high school senior taking ap exam online

AP exams are almost here – May 11 is right around the corner! If you’re taking APs, you already know that this year’s exams are:

  • online
  • open-book and open-note
  • free-response questions only, no multiple-choice questions

College Board recently announced specific details about the content for each test including what type questions, how many for each test, and time breakdowns by question. The exam structure has changed, but the best way to prepare has not!


First and foremost, you must thoroughly understand the course material and be able to recall key information.

Online exams are much shorter in length and there are no multiple-choice questions — so no process of elimination, no recognizing the right answer when you see it, and no guessing. Instead, there are free-response questions where you must be able to connect multiple concepts and bits of information together to construct well-written responses.

Most students prefer multiple-choice, so many are a bit worried about this year’s format. Remember that you’re all in the same boat and that the same changes apply to everyone. You’ve had practice with FRQs and DBQs throughout the school year and you can do this!

The College Board has said students don’t need to worry about finishing the entire exam — you can still get a 5 without finishing all the questions but you will need to work steadily and diligently to get through as much as you can. Important takeaway here — do not freak out if you’re worried you won’t finish. It’s okay not to finish and you need to stay focused to ensure that the work you do complete is your best.

Grading will be adjusted to accommodate the new format and there won’t be an advantage or disadvantage from the changes.


Open-book and open-note testing does not mean you don’t need to study and prepare. It means you should be even more prepared, especially in reviewing your notes! If you rely too heavily on your books and notes, and they are not organized, then your responses may be incomplete.

Your goal is to transfer as much from your head to your answer as you can — if you spend too much time flipping pages or looking up details, you won’t have enough time to show what you actually know.

Your ability to look facts up is not being tested. Your ability to analyze sources, create an argument, and convey that information is.

This is your chance to show what you have learned. Make sure you show it all. The only way a grader knows what you know is if you tell them. Don’t assume they know something; it doesn’t matter whether they do or not. It matters whether you build your answer and convey what you know in your head to your answer effectively. Take your time and explain your thought process.


The College Board provided AP teachers with a deck to be shared with students the week of April 28 so you can get familiar with the test taking system well in advance of exams.


You put so much work and time into AP classes prior to the start of this pandemic. Don’t let it go to waste — stay focused and do your best. Remember that all students are in this together and you’ve all got this!

More tips and info are on the way so check back soon. And if you need personalized help with AP exam prep, we’re here to help!