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AP Prep: The Structure of AP Exams

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Each exam that follows an AP course contains a multiple-choice section and a free-response section (either essay writing or problem solving). The Studio Art AP is an exception; it consists of a portfolio assessment. Modern language exams include a speaking assessment and the AP Music Theory Exam includes sight-singing.

Remember, it takes an AP score between 3 and 5 (the possible score ranges from 1 to 5) to get college credit.

AP testing is available in the following subjects:

Art History
This 3-hour exam features 115 multiple-choice questions and seven short essays that cover painting and drawing, architecture, sculpture, and other media.

Biology
100 multiple-choice questions and four free-response questions cover molecules and cells, heredity and evolution, and organisms and populations. The test is 3 hours long.

Calculus AB
You have 3 hours, 15 minutes to complete 45 multiple-choice questions and a six-problem, free-response section covering Calculus AB concepts and problem solving.

Calculus BC
Featuring slightly more advanced material than the AB test, this 3-hour, 15-minute exam includes 45 multiple-choice questions and a six-problem, free-response section.

Chemistry
This 3-hour test covers material normally taught in a first-year college course. There are 75 multiple-choice questions and a free-response section including two quantitative problems, one question requiring you to write net-ionic equations, and three essay questions.

Computer Science A
The Computer Science A test is 3 hours long and consists of 40 multiple-choice questions and four free-response questions. Test material focuses on programming, algorithms, and data structures.

Computer Science AB
This 3-hour exam covers the same material as above, but at a more advanced level. There are 40 multiple-choice questions and four free-response questions.

Macroeconomics
The Macroeconomics exam is 2 hours, 10 minutes long and includes multiple-choice and free-response questions. Test material focuses on basic economic concepts at the system-wide level.

Microeconomics
This 2 hour, 10 minute exam tasks you with answering multiple-choice and free-response questions that test your knowledge of economics at the individual and business levels.

English Language
Broken into a 1-hour, multiple-choice test and a 2-hour, free-response test, the English Language exam measures your ability to analyze passages and write effective prose.

English Literature
This 3-hour exam features a 1-hour, multiple-choice section that tests reading skills and a 2-hour, free-response section that gauges your ability to analyze and interpret literary texts.

Environmental Science
Your ability to find solutions to environmental problems, as well as your knowledge of basic concepts is measured in this 3-hour exam. There are 100 multiple-choice questions, a data-set question, a document-based question, and two synthesis and evaluation questions.

European History
Covering European history from the High Renaissance to the present, this test is a little over 3 hours and features 80 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions.

French Language
This 2 hour, 30 minute test includes a multiple-choice section that tests reading and listening skills and a free-response section that tests your writing and speaking skills.

French Literature
A 3-hour exam, the French test includes multiple-choice and free-response questions that require textual analysis and an essay, written in French.

German Language
The German test is 2 hours, 30 minutes long. It features a multiple-choice section that tests your reading and listening skills, as well as a free-response section that measures your writing and speaking skills.

Comparative Government & Politics
Including 60 multiple-choice questions and four free-response questions, this test is 2 hours, 25 minutes long. Questions cover Great Britain, France, Russia and the former Soviet Union, and China. Free-response questions also require knowledge of developing countries (India, Mexico, or Nigeria).

U.S. Government & Politics
This 2-hour, 25-minute exam includes 60 multiple-choice questions and four free-response questions. Topics include the Constitution, politics, government, public policy, and civil rights and liberties.

Human Geography
Human Geography is the study of the interrelationship between culture and geography. The exam is 2 hours, 15 minutes long and includes 75 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions. You should be able to analyze and interpret maps, detect patterns, and understand the relationships between places.

Latin Literature
The Latin Literature test is 3 hours long, with 50 multiple-choice questions and six free-response questions including short-answers, translations, and a long essay. The exam tests your knowledge of Latin passages, as well as your writing and translation skills.

Latin: Virgil
On this 3-hour test, 50 multiple-choice questions measure your knowledge of Latin poetry and prose. There are also five free-response questions that include translation, passage analysis, and an essay based on parts of the Aeneid.

Music Theory
Your skills with notation, terminology, composition, scoring, and listening are put to the test in 75 multiple-choice questions, including some based on listening. There is also a free-response section that includes both a written and sight-singing portion.

Physics B
This 3-hour exam features 70 multiple-choice questions and six to eight free-response questions. Test material covers concepts taught in an intro course for non-majors, such as: Newtonian mechanics; fluid mechanics and physics; electricity and magnetism; waves and optics; and atomic and nuclear physics.

Physics C
The Physics C test includes material taught in a beginning course for Physics or Engineering majors. There are two 90-minute exams, each consisting of 35 multiple-choice and three free-response questions. The first, Magnetism, is mandatory. The second, Electricity and Magnetism, is optional.

Psychology
This 2-hour test includes 70-minutes of multiple-choice questions and a 50-minute, free-response section. Test material includes basic concepts taught at the introductory level.

Spanish Language
This is a 3-hour exam featuring a multiple-choice section that tests reading and listening skills and a free-response section that tests speaking and writing skills.

Spanish Literature
The Literature test includes a 65-question, multiple-choice section and a three-essay, free-response section. The test measures your ability to analyze passages in Spanish, as well as your writing skills.

Statistics
This 3-hour exam includes a 90-minute, multiple-choice section and a 90-minute, free-response section including five questions and an investigative task. To do well, you should understand the basics of collecting and interpreting data.

Studio Art
For the AP in Studio Art, you submit portfolios for examination. Portfolios can be in drawing, 2-D design, and/or 3-D design.

U.S. History
This 3-hour, 5-minute exam includes 80 multiple-choice questions, one document-based essay question, and two standard essay questions. Test material covers the period from settlement through the present. Topics include government, politics, culture, economics, and diplomacy.

World History
Structured similarly to the U.S. History test, this 3-hour, 5-minute exam gauges your understanding of world events and developments from ancient times through the present.

Italian Language and Culture
This 3-hour exam measures your proficiency in the language and your cultural knowledge. It includes a multiple-choice section that tests listening and reading skills and a free response section that tests writing and speaking skills.

Chinese Language and Culture
This 3-hour exam measures your proficiency in the Mandarin language and your Chinese cultural knowledge. It includes a multiple-choice section that tests listening and reading skills and a free response section that tests writing and speaking skills.

Japanese Language and Culture
This 3-hour exam measures your proficiency in the language and your cultural knowledge. It includes a multiple-choice section that tests listening and reading skills and a free response section that tests writing and speaking skills.

AP prep can help increase your AP score

AP help comes in 2 main forms: AP courses and AP prep. AP prep can help you score high by letting you focus on your weaknesses and teaching you tips and strategies.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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