Education Technology

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

Posted 04/05/2021 by Kim Thomas, AP® test reader

This year’s AP® exams will be given in three separate administrations. Each administration will include an in-school option, and administrations 2 and three will also have an at-home option.

As many schools begin to open in Spring of 2021, the AP® tests will have 3 distinct administrations. This is in response to the broad range of situations at schools across the country. Each school will choose the testing options to offer for their students, which means students will not be able to choose exam dates on their own. Below are the dates and administrations for the AP Calculus and AP Statistics exams.

AP Calculus AB and BC
  • Admin1: Tuesday May 4, 8AM local time (Paper, in-person only)
  • Admin2: Monday May 24, 8 AM local time (Paper, in-person only)
  • Admin3: Wednesday June 9, 11 AM local time (Digital, in-person and at home)

AP Statistics
  • Admin1: Monday May 17, 12 PM local time (Paper, in-person only)
  • Admin2: Tuesday May 25, 12 PM local time (Paper, in-person only)
  • Admin3: Thursday June 10, 3 PM local time (Digital, in-person and at home)

Although the 2020 administration was entirely digital, there are many things which are still new, and the switch to digital testing entails some important changes that students and teachers must stay abreast of, and address, through their study and preparation efforts. I’m breaking down my top tips for math teachers, students and parents to prepare for the new digital format although most of the tips apply whether you’re testing at home or in school.

Tips for teachers:
  • Make sure students know when they are taking their exam.
  • Make sure students know what day it is today and every day up to the day of the test. I have a few students that tell me that they forgot to do an assignment or attend an online class because they forgot what day it was or didn’t realize the time.
  • Set a countdown reminder for your students. If it were in my classroom, there would be a number that we would tear down each day with a Calculus meme on it. Instead, I’m using Remind to communicate with my kids.
  • Teach the structure of the test. No matter if the test is on papers (admin 1 and 2) or online (admin 3), this year the exam follows the typical multiple-choice and free-response format.
  • Make sure that students realize that their answers are going to be scanned for the AP readers to grade electronically. Practice good penmanship and write dark enough for the scanning process.
  • I am using a variety of resources and considering different perspectives. The TI in Focus: AP® Calculus Resources are a great way to refresh teacher knowledge on a problem or how a problem should be graded. As an AP® reader, I reference the PDF slides often and appreciate the extensions that are provided for different problems.
  • The Monday Night Calculus YouTube series by Texas Instruments is a good way to allow calculus students to review topics from throughout the year. There are handouts with solutions available in this BulleTIn Board post.
  • The AP® Statistics Office Hours with Daren Starnes YouTube live series is a quick 4 video playlist that students can use to review the major topics of the Statistics course and includes some quick calculator tips as well. The slides from each session are available as a part of this BulleTIn Board post.
  • I am also watching the YouTube lessons supported by College Board®.
  • Also, still find fun things to do with students that you would normally do in the classroom that build relationships and unity. It can be as simple as playing a video like “Calculus Rhapsody” or sharing some Calculus memes.

Tips for students:
  • Practice with a timer.
  • Communicate to your family the date and time of your exam. Make a calendar that includes important study milestones.
  • Set up quiet zones and times when you will focus on AP® Calculus. If you are taking the online test (admin 3), consider it a mock exam for the entire household. Make sure the Wi-Fi is not being overtaxed.

AP® and College Board® are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. Policies subject to change. Visit

About the author: Kim Thomas is a math teacher at Moon Valley High School in Phoenix. She is also a Title I Coordinator, a T³™ National instructor and National Board Certified Teacher. She teaches BC calculus and geometry and is a reader for the AP® exam.