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The Ultimate AP Macroeconomics Cheat Sheet (Graphs Included!)

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Posted by Ashley Robinson | Feb 10, 2022 7:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)



Each year, around 20% of test takers score a 5 on the AP Macroeconomics exam. (no pressure, right?) If you want to be one of those top scorers, you need to really understand the graphs and equations that will help you make tough calculations during the exam. 

To help you with that, we’ve put together a complete AP Macroeconomics cheat sheet that you can use to prepare for the exam! In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about our AP Macroeconomics cram sheet, including the following: 

  • A quick refresher on what the AP Macro exam covers 
  • A full overview of what’s included in the AP Macro cheat sheet (graphs, equations, and key terms are all covered!)
  • An explanation of how to use the AP Macro cheat sheet
  • Our four best tips for how to study for the AP Macro exam

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!


The AP Macroeconomics Exam

The AP Macro exam runs for a total of two hours and 10 minutes (130 minutes) and is divided into two sections. Section I consists of 60 multiple choice questions and lasts for one hour and 10 minutes. This section makes up 66% of your overall exam score. Section II is made up of three free response questions. You’ll get one hour to complete Section II, including a 10 minute reading period. Section II makes up 33% of your total exam score. 

The AP Macro exam is notoriously tough. It tests your knowledge of economic principles and models to describe economic situations and predict and explain economic outcomes. On the exam, you’ll be tasked with showing your knowledge of how to use graphs, charts, and data to analyze and describe economic concepts. 

Specifically, the AP Macroeconomics exam tests you over the following course topics (called “Big Ideas” by the College Board). Here’s how the College Board explains them:  

  • Big Idea 1: Economic Measurements (MEA) — Economists contrast measurements to monitor the state of an economy and evaluate its performance over time. Governments, firms, and citizens often use these measurements to help inform policy, business, and personal decisions. 

  • Big Idea 2: Markets (MKT) — Competitive markets bring together buyers and sellers to exchange goods and services for mutual gain. The simple model of supply-demand can be applied in different market contexts. 

  • Big Idea 3: Macroeconomic Models (MOD) — Macroeconomic models are simplified representations that depict basic economic relationships and can be used to predict and explain how those relationships are affected by economic shocks. 

  • Big Idea 4: Macroeconomic Policies (POL) — Government taxation and spending policies and central bank monetary policy can affect an economy’s output, price level, and level of employment, both in the short run and the long run. 

Many of the questions on the AP Macro exam ask you to explain economic concepts and outcomes, perform numerical analyses, and create graphs or visual representations…which is why you need an AP Macroeconomics cheat sheet! Keep reading to learn more about what’s on our AP Macro cram sheet and how you can use it in your exam prep. 



The AP Macro formulas might seem like gibberish, but we're here to give you clarity. (See what we did there?) 


The AP Macroeconomics Cheat Sheet

Now, we’ve got some good news and some bad news. Here’s the bad news first: you won’t be provided with an official AP Macroeconomics cheat sheet during the exam. In fact, the College Board doesn’t provide an AP Macroeconomics equations sheet of any kind, online or otherwise. On test day, you’ll have to have everything memorized in order to do well on the test. 

But here’s the good news: we’ve put together an AP Macroeconomics cheat sheet for you! We know that it can be tough to keep up with all of the key terms and equations, but our AP Macro cheat sheet is designed to help you master all that tough content by laying out the core equations, graphs, and concepts that you need to know to succeed on the AP Macro exam. 

Before you read further: go ahead and download our cheat sheet so you can follow along below! 

Got it? Okay--let’s continue. To put together our AP Macroeconomics cram sheet, we combed through every unit of the AP Macro course and identified the most important calculations you need to know for the exam. Making calculations based on economic principles and graphical representations is a big part of this test, so this cram sheet will be your best friend as you start preparing.

Once we added the essential equations, graphs, and formulas to our AP Macroeconomics cram sheet, we checked Khan Academy’s AP Macroeconomics course content to ensure our information is accurate, up-to-date, and easy to use! 

Finally, we included a section of crucial terms and definitions that you need to know for the AP Macro exam. Knowing these terms and definitions will actually help you use the equations and graphs included on our cram sheet correctly, so be sure to keep reading all the way to the end!

While you won’t have access to any AP Macroeconomics cheat sheet, graphs, or equations during the exam, you can use our cheat sheet to focus your study time on the concepts and formulas you’ll be tested on! Read on to learn more about the specific content we include on our AP Macro cheat sheet. 



Not sure how to use the cheat sheet to study for AP Macro? We'll give you the recipe for success.


How to Use the Equations on the AP Macroeconomics Cheat Sheet

Graphs and balance sheets and curve models, oh my! At first glance, our 15-page AP Macroeconomics cram sheet may seem a bit intimidating. But keep in mind that AP Macro is a very visual exam: it includes many charts and graphs in addition to long equations, which can take up a lot of space!

