AP Tips and Test Taking Strategies: The Ultimate Collection of Guides

It’s normal to be worried about your chances of passing the AP exams, especially if you’ve never had experience taking any related exam. But it’s still important to take the exams non-respective since it helps increase your chances of getting into top-ranked colleges and universities. Preparation is key to getting good AP exam scores. We understand how challenging the whole process can be for you, and that’s why we’ve prepared this ultimate collection of guides.

The guide provides detailed AP tips and test-taking strategies to help prepare you better for all the AP subjects you’ll take.

What are AP Exams?What are AP Exams?

Advanced Placement examinations (AP exams) are college-level exams on specific subjects offered in the United States by the College Board. The exam, which grew out of programs initiated in 1951, is typically taken in May upon the completion of AP courses taken during high school. Many colleges and universities around the United States rate the AP exams very highly. So, a high enough score in the exam will earn you college credit in these schools. We’ve also seen cases where earning college credit resulted in overall college tuition bill reduction.

Note that AP exams are only offered during a two-week period in May, so students preparing for the exam are typically advised to plan their AP preparation strategies ahead of time. The AP exam typically has a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. So, it’s important to direct your preparations towards these areas (more on that later).

List of AP Exams

List of AP Exams

We get it; you’ve heard so much about AP exams and courses that you’re confused about which to choose. It doesn’t have to be if you know about all available AP courses beforehand. To help, we’ve compiled all the available AP exams for you to review and choose which is best for you. Here’s a list of all 38 of them.

AP Capstone Diploma Program

  • AP Research
  • AP Seminar

Arts

  • AP Art History
  • AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: Drawing
  • AP Music Theory

English

Sciences

  • AP Biology
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics

Maths and Computer Sciences

World Languages and Culture 

History and Social Sciences

What are the Most Popular AP Tests?

What are the Most Popular AP Tests?

As you’ve probably noticed from the above section, the College Board administers w staggering 38 AP Tests. However, it’s important to note that most high schools won’t offer all 38 tests. In fact, many of them will only administer a select few.

As a result, you may discover that your school of choice won’t administer all AP tests. This is the most significant reason why some AP tests have become more popular than others. You’ll also find that the tests reputed for being easier are typically more popular. That said, here are seven of the most popular AP tests based on the opinions of several test takers and number of test takers in May 2021.

AP English and Composition

No. of test takers as of 2021: 518,548

The over half a million test takers taking this test annually puts it ahead of others as the most popular test takers. Add that to the 57.7% pass percentage, and you can see why it’s so popular.

AP U.S History

No. of test takers as of 2021: 454,204

The AP U.S. History exam is easily the second most popular AP exam because of the number of test takers sitting for the exam. The two-semester introductory college class reviews documented episodes of the United States history.

The exam requires test takers to analyze historical graphs, texts, and visual sources. It also focuses on making connections between historical developments and available evidence.

Check out this article if you’re wondering whether or not to take AP U.S. History.

AP English Literature and Composition

No. of Test Takers as of 2021: 321,029

Next in the rank of popular AP exams is AP English Literature and Composition. Here, the focus shifts to a detailed analysis of fictional works and literary craft. Students are generally tested on their ability to read critically, comprehend what they’ve read, and use the information in different contexts. Students must also draw arguments based on their interpretation of given passages.

AP World World History

No. of test takers as of 2021: 302,232

The number of students taking this AP exam has recently continued to rise. The test is designed to cover the historical development of human societies. Thus, it captures different theories and concepts relating to evolution and development.

Students are generally required to recall historical information like revolutions, globalization, industrialization, transoceanic connections, and different kinds of global conflicts.

AP Psychology

No of Test Takers as of 2022:  228,511

AP Psychology comes right after World History when it comes to popularity levels. This text focuses on skills like psychological research analysis, data interpretation, and the connection of concepts to real-life scenarios.

Test takers would usually require a basic to advanced understanding of concepts like cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, etc. They would also need to know a lot about the history of psychology, including world-famous psychologists and groundbreaking experiments.

What is the Passing Score on AP Tests?

What is the Passing Score on AP Tests?

One question students often ask while preparing for AP exams is, “what’s the passing score.” The answer to this question can help you channel your AP preparation better. Firstly, it’s important to note that the AP exams are scored by five numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Each of these numbers represents a different score range, with “1” being the lowest and “5” being the highest. Here, let’s review each of the numbers and what they mean to know which category you belong to.

AP Scores of 1

This is usually the lowest possible score you can get in the exam, and nobody wants it. Fortunately, it is not a popular score, and only people who registered for the exams without a single preparation would usually get this score. A few complications can also arise during the test to make you score 1. But aside from these, it’s generally believed that you’ll do well enough in the test.

AP Score of 2

The College Board typically classifies people with this score as “possibly qualified” to pass a college-level class. However, most colleges would not accept this score unless in extenuating circumstances.

You could study and prepare hard yet fall into this category because of a mistake. The issue could also come from your attitude while preparing or sitting for the exams.

