Are you taking AP Statistics? If so, you're likely wondering what to expect from the AP Statistics exam. Before you sit down to take the final test, it's important to understand how the AP Stats test is formatted, what topics it will cover, and how it'll be scored.
This guide will explain all of that information, show you official sample problems and give you tips on the best way to prepare for the AP Statistics test.
In 2021, the AP Statistics exam will take place on Thursday, May 13th at 12:00pm.
2021 AP Test Changes Due to COVID-19
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, AP tests will now be held over three different sessions between May and June. Your test dates, and whether or not your tests will be online or on paper, will depend on your school. To learn more about how all of this is going to work and get the latest information on test dates, AP online review, and what these changes means for you, be sure to check out our 2021 AP COVID-19 FAQ article.
How Is the AP Statistics Exam Structured?
How long is the AP Statistics exam? The test is a total of three hours long and contains two sections: multiple choice and free response. You're allowed a graphing calculator for the entire exam.
- 40 multiple-choice questions
- 90 minutes long
- Worth 50% of exam score
- You can spend an average of a little more than two minutes on each multiple-choice question and finish the section in time.
- 5 short-answer questions
- 1 Investigative Task
- 90 minutes long
- Worth 50% of exam score
- The five short-answer questions are meant to each be solved in about 12 minutes, and the Investigative Task is meant to be solved in about 30 minutes.
What Does the AP Statistics Exam Test You On?
The content of the AP Stats exam and course is centered around nine units. Below are the nine units, along with what percentage of the exam will be on them and all the topics that fall beneath each of them. Each unit starts with an "introducing statistics" question that'll be answered throughout the unit. The list below covers every single topic that the AP Statistics exam could test you on.
Unit 1: Exploring One-Variable Data (15-23% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: What can we learn from data?
- Representing a categorical variable with tables
- Representing a categorical variable with graphs
- Representing a quantitative variable with tables
- Describing the distribution of a quantitative variable
- Summary statistics for a quantitative variable
- Graphical representations of summary statistics
- Comparing distributions of a quantitative variable
- The normal distribution
Unit 2: Exploring Two-Variable Data (5-7% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Are variables related?
- Representing two categorical variables
- Statistics for two categorical variables
- Representing the relationship between two quantitative variables
- Linear regression models
- Least squares regression
- Analyzing departures from linearity
Unit 3: Collecting Data (12-15% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Do the data we collected tell the truth?
- Introduction to planning a study
- Random sampling and data collection
- Potential problems with sampling
- Introduction to experimental design
- Selecting an experimental design
- Inference and experiments
Unit 4: Probability, Random Variables, and Probability Distributions (10-20% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Random and non-random patterns?
- Estimating probabilities using simulation
- Introduction to probability
- Mutually exclusive events
- Conditional probability
- Independent events and unions of events
- Introduction to random variables and probability distributions
- Mean and standard deviation of random variables
- Combining random variables
- Introduction to the binomial distribution
- Parameters for a binomial distribution
- The geometric distribution
Unit 5: Sampling Distributions (7-12% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Why is my sample not like yours?
- The normal distribution, revised
- The Central Limit Theorem
- Biased and unbiased point estimates
- Sampling distributions for sample proportions
- Sampling distributions for differences in sample proportions
- Sampling distributions for sample means
- Sampling distributions for differences in sample means
Unit 6: Inference for Categorical Data: Proportions (12-15% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Why be normal?
- Constructing a confidence interval for a population proportion
- Justifying a claim based on a confidence interval for a population proportion
- Setting up a test for a population proportion
- Interpreting p-values
- Concluding a test for a population proportion
Unit 7: Inference for Quantitative Data: Means (10-18% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Should I worry about error?
- Constructing a confidence interval for a population mean
- Justifying a claim about a population mean based on a confidence interval
- Setting up a test for a population mean
- Carrying out a test for a population mean
Unit 8: Inference for Categorical Data: Chi-Square (2-5% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Are my results unexpected?
