A student’s guide to the 2020 AP test

AP tests are different than in previous years, but the College Board offers tools to help students prepare

By Natalie Foote

With AP tests right around the corner, students may worry about how the tests will work this year. But the organization in charge of AP tests—College Board—is committed to helping students prepare for tests by providing review videos through their Youtube channel. Now though, new information about how tests will go has emerged, and with it, some useful resources. 

Test Material 

If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the review videos on Youtube, start now. They offer tips for the tests in specific subjects, cover important material, and come with additional material for practice and study. Catch them live several times a week or go to the Playlist section to watch past videos.

For more practice and additional resources, check your AP teachers’ Canvas page frequently. Many teachers are offering learning opportunities for students to prepare for the upcoming tests. Engaging with this material and exploring the resources your teacher or classmates recommend is a great way to get ready. Don’t stick to one resource: multiple resources will ensure you have accurate and complete information. While tests are open-note this year, there will not be enough time to do in-depth research during the test, so being as prepared as you would be for a normal AP test is important.

All of the articles, videos, and assignments can seem overwhelming, but with a plan, preparing for AP tests is simple. Count how many weekdays there are until your AP test or tests. Then find the material that will be covered in your AP test (for most classes, the exam will cover all material learned from the beginning of the year until early March). After gathering this information, divide the work into small sections and record when you will study each subject. 

If you only have one AP test, doing a little bit of studying each weekday is a fine goal, but for multiple tests, dedicating two or three days per week to each subject is more manageable. Another way you can prepare for the test is by having virtual study groups. Find a couple of friends in your class and go over an assignment or review a specific section of the material. 

Test Structure 

AP exams have been shortened to 45 minutes with 5 minutes for submissions, with exceptions for language, music, and art exams. Tests will be taken online instead of at schools like years in the past. If you have already registered for an AP test or multiple tests, you should have gotten an email with the date and time of each of your tests. If not, you can find this information by logging in with MyAP Classroom. 

After figuring out when your tests are, go through the College Board’s exam day checklist, which lists necessities such as a fully charged Chromebook (or PC), your exam e-ticket with your 8-character AP ID (this should be emailed to you 48 hours before your test), and logging in to your computer 30 minutes prior to your exam to fill out your information before the test.

Worried about how submitting the test will work? The College Board has you covered with a resource to practice submitting your test. It’s a good idea to be prepared: There is only a 5-minute window to submit your test, so having some experience beforehand will facilitate that process. There is also a series of videos explaining the submission process and changes to this year’s exam on AP’s Youtube channel.

Different Tests

If you are taking a Language and Culture test, things will look different. There will be an app called “AP World Languages Exam App” to download to a phone or tablet. This will be available starting the week of May 11th, and students can practice submitting their verbal responses through this app. If you cannot access a device to download this app, fill out this survey as soon as possible. For more information about how Language and Culture exams will be tested, visit the College Board’s website.

For the AP Music Theory Exam, students will need to download any type of recording app or software and will need 2-3 paper copies of the AP Music Theory answer sheet template. For a step by step walk-through of this exam, visit the College Board’s AP Music Theory website. For classes that require a portfolio submission, such as AP Computer Science Principles, AP Seminar, AP Research, and AP Art and Design, the due date of submissions is now May 26th at 11:59 ET.

No matter which or how many tests you are taking, remember that this is the year to take AP tests! The exams are shorter, cover less material, and will still be accepted for college credit. Start studying now so you will be ready and ask for help from your teachers or peers. Create a study schedule that works for you, but remember to take breaks so the material isn’t overwhelming. Above all, go into your exams prepared and confident to do your best.


A set of AP preparation books and textbooks. Photo by Anouk Clendenning.

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