Preparing Students For the AP Tests: At Home in 2020

Help them get that score of 5!

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With students everywhere in quarantine and receiving education through distance learning, the Advanced Placement tests have also moved at home and online . It’s definitely a new landscape so we’ve gathered our top tips for preparing students for the AP tests.

First, let’s take a look at what has changed.

The 2020 AP tests will no longer have multiple choice questions, rather they will focus on the free-response portion. Depending on the subject, students will have to answer one or two free response questions (FRQs), within a 45 minute period. 

The exams will be provided to be taken at home, and will be open book and open Internet. The exams can be taken on any device, or students can write out their responses and submit a photo via their cellphones.


Does this mean students can cheat?

Not really. They will have access to all the information they need to find the answers, but they can’t just copy another student’s answers! The College Board says new security measures will include anti-plagiarism software and some other “technology methods.” High school AP teachers will also be sent copies of test answers to review and hopefully spot inconsistencies with their students’ previous known work.


And to further avoid answer leaks, the same tests will be administered at the same time throughout the nation, on specific dates from May 11 to May 22. (Makeup test dates will be available from June 1 to June 5 for each subject.)

Is there anything you should know about individual subjects?

There are some key things to note regarding various AP subjects being tested.

  • For AP English: These tests will involve only one essay and the score will depend on psychometric analysis scoring. For English Language and Composition, there will be a single Rhetorical Analysis question. For English Literature and Composition there will be a single Prose Fiction analysis.
  • For AP Math: AP Computer Science will most likely require a typed response whereas AP Calculus and AP Statistics will involve handwritten responses to the two FRQs. The first FRQ needs to be submitted before access is given to the second. AP Calculus students do not need calculators, so questions from past “no-calculator” sections should be expected.
  • For AP Science: All of the sciences will consist of two FQs. No drawing or graphing will be required. There will be fewer calculations and instead the questions will focus on writing.
  • For AP History: These exams will consist of a modified 5 document-based question (DBQ) which replaces the typical 60-minute, 7-document DBQ. 
  • For AP U.S. Government: This exam will consist of an argument essay and a concept application question.

With this new format, how can teachers help students prepare?

The tests start in less than two weeks, so we’ve gathered some tips for preparing students for these AP tests.

  • Remove or greatly reduce the focus on the multiple-choice section of the exam, as it’s gone entirely.
  • Assign sample FRQs to your students with shorter times to answer them. Because of the shortened time period, students will have to quickly show their skill and content knowledge on that topic.
  • Have students review content from the beginning of the year until early March, as the questions will be focused on those topics.
  • Make use of the College Board’s on-demand video lessons. The videos include newer content and reviews of the entire year. (Note: focus at this time should be on the reviews to prepare for the test.)
  • Encourage students to be prepared with technology ahead of time. If they plan to do their work on a cell phone, they may have better success by handwriting out their essay or problem solutions and uploading with a photo. (Note: College Board has said they will be having a simulation ahead of the test date, so students should take advantage of that!)

Only time will tell if these Advanced Placement tests will be better suited for at-home and online. In the meantime, these tips will help students be better prepared.

Do you have any tips for preparing students for AP tests? Share on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE.

Plus, do we put too much weight on AP classes for our students

Preparing Students For the AP Tests: At Home in 2020