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The Complete AP Macroeconomics Study Guide

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Posted by Ashley Robinson | Aug 8, 2021 1:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)



So you’ve been working hard in your AP Macroeconomics class, and it’s time to start studying for the exam. Even though this can seem like a daunting task, if you get an early start and follow a set plan, you’ll be on your way to getting the score you want!

Want to know how to study for AP Macroeconomics? In this complete AP Macroeconomics study guide, we’ll provide you with all the resources and strategies you need to create an awesome, effective study plan

Ready to hit the books? Then let’s get started. 


The Purpose of This AP Macroeconomics Study Guide

All the study tools we provide below are designed to walk you through how to study for the AP Macroeconomics exam! 

In the first section of this study guide for AP Macroeconomics, we discuss your study plan options and give advice for how you should structure your study time depending on a) your level of preparedness, and b) how much time you have. If you aren’t ready for the final exam yet, you can skip this section and use the resources we provide in the rest of the article. (We recommend you read it anyway so you know what to expect on test day.) 

Next, we cover four study strategies that will help you master the AP Macro course material. If you want to do well on the AP Macro exam, you’ll need to really understand the information you’ve covered in class! 

Finally, we provide notes for all the concepts you’ll learn in your AP Macroeconomics class organized by each of the six units, as well as videos and quiz resources. You can use these as part of your study strategy, or you can dig into them if you need a little extra info about a specific topic or unit.



A good study plan is the first step on the journey to getting that perfect 5 on macroeconomics. 


2 AP Macroeconomics Study Plan Options

You may be wondering how to get a 5 on the AP macroeconomics exam. It turns out that the journey starts with a solid study plan. 

We’ve provided two different options--a 10 hour plan and a 20 hour plan--for you to choose from. But before you decide which one is right for you, we recommend taking a practice test to see where you’re currently scoring. 

In order to practice for the exam, you can use a test in an AP Macroeconomics review book or find a full-length test online; however, we advise using official practice tests and study resources before you use unofficial ones. 

Here are the official full-length practice tests currently available online. Additional tests are available with your AP Classroom account. 

After you take and score your first practice test, you’ll have an idea about how much time you’ll need to spend on your AP Macroeconomics review before the exam. 

To help you get your studying off on the right foot, we’ve put together two AP Macro study plans you can use. 


Option 1: 10-Hour AP Macro Study Plan

Our 10-hour plan is perfect for you if you’re trying to raise your total score by 1 point or if you just want to boost your skills before the exam to maximize your score. 

  • Analyze your mistakes on the diagnostic test: 1.5 hours
  • Study relevant content areas and revise test-taking strategies: 2 hours
  • Take and score another practice test: 4 hours
  • Analyze your mistakes on the second practice test: 1.5 hours
  • Final study session: 1 hour


Option 2: 20-Hour AP Macro Study Plan

If you’re hoping for a bigger point boost, then you’ll need to study longer. Our 20-hour plan is for students who are looking to increase their score by at least 2 points. 

  • Analyze your mistakes on the diagnostic test: 1.5 hours
  • Study relevant content areas and revise test-taking strategies: 3 hours
  • Take and score another practice test: 4 hours
  • Analyze your mistakes on the second practice test: 1.5 hours
  • Study content areas that are giving you trouble and revise test-taking strategies: 3 hours
  • Take and score a third practice test: 4 hours
  • Analyze your mistakes: 1.5 hours
  • Final study session: 1.5 hours

Regardless of which plan you choose, they each have the same four basic components, which are introduced below. 



The recipe for a good study plan includes four key ingredients! 


The 4 Study Plan Elements

Regardless of whether you’re using the 10-hour or 20-hour plan, you’ll still follow these four steps during your practice sessions. 


Take Practice Tests

Even though you’ve already taken one practice exam as a diagnostic tool, taking multiple practice tests is the best way to familiarize yourself with the test timing and question format. This way you’ll already know what to expect when the big test day arrives. 

Although the official full-length practice tests listed above are several years old, there are many more recent official free-response question sets and scoring guidelines you can use for AP Macroeconomics review. We’ve listed a couple below for easy access!


#2 Analyze Your Mistakes

This is a super important part of your AP Macroeconomics review sessions. After you take a practice exam and score it, you should go through your mistakes to see which content areas you’re having the most trouble with. This will help you pinpoint the specific topics you need to study. It’ll also keep you from wasting time studying things you already know pretty well, while neglecting the areas where your knowledge is weakest. 


