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The Expert's Guide to the AP Microeconomics Exam

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Posted by Christine Sarikas | May 11, 2022 11:00:00 AM

Advanced Placement (AP)

 

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Are you taking AP Microeconomics? If so, you'll likely be taking the AP exam this spring? In 2022, the AP Micro exam will be held on Friday, May 6, at 12 pm. Knowing what to expect from the Microeconomics exam will help you feel calm and confident on exam day.

Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about the AP Microeconomics exam, including what its format is, what questions will look like, and the steps you need to take in order to get your best score on the exam.

 

How Is the AP Microeconomics Exam Structured?

The AP Micro exam has two main parts. First you'll complete the multiple-choice section, then the free-response section.

Multiple-Choice Section:

  • 60 questions
  • Lasts 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Worth 66% of final exam score

Free-Response Section:

  • 3 questions
    • 1 long question (worth 50% of section score)
    • 2 short questions (each worth 25% of section score)
  • Lasts 1 hour (including 10 minute reading period)
  • Worth 33% of final exam score
  • Students will need to:
    • Make assertions about economic concepts, principles, models, outcomes, and/or effects
    • Explain economic concepts, principles, models, outcomes, and/or effects
    • Perform numerical analysis
    • Create graphs or visual representations

 

What Topics Does the AP Microeconomics Exam Cover?

So what will the AP Micro questions actually be about? The AP Microeconomics course has six major units. They're listed below along with their subunits. Reviewing these will give you an excellent idea of what concepts to expect on the exam. For a more in-depth look at what the course (and exam) cover, check out the AP Microeconomics Course and Exam Description.

 

Unit 1: Basic Economic Concepts (12-15% of exam)

The foundations of microeconomic thinking, including how to evaluate decisions based on constraints and trade-offs and make rational economic choices. 

  • Scarcity
  • Resource allocation and economic systems
  • The Production Possibilities Curve
  • Comparative advantage and gains from trade
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Marginal analysis and consumer choice

 

Unit 2: Supply and Demand (20-25% of the exam)

How markets work with an introduction to the supply and demand model. 

  • Demand
  • Supply
  • Elasticity
  • Market equilibrium, disequilibrium, and changes in equilibrium
  • The effects of government intervention in markets
  • International trade and public policy

 

Unit 3: Production, Cost and the Perfect Competition Model (22-25% of the exam)

The factors that drive the behavior of companies and learn about the perfect competition model. 

  • The production function
  • Short- and long-run production costs
  • Types of profit
  • Profit maximization
  • Perfect competition

 

Unit 4: Imperfect Competition (15-22% of exam)

How imperfectly competitive markets work and how game theory comes into play in economic models. 

  • Monopoly
  • Price discrimination
  • Monopolistic competition
  • Oligopoly and game theory

 

Unit 5: Factor Markets (10-13% of exam)

How concepts such as supply and demand and marginal decision-making apply in the context of factor markets. 

  • Introduction to factor markets
  • Changes in factor demand and factor supply
  • Profit-maximizing behavior in perfectly competitive factor markets
  • Monopsonistic markets

 

Unit 6: Market Failure and the Role of Government (8-13% of exam)

Conditions under which markets may fail and the effects of government intervention in markets. 

  • Socially efficient and inefficient market outcomes
  • Externalities
  • Public and private goods
  • The effects of government intervention in different market structures
  • Income and wealth inequality

 

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AP Microeconomics Sample Questions

Looking at sample questions is one of the best ways to get a feel for what the AP Microeconomics exam will be like. Below are three sample questions: one multiple choice and two free response. The multiple-choice question comes from the AP Microeconomics Course and Exam Description, and the free-response questions are from the 2021 exam.

 

Multiple-Choice Question

micro MC

For this question, you'll need to understand the principles behind economic surpluses and how prices and quantities affect them. You'll learn this information beginning in Unit 1 and build upon it in the later units.

The correct answer is C.

 

Long Free-Response Question

There will be one long free-response question on the AP Micro exam. It's the first free-response question in the section, and it's worth 10 points. You'll typically need to create multiple AP Microeconomics graphs for this question.

micro long

 

Part A (4 points)

Here's a graph that would earn you the full four points for Part A.

longA

Your own graph must include:

  • A correctly labeled graph for NCHart showing downward-sloping demand (D) and marginal revenue (MR) curves with the marginal revenue curve below the demand curve. (1 point)
  • The marginal cost (MC) curve and the profit-maximizing quantity, labeled Qm, where MR=MC. (1 point)
  •  The profit-maximizing price, labeled Pm, above Qm from the demand curve. (1 point)
  • The ATC below the demand curve at Qm with the MC curve rising and intersecting the ATC curve at its minimum. (1 point)

 

Part B (1 point) 

To earn the 1 point for Part B you must state that demand is elastic and also either that MR is positive at Qm OR that Qm is less than the quantity at which marginal revenue equals zero.

 

Part C (2 points)

To earn the first point for Part C, you must add a new line to the graph you made in Part A that shows the quantity that is consistent with the goal of NCHart generating enough revenue to cover its total costs labeled as QZ. Your graph should now look like this:

longC

To earn the second point, you must state that there is a deadweight loss at QZ and that P (or D)<MC.

 

Part D (3 points)

You need to include the following three things in your response to Part D. Each is worth one point.

  • State that no, TXDrug does not have a dominant strategy, and explain that if NCHart chooses Qm, then TXDrug’s best response is to Enter because $1 > $0, but if NCHart chooses QZ, then TXDrug’s best response is to Stay Out because $0 > −$1.
  • State that the best response for NCHart is to produce Qm.
  • Identify the Nash equilibrium as NCHart produces Qm and TXDrug chooses to Enter.