On top of that, we wanted to make sure that our AP Macro cheat sheet is comprehensive. If you’re going to snag a top score on this AP exam, you need to give your studying your best effort--and that includes brushing up every equation you may encounter. 

Since our AP Macro cram sheet is a bit long, we’ll explain how to navigate it here. The formula sheet is divided up based on the six units of study in the AP Macro course. The six units of study are as follows: 

  • Unit 1: Basic Economic Concepts
  • Unit 2: Economic Indicators and the Business Cycle
  • Unit 3: National Income and Price Determination
  • Unit 4: Financial Sector
  • Unit 5: Long-Run Consequences of Stabilization Policies
  • Unit 6: Open Economy—International Trade and Finance

If you’re looking for an equation or graph that belongs to a specific course unit, just scroll through the cram sheet and search for the big, bold “Unit” headings! 

In addition to organizing the cram sheet around the AP Macro course units, we also indicate which part of each unit the formulas correspond with. We do this so you can anticipate when each formula and graph will be relevant and useful to you during your AP Macro course. For instance, say you’re studying real GDP and the GDP deflator in class, and you want to use our cheat sheet for some guidance on your homework. You can find this info by looking for Unit 2, section 2.6 in the cheat sheet, like so: 



See? In the image above, taken straight from our AP Macro cram sheet, you’ll see that real GDP and the GDP deflator are covered in Unit 2.6 of the AP Macro course. These unit markers will help you stay on track with what you’re studying in class, and you can use them as a shortcut to look back at course content when you’re prepping for the AP exam. 

For each equation and graph, we state the specific type of calculation you’ll be tested on, then we provide the equation you’ll need to use to make that calculation. When applicable, we also provide the graph(s) you’ll need to use in conjunction with certain equations in order to make correct calculations. 

Let’s take a brief look at each section of the formula sheet to get a better sense of what equations are on the exam next. 


Unit 1 Equations: Basic Economic Concepts

Unit 1 of AP Macro gets you started with the basics. You’ll gain a thorough understanding of basic economic concepts so you can apply them in increasingly advanced ways in successive units of study in this course. Specifically, Unit 1 will show you how graphs can be used as tools to make sense of economic situations and predict economic outcomes. 

With that in mind, our cheat sheet gives you the equations and graphs you’ll need to calculate the following: 

  • Opportunity cost
  • Mutually beneficial terms of trade
  • The surplus or shortage in the market experience as an imbalance
  • Graph demonstrating the relationship between demand and supply


Unit 2 Equations: Economic Indicators and the Business Cycle

In Unit 2 of AP Macro, you’ll build on the basic concepts you learned in Unit 1 by examining key measures of economic performance, such as gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment, and inflation. You’ll learn to fully explain these indicators in different contexts, including what they measure and how they are calculated. 

The Unit 2 equations and graphs that you’ll find calculations for on our cheat sheet include: 

  • Nominal GDP
  • Unemployment rate and labor force participation rate (LFPR)
  • CPI, inflation rate, and changes in real variables
  • Real GDP and GDP deflator
  • Graph demonstrating the business cycle
  • Graph demonstrating the circular flow model



Economic multipliers help a country's GDP grow. You'll need to know about them before you take the AP Macro exam! 


Unit 3 Equations: National Income and Price Determination

Unit 3 of AP Macro helps you hone your quantitative skills in the context of learning about multipliers, looking back to interpret economic outcomes, and looking forward to anticipate the effects of policy and other changes. You’ll practice calculating multipliers and explaining how changes in spending and taxes lead to real changes in GDP. 

Our cheat sheet includes the calculations for the following Unit 3 concepts and principles: 

  • How changes in spending and taxes lead to changes in real GDP, which includes
    • Marginal propensity to consume (MPC)
    • Marginal propensity to save (MPS)
    • Expenditure multiplier and tax multiplier
    • Final impact on GDP
  • The short-run effects on a fiscal policy action using the Aggregate Demand-Aggregate Supply (AD-AS) Model (graph included)


Unit 4 Equations: Financial Sector

In Unit 4, you’ll practice describing the workings of the financial sector. Interpreting bank balance sheets and calculating changes in demand deposits, loans, and reserves in the banking system as a result of deposits, withdrawals, and monetary policy will help build your quantitative skills during this unit. 

On our AP Macro cheat sheet, you’ll find the correct calculations and graphs for the following concepts: 

  • Nominal interest rate
  • Real interest rate
  • Measures of money
  • The effects of changes in the banking system, including
    • The money multiplier
    • Excess reserves
    • Maximum new loans from a deposit
  • Graph demonstrating the Loanable Funds Market
  • The effects of a monetary policy action



Economic decisions can cause a ripple effect--just like dominoes. You'll need to understand cause-and-effect relationships in economics...and how to manage them.