#3 Study Weak Content Areas

Once you’ve analyzed your mistakes and know what you need to work on the most, it’s time to focus on the weak points in your subject knowledge. Your goal is to patch up those weak areas before you take another AP Macro practice test. One good way to do this is to study the resources in our unit breakdowns! 


#4 Revise Your Test-Taking Strategies

After analyzing your mistakes and figuring out what content you need to study, you should also think about revising your test-taking strategies. For instance, if you made mistakes due to time pressure or just careless errors, think about changing your test-taking strategies to avoid these in the future. If the problem was time pressure, try not to spend more than one minute on difficult questions. If it was careless errors, try underlining important parts of the question so you don’t accidentally answer the wrong thing. 

Below are our two AP Macro study plans broken down into separate components, with the recommended time you should spend on each. 




4 Essential AP Macroeconomics Review Strategies

There’s no question that this is a tough class with lots of information you’ll need to be comfortable with before the final exam. So if you want to use this AP Macroeconomics study guide to prepare for the AP test and other exams throughout the class, you’ll need to use study strategies that fit the material. 


#1 Make a DIY Dictionary

Your AP Macro class is going to be full of terms used to describe complex concepts that you’ll need to remember and understand, like “open economy” and “aggregate supply.” So, finding a practical way to help you remember all this new information will be key to your success

Lots of studies have proven what your teachers have been preaching to you for years: taking notes is the best way to remember what you’re learning. Because you’ll need to learn so many new concepts for AP Macro, creating your own dictionary is a great way to keep everything organized. 

We recommend starting early, and every time you’re introduced to a new concept in class, write it down and describe what it means. Then try to provide a brief example and/or use the term in a sentence. This will benefit you in two ways: the act of writing it down (especially if you do it by hand) will help you remember, and you’ll also be creating a notebook or file that you can quickly and easily reference during your AP Macroeconomics review sessions!


#2 Don’t Just Memorize--Make Connections

But you shouldn’t just stop at memorizing the basic concepts you’re learning. AP Macroeconomics courses require you to make connections and understand the relationships between different ideas and events. 

For example, two of the big ideas you’ll be studying in class will be the market (think: the relationship between supply and demand) and economic policies (the decisions people make that change the market, etc.). In other words, you’ll need to think about what the data you see from economic measurements means for the market, how both the measurements and the market could potentially change, and why people might want or need to enact economic policies to manipulate those changes. 

One of the best things you can do to understand these connections is to make diagrams. In class, you’ll be learning some of the economics models that professionals use to visually represent and explain these relationships.

While you should definitely practice these, feel free to get creative in making your own diagrams. These don’t need to be anything fancy, either. For instance, you can try webbing or drawing a tree diagram to show how the concepts you’re learning all fit together. The goal is to help you visualize how elements are interconnected. 




#3 When in Doubt, Graph It Out

To ace the AP Macro test, you’ll need to be able to read, understand, and create your own graphs. And one of the best ways to understand graphs is to practice drawing them yourself. 

Challenge yourself to create the graphs that students were asked to make on the free-response sections of the past AP Macro exams we listed above. Because these also give you pictures of the correct graphs, you’ll be able to see if you made a mistake. That way you can also learn what to do to fix it. 

And definitely be sure to practice making the graphs for this year’s possible free-response questions. You won’t get to see the correct answers for these, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for them before the test. You can find Set 1 here and Set 2 here.  


#4 Seriously, Take the Practice Tests

We said it before, but it’s worth saying again here: you need to take the practice tests so you know how well you’re currently doing, which concepts you need to study more, and to familiarize yourself with the test format. 

For a subject as complex as AP Macro, you shouldn’t just expect to read through the material once or twice and do well on the exam. You’ll need to be able to analyze data on your own, and then put it into practical use. 

By taking the practice tests that are available online and in highly reviewed prep books, you can drill yourself on how well you understand the concepts and hone your time-management skills. 




AP Macroeconomics Content Review: Notes, Outlines, and Videos

In this section we’ll give you notes for each of the AP Macro content areas, followed by a list of videos that cover the same basic topics. We recommend starting with the notes so that you get a solid foundation in the knowledge and see how the content fits together. But if the notes start to get boring after a while, switch it up and watch a video instead.