 

Short Free-Response Question

Below is an example of a short free-response question. There will be two of these questions on the free-response section, and they'll each be worth 5 points.

micro short

 

Part A (1 point)

The correct answer is $2,200, and you'll need to show you found that answer with the following equation: Total net benefit = $3,000 – $800 = $2,200

 

Part B (1 point)

The correct answer is $500 , and you'll need to show you found that answer with the following equation: Marginal net benefit = ($3,000 – $2,200) – ($800 – $500) = $800 – $300 = $500.

 

Part C (1 point)

The correct answer is 4, and you'll need to explain that you determined this because the marginal net benefit of the 4th advertisement is positive ($600 – $500 = $100), but the marginal net benefit of a 5th advertisement would be negative ($400 – $800 = –$400).

 

Part D (1 point)

The optimal number of advertisements is 4.

 

Part E (1 point)

To earn the point you must state that AZY Foods is operating in a monopolistically competitive market structure.



How Is the AP Microeconomics Exam Scored?

As we mentioned above, the multiple-choice section of the exam is worth 66% of your total score. This is more than the multiple-choice section for many other AP exams. There are 60 questions, and you'll earn 1 point for each question you answer correctly. No points are deducted for incorrect answers, so you should answer every question!

The free-response section is worth 33% of your total score. Within that, the long free-response question is worth 50% of the section score, and each of the two short free-response sections is worth 25% of the section score. You can earn up to 20 points on the free-response section (10 points for the long question and 5 points for each short question).

For each section (multiple-choice and free-response) your points will be added up then scaled to properly fit the weight of that section. Those scores are added together, then converted to the standard AP scoring scale of 1-5. The exact formula for doing this can change slightly from year to year.

And how well do students do on the AP Microeconomics exam? Here's what score distributions looked like for students who took the exam in 2021. The mean score was a 2.96, or just under passing, and 59.1% of students who took the exam passed (scored a 3 or higher).

Score

5

4

3

2

1

% of Students Earning that Score

18.5%

24.0%

16.6%

17.0%

23.9%

Source: College Board

 

3 Tips for Preparing for the AP Microeconomics Exam

Now you know what to expect when you take the AP Microeconomics exam, but what can you do to make sure you're well prepared for it? Follow these three tips throughout the year to put yourself in a great place on test day.

 

#1: Become an Expert Grapher

You'll need to analyze numerous graphs on the AP Micro exam, and you'll need to create a few of your own, particularly for the long free-response question. For many students, creating AP Microeconomics graphs is one of the more intimidating parts of the exam. There's a lot of information to include, and it all needs to be accurate for you to get full credit. So, start practicing!

If you spend time practicing with the graphical representations that are included in your AP Macro course content and complete practice free response questions, you’ll be prepared to do well on this part of the exam. 

 

#2: Know Your Vocab

Soon after you begin taking AP Microeconomics, you'll notice that there's a lot of terminology being tossed around. Even in the example questions above there are mentions of "profit- maximizing quantities," "payoff matrices, " "deadweight losses," and "Nash equilibrium." If you don't know what these terms mean, you won't be able to answer questions about them. Many students who take AP Micro believe that most of the questions the exam asks are pretty straightforward, you just need to be solid on your microeconomics knowledge, and a lot of that includes knowing the vocab.

Throughout the school year (and well before you take the AP test), be sure to review the core topics that were covered in the class. Consider using the waterfall flashcard method (which is also recommended for studying SAT vocab) to keep different vocab terms straight.

 

#3: Take Practice Tests

Taking practice tests and answering practice questions is one of the best ways to prepare for any AP exam, including AP Microeconomics. Official resources (those made by the College Board) are the best to use as you can be sure they're very close to what you'll see on exam day. There's a limited number of official multiple-choice questions available, but in the AP Microeconomics Course and Exam Description, there are 15 multiple-choice questions you can answer beginning on page 126.

Fortunately there are many more official free-response questions available for free online. Questions from within the last five years will be the most useful because they'll be closest to the current exam format.

AP Microeconomics FRQ from 2021

AP Microeconomics FRQ from 1999-2020

Because there are so many official FRQ available, we recommend only using them instead of looking online for unofficial questions (those not created by the College Board) because unofficial questions can be hit or miss in terms of quality. 

 

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Summary: AP Microeconomics Exam

The AP Microeconomics exam has two sections: multiple choice (worth 66% of your final score) and free response (worth 33% of your final score). The multiple-choice section contains 60 questions while free response has three questions: two short, and one long. During the exam, you'll need to use multiple skills and draw on knowledge from six main microeconomics topics. For AP Microeconomics FRQ, expect to draw multiple graphs. The AP Microeconomics graphs you create will often need to show multiple trends in order for you to earn full points.

In order to prepare for the AP Microeconomics exam, keep these three tips in mind during your review:

  • Get strong graphing skills
  • Know your vocab
  • Take AP Microeconomics practice tests

 

What's Next?

How does AP Microeconomics compare to AP Macroeconomics? And which course is better for you? Read our article to learn all the Micro vs Macro similarities and differences.

Have you decided to take AP Macroeconomics too? Get the best study resources available by checking out our guide to the best AP Macroeconomics practice tests.

Many students take an AP economics class as a precursor to majoring in economics. Is economics the right major for you? Learn the answer by reading our guide on majoring in economics.

 

Looking for help studying for your AP exam?

Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.



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