Unit 5 Equations: Long-Run Consequences of Stabilization Policies

Unit 5 of AP Macro covers each step in the chain of cause-and-effect relationships so you learn to explain how monetary policy affects interest rates and how interest rates affect household and firm spending. By the end of this unit, you should have a strong understanding of the long-run consequences of stabilization policies undertaken by a central bank. 

The following Unit 5 calculations and graphs are covered on our AP Macro cheat sheet: 

  • The quantity theory of money
  • The equation of exchange
  • Per capita GDP and economic growth
  • Graph demonstrating the Aggregate Production Function
  • Graph demonstrating the Phillips Curve Model


Unit 6 Equations: Open Economy--International Trade and Finance

Unit 6 of AP Macro hones your ability to interpret and manipulate economic models in the context of an open economy. To succeed on questions pertaining to this unit on the AP exam, you’ll need to be able to explain changes in net exports, financial capital flows, and policy actions in the foreign exchange market. You’ll also need to be able to show your understanding of these concepts through graphical representations. 

Our AP Macro cheat sheet covers the following Unit 6 calculations and concepts: 

  • The current account (CA)
  • The capital and financial account (CFA)
  • The balance of payments
  • Exchange rates
  • Graph demonstrating the foreign exchange market


Key Terms and Definitions

We know that keeping up with all of the symbols and terms used in the calculations you’ll need to do for AP Macro can make your head spin, so we’ve included a list of key terms and definitions you can use at the end of the cheat sheet. 

Here’s a taste of the key terms and definitions that are included in the final section of our AP Macroeconomics cheat sheet: 

Opportunity cost
Inflation rate
Productions Possibilities Curve (PPC)
Nominal GDP
Circular flow model
Real GDP
AD-AS Model
GDP deflator
Fiscal policy (contractionary, expansionary)


In total, you’ll find 22 key terms that you need to know for the AP Macroeconomics exam on our cheat sheet. Brush up on these so that working with AP Macro equations and graphs will get easier and easier!




4 Tips for Using the AP Macroeconomics Cheat Sheet to Study for the Exam

While you can’t use an equations cheat sheet of any kind during the actual exam, you can use one to improve your AP Macro study plan. Below, we give you four tips for preparing for the AP Macro exam so you’ll get the score you’re hoping for. 


Tip 1: Work on Key Terms

AP Macro is a deep dive into complicated economic concepts and principles. If you want to succeed on the AP Macro exam, you need to not only memorize the key terms that pop up throughout the course, but know when to use those terms to explain, describe, and calculate various economic scenarios and outcomes. 

You can use our AP Macro cram sheet to work on memorizing these terms, then practice using those terms in different contexts. By the time you take the AP exam, you won’t have any trouble interpreting tough questions and using the right concepts to get the right answers. 


Tip 2: Get Familiar With Graphs

One of the most important skills you need in order to score well on AP Macro is the ability to interpret graphical representations and use them to make calculations. 

Our AP Macro cheat sheet will help you practice applying graphical data in context, such as the Phillips Curve Model and the Aggregate Demand-Aggregate Supply Model. These graphs are certain to pop up on the AP exam, and you need to know exactly how you can use them to explain, describe, or calculate various concepts and outcomes during the exam. 


Tip 3: Do Your Homework

Homework is one of the best avenues for practicing the tough concepts you’re learning in your AP Macro class. To get the most out of your homework practice, you can use our AP Macro cheat sheet as an analysis tool to determine which concepts, equations, and graphs you need to really hammer home in order to do well on the AP exam. 

As you complete your AP Macro homework, pay close attention to the types of questions you find yourself consulting the cheat sheet for. Each time you use an equation or graph from the cheat sheet, put a tally mark next to it. After a few weeks of using the cheat sheet on your homework practice, you should get a sense of which equations and graphs are most crucial to memorize. After a while, you’ll be able to do your homework all on your own! 


Tip 4: Take a Practice Exam

Taking a practice exam is the only way to truly get a sense of what the real AP Macro exam will be like. You can find reliable AP Macro practice exams online through the College Board

Since you won’t be supplied with a cheat sheet when you take the real AP Macro exam, we don’t recommend using our cheat sheet when you take practice exams. However, you can take stock of all of the questions you get wrong on your practice exam and use our cheat sheet to brush up on your weaker areas before it’s time for the real deal. 




What's Next? 

Some AP exams give test takers formula sheets to help them on test day. We have expert explanations for how to use them! Don't miss our breakdown of the AP Physics 1, AP Statistics, and AP Biology formula sheets on our blog. 

Getting ready for AP exams involves more than just reading your class notes. Use our free AP test study guide to get the most out of your study time...and boost your AP scores. 

Taking practice tests is a great way to get ready for your AP exam, but they can be hard to find. We'll walk you through how to find practice tests for every AP test you're planning to take. 


Looking for help studying for your AP exam?

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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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