Although you should eventually read through all the notes, if you’re falling asleep reading, don’t try to push yourself. There’s nothing wrong with alternating between different formats to keep yourself engaged!

You can even try taking your own notes as you watch a video, or you can print out the notes below and highlight information you encounter in the video explanations. 

Just be sure to focus most on the learning methods that work the best for you!


AP Macroeconomics Notes and Outlines 

We’ll start off with some detailed notes as part of the study guide for AP Macroeconomics review. All these notes are divided up by the six units of the course, as described in the College Board’s AP Macroeconomics Course and Exam Description. The topics in each unit span across the four big ideas you’ll learn in the course: Economic Measurements, Markets, Economic Models, and Economic Policies. 


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



These learning videos can help make tough macroeconomics concepts easier to understand.


AP Macroeconomics Videos

Next up we’ve got links to some of the most helpful AP Macro video playlists out there! 


Khan Academy 

Khan has a long playlist of macroeconomics videos covering the range of topics listed above. While watching all of them might be a bit of a time commitment, if you choose to do it, you’ll become much more of a macroeconomics expert!


The Jacob Clifford Macroeconomics Series

These engaging videos cover the topics you’ll discuss in class unit by unit. You can start with this video that provides an overview on the subject in general. If you like his style, you can find the rest of the videos here. 


Heimler’s History Economics Series

If you already have a pretty solid understanding of the terms being used in your class, like aggregate demand-aggregate supply models and gross domestic product, these videos are a good way to help you make connections and review. The videos are short and fast-moving, so we recommend watching these with your notes handy!




AP Macroeconomics Prep: 3 Study Resources to Test Your Skills

These resources provide quizzes and other tools to help you gauge your progress. 



This site has tons of user-generated sets of terms that you can use to help you review for AP Macroeconomics exams. For instance, check out this AP Macroeconomics flashcard review. It features 144 terms that you’ll need to know to be successful in your coursework. 

In addition to flashcards, you’re also able to take quizzes on this site to help you prepare for the real thing. And best of all, you can sign up for free.

What’s great about this site is that they provide quizzes for each unit that you’ll be taking in your AP Macro course. The questions cover all the big ideas and concepts that are part of your curriculum, and they’re organized by difficulty level (easy, medium, or difficult) so you’ll know what kinds of topics or questions you’re struggling with the most. 


Varsity Tutors

This site is absolutely loaded with short practice tests and quizzes for AP Macro--some with as few as one to three questions. They are a quick way to test your skills and review for your exams. Diagnostic tests and flashcards are also available. 


Conclusion: The Benefits of Using This AP Macroeconomics Study Guide

With all the strategies and resources included in this AP Macroeconomics study guide, you should be able to create a comprehensive plan of action for your study hours. Not only can you use these resources as you build up your knowledge throughout the course, you can also use them in the month(s) or weeks leading up to the AP exam as a review, depending on how you learn best.

Let's quickly summarize everything we've covered here in this in-depth AP Macro study guide.

Your study guide for AP Macroeconomics should include:

  • Taking practice tests
  • Analyzing mistakes
  • Studying weak content areas
  • Revising test-taking strategies

In addition, be sure to remember these key study tips:

  • Make your own dictionary of terms to help you remember them
  • Don't stop at memorizing terms and facts—make connections between concepts and the big ideas by diagramming
  • Practice making your own graphs 
  • Take practice tests frequently

You can use notes from your AP Macroeconomics class as well as the notes in this guide to help focus your study time. If you learn better by watching videos, be sure to check out the video playlists provided above. It’s also a good idea to test your knowledge through quizzes and flashcards. And remember, if you start getting bored, change up your study method! 

AP Macroeconomics is a complicated subject, and there's a lot to remember. But if you give yourself enough time to absorb it all and pay attention to where you need to improve and why, you can use your study guide for AP Macroeconomics to master the skills you need to be successful in your class and on that final exam!




What’s Next? 

If you’re taking AP Macroeconomics, you might be interested in adding a few more AP courses to your schedule. Here’s a complete list of AP classes you can choose from! 

Once you choose the AP classes you want to take, it’s time to plan your course schedule. Our guide can help you balance your course load. 

AP courses are just one type of advanced class available to high school students. Some high schools in the United States offer IB classes as well as AP courses. You can learn about the similarities and differences here. 



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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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