The College Board has modified the AP exams in response to the disruption caused by COVID-19.
The AP exams for 2020 will be shorter, administered online, cover less material, and have a different format than previous tests.
Here are the key changes you need to know to do well in the upcoming AP exams.
Will I get AP credit for the modified AP exams?
Students who take the 2020 AP exams will be eligible for college credit, according to the College Board: “Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn. For decades, colleges have accepted a shortened AP Exam for college credit when groups of students have experienced emergencies.”
As in previous years, a student must obtain a score of 3, 4 or 5 to be eligible for college credit.
How long is the 2020 AP exams?
The online 2020 AP exams will be just 45 minutes long, and can be taken at home (if schools are still closed on exam day) or at school.
However, there are a few AP exams that do not require an end-of-course exam, including AP Computer Science Principles, AP Drawing and AP Art and Design. For these AP exams, you’re only required to submit a Digital Portfolio, consisting of tasks or artworks (depending on the exam), by the specified date.
What is the AP exams format for 2020?
The 2020 AP exams will be an open book/open note exam based entirely on free-response questions. There will be no multiple choice questions as there were in the past.
What device should I use to take the 2020 AP exams?
You can take the exam on any device you have access to, including a computer, tablet or a smartphone. You should make the determination of which device works best for you beforehand.
You are also allowed to submit a photo of your handwritten work.
What if I don’t have internet access?
If you need access to the internet or a working computer, contact the College Board here for help. The College Board is committed to making the 2020 AP exams work for all students:
“We recognize that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating. Working with partners, we will invest so that these students have the tools and connectivity they need to review AP content online and take the exam.”
What will be tested on the 2020 AP exams?
Because of the COVID-19 interruption, the 2020 AP exams will be based on material that schools are expected to have covered by early March.
For example, for the AP U.S. History or APUSH exam, you will be tested only on material from Units 1 through 7:
- Unit 1: Period 1: 1491-1607
- Unit 2: Period 2: 1607-1754
- Unit 3: Period 3: 1754-1800
- Unit 4: Period 4: 1800-1848
- Unit 5: Period 5: 1844-1877
- Unit 6: Period 6: 1865-1898
- Unit 7: Period 7: 1890-1945
You won’t be tested on material from Units 8 and 9:
- Unit 8: Period 8: 1945-1980
- Unit 9: Period 9: 1980-Present
Are exam question types and sample questions available for the 2020 AP exams?
Yes, the College Board has just released information on the type of question for each AP exam, how many questions there will be and the description of each question. It has also included rubrics for scoring criteria for relevant AP exams.
For example, the APUSH exam will consist of just one modified document-based question (DBQ), which will include five, instead of the usual seven, historical sources. Check this APUSH rubric for details on the scoring criteria and here for a description of the question.
You will have 45 minutes to read and respond to the APUSH exam question and another five minutes to upload your response.
Other AP exams, like AP U.S. Government and History, AP Psychology, AP Calculus AB and AP Biology, may consist of two free-response questions. In such cases, you will have 25 minutes to read and respond to the first question and five minutes to upload your response. Then you will have 15 minutes for the second question plus another five minutes to upload your response.
What are the 2020 AP exams date and time?
The College Board is offering two exam dates for each AP exam this year.
The primary date for each AP exam is in May — May 11 through May 22.
For example, the APUSH exam is on Friday, May 15 at these local times:
- Hawaii Time: 8 a.m.
- Alaska Time: 10 a.m.
- Pacific Time: 11 a.m.
- Mountain Time: 12 p.m.
- Central Time: 1 p.m.
- Eastern Time: 2 p.m.
The make-up date for each AP exam is in June — June 1 through June 5.
For example, the APUSH exam will be held on Wednesday, June 3 at these local times:
- Hawaii Time: 6 a.m.
- Alaska Time: 8 a.m.
- Pacific Time: 9 a.m.
- Mountain Time: 10 a.m.
- Central Time: 11 a.m.
- Eastern Time: 12 p.m.
Note: Unless you have a scheduling conflict, you should plan on taking your AP exam on the primary date. This way, you can take it on the make-up date if it turns out you can’t take it on the primary date.
Is the College Board offering any free AP exams review courses?
The College Board is committed to making free resources available to students through exam day.
Note: The AP review courses will also cover topics that have been excluded from this year’s exams.
What are my other options for preparing for the 2020 AP exams?
If you don’t have a review book for your AP exam and can’t get it on time through Amazon, which has confirmed that even Amazon Prime deliveries of non-essential goods could be delayed a month, try eBay or other alternate sources.
And don’t worry if you have problems getting your book delivered early enough to help you with your prep. There are online resources that you can use to help you prepare for the 2020 AP exams.
In partnership with the College Board, Khan Academy provides an official AP course that comes with free instructional videos, articles, and practice exercises created by current and former AP teachers. In addition, Khan Academy offers free exam skills and strategies.
At the time of this writing, Khan Academy has free resources for 15 popular AP courses.
In line with its mission to create inclusive and social learning experiences available to every student, Fiveable has a rich resource of free videos, trivia and study guides to offer students preparing for the most popular AP exams.
In addition, Fiveable is offering a Cram Pass for just $35 per AP exam. This fee is further reduced when you purchase more Cram Passes — $50 for two AP exams and $60 for three AP exams. On top of that, students get a 10% discount with a special TUN coupon code — just enter “TUN10%” upon checkout to activate your discount.
And Fiveable also offers financial aid for students who can’t afford a Cram Pass.
The Cram Pass includes 10 live-streamed lessons or cram sessions, which are about an hour long but may sometimes be longer if there are extra questions from students, downloadable replays, and practice prompts and feedback. Also, the night before the exam, Fiveable will host a live open forum Q&A to help students prepare. Fiveable cram teachers will tailor their sessions to align with the changes in the 2020 AP exams.
According to Fiveable, 92% of students who use Fiveable to help them prepare for their AP exams pass their exams with 70% earning a 4 or higher score.
The Princeton Review offers a 6-Hour Cram AP Cram Course for most of the AP exams. The course, which comes with a book, can be ordered online for $149.
The Princeton Review also offers private tutoring, available both in-person or online, for a fee starting at $167 an hour. If you decide to go with this personalized option, expert tutors will work with you to “make a plan, set goals, and exceed them.” The Princeton Review guarantees that if you’re not 100% satisfied, you will be matched with another tutor and get your next lesson for free.
This year is unlike any other for high school seniors and juniors with schools closing and transitioning to online classes. In addition to other unique challenges, seniors are missing out on traditional milestones (prom, graduation, admitted students day, etc.) while juniors face uncertainty in terms of college visits, SAT or ACT prep etc. But try to keep your spirits up and keep up with your school work.
And if AP exams are still on the cards for you, try to prepare as early as you can. Check here for details on specific AP exams, including links to the actual free-response questions posed in 2019 and 2018.
If you’d rather not take any AP exam this year, you can cancel your scheduled exam without incurring a fee.
Susan Chu is a writer and editor who likes to write about trends in higher education.