AP Score of 3 

This AP score is respectable and is classified as “qualified” by the College Board. Falling into this category typically means that you’ve read and understood the material. It also means that your execution was good enough to get you into college. Indeed, you did not make the highest score, but you didn’t fail either. Thus, many state colleges are open to accepting candidates in this category. However, you may still find it difficult to get into selective colleges like Yale or Harvard. 3 is the most common score for this exam, and many people don’t score above it because of simple mistakes.

AP Score of 4

4 is a very good score as far as the AP exam is concerned, and scorers are usually proud of themselves. It’s pretty challenging to achieve and requires hard work. You’ll need to memorize and apply the knowledge you’ve acquired preparing for the exams. The score is classified as “well qualified” and shows your detailed understanding of the material. It also shows that you’ll do well in college classes. Hence, most colleges accept it.

AP Score of 5

This is the best score you can get on the AP exam. Although pretty difficult to earn, it is achievable. Getting it means you’ve prepared hard for the exams. It means you’ve put so much effort into delivering top-notch essays, and even though you’ve probably missed a few multiple choice questions, you still answered enough questions correctly to give you an edge.

Easiest to Hardest AP Exams

Easiest to Hardest AP Exams

Although there’s no official list of the most challenging AP classes, it’s still possible to rank the difficulty levels of the available AP exams based on several criteria. One of the most popular criteria for ranking the difficulty levels of the AP exam or any other exam is the pass rate. However, even with these criteria, it’s difficult to point out which AP courses and exams are the most difficult, considering the uniqueness of each student’s ability. Another thing to note is the flexibility each course comes with and the material you’ll need to excel in each.

Most students find courses like chemistry, physics 1, and English literature relatively difficult to self-study because actively studying these causes requires conversation. That said, here’s a list ranking AP courses and exams from the easiest to the hardest based on pass rate and ease of study.

Chinese language

49.30%

Japanese Language

48.50%

Calculus BC

41.20%

Physics C E&M

31.50%

Computer Science A

27.30%

Italian Language

22.60%

Music Theory

18.70%

Economics – Macro

16.40%

Economics – Micro

17.70%

World History

13.20%

French Language

13.1%

English Literature

16.90%

English Language

10.40%

Spanish Literature

8.10%

Biology

15%

Environmental Science

8.9%

German Language

8%

Physics 1

7.1%

Art and Design 3D

6.4%

To find the most current information, check College Board’s website here.

How to Decide Which AP Exam to Take?

How to Decide Which AP Exam to Take?

The whole process of choosing suitable AP classes and exams can easily become overwhelming for anybody. You need concentration, care, and patience while sorting through the different available courses before choosing what’s best for you. Here are a few tips that can help you.

Review your subject strengths and weaknesses

The first place to look at when choosing AP classes is your areas of strength and weaknesses. If you do better in calculative courses for instance, you should already know that sciences fit you better. However, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure if you apply for subjects like social science despite not being a fan of critical thinking. The same applies for all courses. Choosing such AP classes will make the whole journey easier and more convenient because you’ll enjoy studying them.

Your overall workload

We usually see students double their workloads in a bid to make it to top colleges and universities. There’s no doubting the fact that this can cause pressure and burnout. So, before choosing AP classes, ensure that you review the overall workload of the class to know whether it can fit into your current schedule. If you already have too much to do in terms of personal commitment and extracurricular activities, enrolling in too many AP classes can easily become overkill.

Your school’s and teacher’s areas of strengths and weaknesses

Schools and teachers usually have their areas of strength and weaknesses. Some teachers prefer to teach some subjects over others. Some schools are known for passing some AP classes more than others. So, consider your school’s reputation while considering which AP classes to choose. If you can, choose classes that suit your teachers’ strong points. This way, you’ll have better support as you prepare for your AP exams.

Review your interests and prospective study areas

While looking at the practical considerations above, it’s also essential to keep your interests in mind. Consider enrolling for courses you enjoy doing. For example, If you enjoy solving calculus questions, you should consider applying for statistics or computer sciences. Students who shine in language studies can consider applying for international language studies. This way, you won’t find studying too hard. You can also enquire about the classes most related to your prospective study area.

How to Study for the AP Exams?

How to Study for the AP Exams?

Depending on how many AP exams you’re taking, you may need to start preparing earlier. Remember, each exam has a different preparation strategy. Therefore, it’s important to note each exam and apply its unique preparation strategies while getting ready. That said, here are links to different AP exam tips articles with details of how you should prepare and what you should do before and during the exam date. Let’s go!

Wrapping Things Up: Key Takeaways from AP Tips and Test Taking Strategies

AP tests aren’t like every other test you’ve taken in high school. They are usually an upgrade to prepare you for what you’ll face in college. As expected, the exams are not the easiest you’ll face out there, especially considering that you’ll need good AP exam scores to qualify you for top institutions. But don’t worry, you’ll be fine if you approach the test with the right attitude.

Approaching your studies rightly puts you in a favorable position to clear any exams. That said, this article provides all the AP exam test day tips you’ll need to prepare for the exams. We’ve also highlighted the different AP exam scores you can possibly get and what each represents to prepare you for it.