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15 Tips to Boost Your AP Exam Results

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At present there are 36 AP exams. While the specifics vary, most of them contain two parts: Part 1 consists of multiple choice questions and part 2 consists of free response questions.

Let’s face it. There’s no substitute for content knowledge and solid preparation, but you can use the following tips to make the most of every response you provide.


  1. You can write on the AP exam booklet, so use this to your advantage.
  2. Circle key words (does, does not, contrast, compare, explain, refute) to ensure you focus on the right details.
  3. Make notes to clarify your thought process.
  4. Remember unanswered questions and incorrect responses are not penalized.

Multiple Choice Questions

  1. Cross out any incorrect options to limit distractions and help you concentrate on the correct (or most likely) choices.
  2. Fill answer sheet bubbles carefully and completely.
  3. If you change an answer, thoroughly erase the incorrect answer and mark the correct one.

Free Response Questions

  1. Outline the key points you want to address then write your essay.
  2. Draw diagrams or illustrations to map out connections and refine your thought process.
  3. You can earn partial credit for an incomplete essay if you show your work (outline, illustration, flow chart, etc.) in a clear, organized and meaningful fashion.
  4. In multipart essays, points are awarded to each subsection so answer as much of the question as you can. If you know the answers to parts A and C, do those portions as thoroughly as possible. Incorrect answers are no longer penalized, so if you have the time and inclination, tackle the iffy section last.
  5. Use a standard, accepted model to organize your thought processes and structure responses. One popular approach is to state your primary assertion or claim, then back it up with facts and evidence and an explanation of your reasoning.
  6. If you make a mistake, draw a single line through the word, sentence or paragraph and continue writing.
  7. Spelling and grammar are not scored. You can however strengthen the overall impact of every response by doing both well.
  8. Write neatly. As obvious as it sounds, test readers must be able to decipher your writing in order to properly interpret and score your responses.

None of these practical tips are magical, but there’s a reason they’re used by the savviest test takers. In combination, they ensure you maximize every answer and help you steadily and systematically accumulate points so you earn both the full and partial credits that can boost your overall exam results.

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