Education Technology

Top Tips From a Science Teacher for Taking the Online AP® Exam

Posted 04/29/2020 by Jessica Kohout, AP® Biology teacher

The coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges for schools and students. To support students in continuing their AP® journey, even if their school is closed, AP® exams will be available online this year. It will be a 45-minute, online exam consisting of two free-response questions. Students will be taking the test on their own devices: phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. For Question 1, students will have 25 minutes to answer and five minutes to upload the response. For Question 2, students will have 15 minutes to answer and five minutes to upload. The AP® Exam Schedule for each course ranges May 11–22. Make-up tests will be held in June. You are not encouraged to use this date as your first attempt. It is preferred that you take the test in May, and if there is a disruption, technology or otherwise, the June dates can be used as a fallback.

Resources available to you

There are many resources available as you prepare to take this year’s AP® exams.

  • Review concepts by watching videos: College Board® has put together AP® Live Courses to review content, including exam prep for each course. Texas Instruments Education has videos posted on math and science concepts, including “Office Hours” for AP® Calculus and AP® Statistics.
  • Practice: If you are enrolled in an AP® course, you should have access to AP® Classroom where you can complete practice problems that are aligned with the new tests. Set up a space that will mimic what it would be like on the day of the exam. Try to reduce distractions, and time yourself to get a feeling of what it will be like on test day. Sit down with what you need: snacks, water, scratch paper, pen/pencil, formula sheets and a calculator. If you do not have a calculator at home, you can download software for the TI-84 Plus or TI-Nspire™ CX families of graphing calculators to use on your devices.

Woman sitting in a chair at a laptop computer with calculator software on the screen
Students will be able to take exams on any device they have access to — computer, tablet or smartphone. They’ll be able to either type and upload their responses or write responses by hand and submit a photo via their smartphone.

Preparing for the test

We have been preparing all year for this exam. We have covered the content. We have practiced constructing free-response questions, analyzed data, made connections, explained phenomena and many other things to prepare you for this.

In these final weeks leading up to the exam, try creating a few condensed note sheets. You can use these sheets to summarize main concepts, draw diagrams and show connections. Also, take any opportunity to explain this information to anyone who will listen. Create a video, teach a family member, or just talk to yourself in a mirror. By verbalizing the information, you can reinforce what you know and realize what material you need to review more. You can also use these notes on this year’s exam, since this year’s tests will be open note and open book. Do not rely on this because you will not have enough time to research and answer the question in the given amount of time. Remember, these questions will be asking you to analyze presented information or apply your knowledge to a new situation, not rote memorization.

On the day of the test, read the question carefully. Remember “ATP,” not just for cellular energy as in Adenosine Triphosphate, but A-T-P as in “Answer The Prompt.” Be sure you know what is being asked before you start answering, and try to answer completely. Review the Task Verbs you will need to determine how to answer the questions. For example, will you be asked to describe or explain, calculate or determine, identify or justify? Use these task verbs to help direct and complete your response. However, do not panic if you cannot completely answer all parts to a question. Do your best. It is better to turn in an incomplete answer than not finish in time.

With these free-response questions, you can show what you know and earn college credit. Take a deep breath and know that you’ve got this!

AP® and College Board® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, TI products. Policies subject to change. Visit www.collegeboard.org.


About the author: Jessica Kohout has taught all levels of biology, from on grade level to AP®, at Reservoir High School in Howard County, Maryland. She became a T³™ Regional Instructor in 2015 and sees technology as a great way to help students make real-life connections with science. Follow her on Twitter @MrsKohout.