you did indeed ace the exam, be sure to call your academic institution of choice and ask them, "So what can you offer me?"
Or something. We trust you to use your words.
My school doesn't have a specific AP course, but it's my favorite subject and I study like a maniac. Can I still take the exam?
Sure can, champ. Students who are homeschooled or who attend schools that don't offer the AP course can take the test at a participating school. Contact AP Services by March 3rd to get the ball rolling. Contact info here.
Is there a limit to how many AP Exams I can take?
No. Except you can't take Calculus AB and Calculus BC in the same year. (Because we knew that was your next question, obviously.)
I'm freaking out! I have another exam at the same time as this test, so what do I do?
Before you rush out to invest in a Time-Turner, take a deep breath. The College Board anticipated go-getters like you having this problem. There's a late-testing period the week after traditional exams are over. You can take any of your AP exams during that period if needed.
What if the test goes badly? I mean really, really badly.
We all have those days. Sometimes you're battling food poisoning or the flu or it's just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Sometimes you're panicking in the bathroom in the morning and accidentally put in your brother's contacts, which in retrospect will be one of the grossest things to ever happen to you. (Not that we're speaking from personal experience or anything…)
We're certainly hoping this won't be the case, but if it is, you can cancel your scores at any time. To have them permanently wiped from your record before the score report comes out (and sent to whatever universities you designated) you'll need to fill out this form before June 15th (check this link for more info).
Can I take my AP exam again if I'm unhappy with my score?
Yup, you can repeat the exam next year. But keep in mind that unless you're also retaking the AP course, you won't have the advantage of a built-in review. On the bright side, you have an entire year to study on your own, or with us (wink-wink). Just make sure you request that the lower score be withheld, or else both scores are reported.
Voltaire once said to "judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." AP graders are pretty fixated on answers, though, and luckily, Shmoop has the answers to any lingering questions about the exam.
Can the College Board accommodate my disability?
If you have a documented disability that would make taking the AP exam challenging, the College Board is happy to help. Some of the most common accommodations (a-common-dations?) include extended time, large-block answer sheets, and a reader to dictate questions. Work with your school's AP coordinator to get any accommodations approved by the College Board's Services for Students with Disabilities office.
Feelin' a little more prepared?
You got this.
AP is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.