The College Board recently announced its 2021 testing plan for end-of-year Advanced Placement exams. While the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect AP assessment procedures, this year’s changes differ notably from 2020.
The College Board is extending more assessment options in 2021 to allow for greater flexibility during what has been an extremely trying time for education and the world at large. Here is what students can expect for their AP testing sessions this year.
When the 2021 AP Exams Will Occur
End-of-year AP exams will take place over a relatively long period: from early May to mid-June. The reason for this shift is that exam dates will be organized into three different phases, or what the College Board calls administrations 1, 2 and 3.
Administration 1 will take place May 3-7, 10-12, 14 and 17; administration 2 is scheduled for May 18-21 and 24-28; and administration 3 will span June 1-4 and 7-11.
The transition from one administration to the next can take place midweek, so mark your calendar carefully.
Formats for the 2021 AP Exams
The format of each AP exam is determined in part by the administration to which it is assigned. For instance, administration 1 will include only traditional paper-based, full-length tests to be taken at school. Administration 2 will include a mixture of in-school paper-based and in-school and at-home digital exams while administration 3 will be mostly digital exams with at-home and in-school options.
Paper-based exams, as well as non-English language exams, will be given in local time and can be begun up to an hour after the official start time. Digital tests, however, will begin synchronously worldwide, which means they will start simultaneously everywhere.
Review the 2021 AP exam schedule for more specific testing information, but note that your school’s finalized exam schedule may be less extensive than the comprehensive one you see online.
Also, it’s important to know that because the full-length digital AP exams require typewritten free responses, these exams can’t be taken on a smartphone. Test-takers will have to install a digital exam application on the computer they will use for the test, which will not be the same digital platform that was used for emergency testing in spring 2020.
How to Know the Format of Your AP Exam
The only way to know how and when you will test is to inquire directly with your school. Although the College Board offers a wide range of AP testing options, individual schools work from that to determine their own particular schedule and which exams to offer.
How to Prepare for the 2021 AP Exams
As this may be the first time you sit for a digital AP exam, consider these study tips.
Train in the online testing process. Taking a digital exam feels different than taking one on paper. As soon as possible, pivot from using printed to digital test prep content as preparation for the online test-taking process.
Take advantage of free resources. Regularly check the College Board’s news and updates section for information and free practice resources.
If you have limited time to prepare for your AP exams, the following advice may be helpful.
Familiarize yourself with the test format. You know better than anyone your test-taking strengths and weaknesses, so apply this personal knowledge to the exam format to maximize your chances of earning a high score.
For example, if you know that you tend to make careless mistakes on math exams, allow yourself enough time at the end of AP math tests to check your work. Know, too, if your exam is available only in one format such as music theory and languages like Latin — or if the assessment varies between paper-based and digital formats, as is the case with chemistry, for example.
Study selectively. AP courses cover a great deal of material, and it is likely impossible to review all class content in the last few weeks before your AP test. The best strategy is to selectively study portions of the course that you find the most challenging.
When studying for several AP exams at once, try these two strategies.
Create a personalized schedule. Students who keep a calendar may best manage the challenges of AP exam week if they set aside time to meet all of their individual academic needs. Design a schedule that includes realistic blocks of time to study, along with regular breaks. If you have two tests on the same day or exams multiple days in a row, space out your review sessions appropriately.
Vary your review methods. Start by asking yourself how you best study for tests. Do you work better in a group or alone? Could you use one study technique, such as referring to flashcards when tackling vocabulary, but switch to another — like summarizing key primary documents — when addressing free-response questions? Variation can help limit boredom and burnout while preparing you for the different skills required for different AP subjects.
Stay on top of 2021 AP testing changes and study accordingly to shine on your exams this spring.
More from U.S. News