AP Exams: What Do Students Need to Know? (Part 1)

Although AP exams are not until May, now is the time to start thinking about registration and preparation for taking the exam. Often, students who are unfamiliar with what to expect have a lot of questions about the process and how to prepare for the AP exam. Below are some common questions and answers that may help Iowa Online AP Academy mentors and site coordinators explain the process to students.

Why should I take the AP exam? There are a lot of reasons to take the AP exam! Research conducted by the College Board found that students who took AP exams outperformed those who did not in college. In addition, AP participation in high school is related to college readiness and completion. Students who take AP exams are more likely to graduate in four years and are generally successful in college, even when they score below a 3. In general, students who take AP courses and exams in high school come to college better prepared than peers who do not take AP.

What is it like to take an AP exam? Exams are usually comprised of two parts. First, students complete multiple choice questions in their subject area. Then, students answer free response items (solving problems, writing essays, or something similar depending on discipline). The entire exam takes two to three hours—generally shorter than taking the ACT.

Do I have to take the AP exam if I took an AP class? This depends on the school—some schools require students to take AP exams for courses they complete while others allow the students to make the choice. Regardless, if you feel like you have successfully completed the course, taking the AP exam is a great opportunity to demonstrate what you know.

I don’t know if I’m prepared for the AP exam—how can I tell? There are a lot of great resources available to determine progress towards in a certain subject. The College Board provides sample questions on their website and many independent publishers offer books aimed at helping with AP Exam preparation. In addition, the Belin-Blank Center offers free AP Exam Review sessions through the Iowa Online AP Academy to ensure students have access to preparation prior to exams. It is also a good idea to discuss taking the AP exam with teachers and mentors as they can provide tips for studying and taking the exam.

How do students in Iowa Online AP Academy courses do on AP exams compared to traditional AP students? Iowa Online AP Academy students generally perform just as well as students in traditional classroom-based AP classes. These students generally feel that they have good resources and support within the online environment to ensure success on the AP exam.

What if I take the AP exam and don’t receive a 3 or higher? Just taking the AP exam demonstrates a commitment to challenging coursework. Although students generally do not receive credit for scores below a 3, colleges and universities still acknowledge the extra commitment and drive required to complete AP exams, and research shows that students still come to college better prepared when they take AP exams. If students are truly concerned about a low score on the AP exam, the College Board does have options regarding how scores are reported.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

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