AP Exam Review

Don’t panic! It is not time to start reviewing.

I try to keep these posts ahead of the typical AP Calculus timeline so you can have time to think them over and include what you want to use from them (if anything).

Over the next 6 weeks I will post several times each week. The post will be previous posts on reviewing slightly revised and updated. Today’s post is “Ideas for reviewing for the AP Exam” originally posted on February 25, 2013.

Ideas for reviewing for the AP Exam

Part of the purpose of reviewing for the AP calculus exams is to refresh your students’ memory on all the great things you’ve taught them during the rear. The other purpose is to inform them about the format of the exam, the style of the questions, the way they should present their answer, and how the exam is graded and scored.

Using AP questions all year is a good way to accomplish some of this. Look through the released multiple-choice exams and pick questions related to whatever you are doing at the moment. Free-response questions are a little trickier since the parts of the questions come from different units. These may be adapted or used in part.

At the end of the year I suggest you review the free-response questions by type – table questions, differential equations, area/volume, rate/accumulation, graph, etc. That is, plan to spend a few days doing a selection of questions of one type so that student can see how that type question can be used to test a variety of topics. Then go onto the next type. Many teachers keep a collection of past free-response questions filed by type rather than year. This makes it easy to study them by type.

In the next few posts I will discuss each type (there are 10) in turn and give suggestions about what to look for and how to approach the question.

Simulated Exam

Plan to give a simulated (mock) exam. Each year the College Board makes a full exam available. The exams for 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2012 are available at AP Central  and the secure 2013 – 2016 exams are available through your audit website. If possible, find a time when your students can take the exam in 3.25 hours. Teachers often do this on a weekend day or in the evening. This will give your students a feel for what it is like to work calculus problems under test conditions. If you cannot get 3.25 hours to do this give the sections in class using the prescribed time. Some teachers schedule several simulated exams. Of course, you need to correct them and go over the most common mistakes.

Explain the scoring

There are 108 points available on the exam; each half is worth the same – 54 points. The number of points required for each score is set after the exams are graded.

For the AB exam, the points required for each score out of 108 point are, very approximately:

  • for a 5 – 69 points,
  • for a 4 – 52 points,
  • for a 3 – 40 points,
  • for a 2 – 28 points.

The numbers are similar for the BC exams are again very approximately:

  • for a 5 – 68 points,
  • for a 4 – 58 points,
  • for a 3 – 42 points,
  • for a 2 – 34 points.

The actual numbers are not what is important. What is important is that students to know is that they can omit or get wrong many questions and still earn a good score. Students may not be used to this (since they skip or get so few questions wrong on your tests!). They should not panic or feel they are doing poorly if they miss a number of questions. If they understand and accept this in advance they will calm down and do better on the exams. Help them understand they should gather as many points as they can, and not be too concerned if they cannot get them all. Doing only the first 2 parts of a free-response question will probably put them at the mean for that question. Remind them not to spend time on something that’s not working out, or that they don’t feel they know how to do.


Print a copy of the directions for both parts of the exam and go over them with your students. Especially, for the free-response questions explain the need to show their work, explain that they do not have to simplify arithmetic or algebraic expressions, and explain the three-decimal place consideration. Be sure they know what is expected of them.The directions are here: AB Directions and BC Directions. Yes, this is boiler plate stuff, but take a few minutes to go over it with your students. They should not have to see the directions for the first time on the day of the exam.

Next Posts:

Thursday February 23, 2017: A list of resources for you and your students in preparation for the exams.

Friday February 24: Using Practice Exams

Tuesday February 28: The Writing Questions on the AP Exams

Friday March 3: Type 1 of the 10 type questions: Rate and Accumulation

Tuesday March 7: Type 2 Linear Motion





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