Advanced Placement

What to Expect When Taking Your First AP Exam

Way to go! You’ve nearly made it through your first Advanced Placement® (AP®) course. One of the last steps on your journey with AP this year is to take your AP Exam(s) this May. Taking the exam gives you the opportunity to save time and money by earning college credit, advanced placement, or both and can help you stand out to colleges. No matter what score you achieve, the experience of preparing for and taking your AP Exam will help you build the skills you’ll need to transition from high school to college.

Prepare for your exam by actively participating in your classes and putting your best effort into completing all assignments from your teacher. It's also important to know what to expect before, during, and after the exam so that you can be fully prepared and feel confident on test day. 


Know the Format of Your AP Exam

The first step in preparing for your AP Exam is to get familiar with the format of the test you’ll be taking. The best way to do that is to visit the About the Exam tab of your course page. Here you’ll find important information about your exam, including when it will take place, how long it will be, and how it will be structured. Get familiar with the types of questions on your exam by downloading past free-response questions* from real AP Exams. Review previous questions, sample student responses, and scoring guidelines in the Exam Preparation section.

*Please note: Some exams have a digital portfolio component, where online works must be submitted to College Board for scoring. Check the digital portfolio page for instructions and deadline information for these exams:

  • AP Art and Design (2-D, 3-D, Drawing)
  • AP Computer Science Principles (Make sure to submit your Personalized Project Reference on time. Your testing coordinator needs to print this out for you to use on exam day.)
  • AP Research 
  • AP Seminar


Put Together a Study Plan

Once you understand the format of your exam, it's a good idea to create a study plan. Set aside time each day to study either independently or with a study group to get additional support.

Start by reviewing your syllabus and course materials. Review and continue building your knowledge of course content and skills by watching AP Daily videos in AP Classroom. These short videos cover all the content and skills that will be assessed on your AP Exam. You can also use AP Daily: Practice Sessions, a video series focused on practicing FRQs (free-response questions) and MCQs (multiple-choice questions). New video recordings will be released on April 22. All videos will be posted on YouTube and in AP Classroom and can be watched at any time. Check out more free resources to help you prepare. 


Day Before Exam 

If you haven’t already, review the latest AP Exam terms and conditions since you’ll be asked to acknowledge you’ve read them during the exam. And learn more about exam policies and guidelines here.


On Exam Day

On exam day, it's important to arrive at the test location on time, bring all the necessary materials, and eat a healthy breakfast. Usually, you’ll be taking the AP Exam at your school, during the normal school day and with students from your class. During the exam, read each question carefully, and take your time to think through the answer. Try to stay focused and calm, and take breaks if you need to. And check out these 6 tips on building confidence for your AP Exam.


After the Exam

AP Exam scores are typically released in July. Learn how to access them here. Log in to your College Board account before then to make sure that you’ll be able to view them when they’re available. And remember, each year you take an AP Exam, you have the chance to send a free score report to the college, university, or scholarship organization of your choice. June 20 is the deadline to send your scores for free. Even if you didn't receive the score you were hoping for, don't be discouraged. Research shows that many students who don’t earn a qualifying score on an AP Exam go on to earn higher scores on future AP Exams they take. And students who complete AP courses and exams have better college outcomes than their peers.

Taking an AP Exam for the first time is exciting and challenging, but always a beneficial experience. By familiarizing yourself with the exam format, creating a study plan, and preparing yourself mentally and physically for test day, you'll be well on your way to success. You've got this!