How to Master the AP Statistics Investigative Task

AP Statistics was one of the top 10 Advanced Placement classes in 2019 and 2020 based on the number of enrolled students. Most students who take AP Statistics also take the associated end-of-year exam, which includes both multiple-choice and free-response sections.

Part B of the free-response section is referred to as the investigative task. Because this task is singular in nature — it is not used on other AP exams — AP Statistics students should review the following three-part guide to mastering it before their AP course begins.

Get Familiar With the Basics of the Investigative Task

The investigative task question has multiple parts that involve directives like “construct and interpret,” “express” and “write.” Test-takers should expect to encounter multiple visuals like charts and graphs. To answer the task’s parts, you may need to perform math based on visuals and also provide substantiated, well-written responses.

[Read: What to Know About Self-Studying for AP Exams.]

For instance, the investigative task that begins on page 14 of this 2021 exam is divided into parts a, b, c and d and contains four visuals — one boxplot and three scatterplots. A task question may also contain subsections, as in the case of part c of this task.

Students are instructed to spend roughly 25 minutes on the investigative task. However, because it is always the last question on the three-hour exam, students should ensure that they save enough time to complete it, making effective time management one of the keys to success.

Be aware that the investigative task counts for 25% of that section’s score and 12.5% of your total exam score, so it should be taken seriously.

Understand the Investigative Task’s Purpose

According to the College Board, which oversees the AP program, the investigative task “assesses multiple skill categories and content areas, focusing on the application of skills and content in new contexts or in non-routine ways.”

[Read: Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes When Prepping for AP Exams.]

In other words, this task requires you to use the knowledge and skills you acquired in your AP Statistics course, as well as extend the knowledge and skills to unique situations you may not have considered before. The former necessitates more recall while the latter requires more thinking outside the box.

Prepare Throughout the School Year

Due to the dual nature of the investigative task, preparation for this question type begs a twofold study approach. To master course content, perform a comprehensive review of the main topics covered throughout the course. This process could include more traditional study routines such as looking over old assignments, making flashcards and rereading sections of the course text.

To hone course-related skills and their broader applications, look at past AP Statistics exams. They can give you a feel for what “new contexts” may mean, for example, and you should note any patterns or recurring topics you find. Since the College Board’s archive contains official exams dating back more than 20 years, you could aim to work through one investigative task per week or more, depending on your study schedule.

[READ: 3 Things to Know About AP Scores.]

In addition, as you learn new topics in your AP Statistics course, think about how each relates to the world we live in. This technique will prove useful, since the free-response questions typically mirror real-life situations involving data — for example, the average attendance and number of games won at two baseball stadiums.

The investigative task is not so scary once you know what it involves, but the study process for it should reflect its one-of-a-kind and comprehensive nature.

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