- Setting up a chi-square goodness of fit test
- Carrying out a chi-square test for goodness of fit
- Expected counts in two-way tables
- Setting up a chi-square test for homogeneity or independence
- Carrying out a chi-square test for homogeneity or independence
- Skills focus: Selecting an appropriate inference procedure for categorical data
Unit 9: Inference for Quantitative Data: Slopes (2-5% of exam)
- Introducing statistics: Do those points align?
- Confidence intervals for the slope of a regression model
- Justifying a claim about the slope of a regression model based on a confidence interval
- Setting up a test for the slope of a regression model
- Carrying out a test for the slope of a regression model
- Skills focus: Selecting an appropriate inference procedure
AP Statistics Sample Questions
As we mentioned above, there are three types of questions on the AP Stats exam: multiple choice, short answer, and investigative task. Below are examples of each question type. You can see more sample questions and answer explanations in the AP Statistics Course Description.
Multiple-Choice Sample Question
There are 40 multiple-choice questions on the exam. Each has five answer options. Some questions will be accompanied by a chart or graph you need to analyze to answer the question.
Short-Answer Sample Question
There are five short-answer questions on the AP Stats test. Each of these questions typically includes several different parts you need to answer. You're expected to spend about 12 minutes on each short-answer question.
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Investigative Task Sample Question
The final question on the exam is the Investigative Task question. This is the most in-depth question on the test, and you should spend about 30 minutes answering it. It will have multiple parts you need to answer and require multiple statistics skills. You'll also need to provide a detailed explanation of your answers that shows the strength of your statistics skills. Be sure to show all your work as you'll be graded on the completeness of your answer.
How Is the AP Statistics Test Graded?
For the multiple-choice part of the exam, you earn one point for each question you answer correctly. There are no point deductions for incorrect answers or questions you leave blank. Official AP graders will grade your free-response questions. Each of the six free-response questions is scored on a scale of 0 to 4 points, so the total section is out of 24 points.
The free-response questions are graded holistically, which means, instead of getting a point or half a point for each bit of correct information you include, graders look at your answer to each question as a "complete package," and your grade is awarded on the overall quality of your answer. The grading rubric for each free-response question is:
- 4: Complete Response: Shows complete understanding of the problem's statistical components
- 3: Substantial Response: May include arithmetic errors, but answers are still reasonable and show substantial understanding of the problem's statistical components
- 2: Developing Response: May include errors that result in some unreasonable answers, but shows some understanding of the problem's statistical components
- 1: Minimal Response: Misuses or fails to use appropriate statistical techniques and shows only a limited understanding of statistical components by failing to identify important components
- 0: No Response: Shows little or no understanding of statistical components
What does holistic grading mean for you? Basically, you can't expect to earn many points by including a few correct equations or arithmetic answers if you're missing key statistical analysis. You need to show you understand how to use stats to get a good score on these questions.
Estimating Your AP Statistics Score
If you take a practice AP Stats exam (which you should!) you'll want to get an estimate of what your score on it is so you can get an idea of how well you'd do on the real exam. To estimate your score, you'll need to do a few calculations.
#1: Multiply the number of points you got on the multiple-choice section by 1.25
#2: For free-response questions 1 through 5, add the number of points you got together and multiply that sum by 1.875 (don't round). If you need help estimating your score, the official free-response questions we linked to above include sample responses to help you get an idea of the score you'd get for each question.
#3: For free-response question #6, multiply your score by 3.125.
#4: Add the scores you got in steps 1-3 together to get your Composite Score.
For example, say you got 30 questions correct on the multiple-choice section, 13 points on questions 1-5, and 2 points on question 6. Your score would be (30 x 1.25) + (13 x 1.875) + (2 x 3.125) = 68.125 which rounds to 68 points. By looking at the chart below, you can see that'd get you a 4 on the AP Statistics exam.
Below is a conversion chart so you can see how raw score ranges translate into final AP scores. I've also included the percentage of students who earned each score in 2019 to give you an idea of what the score distribution looks like:
Percentage of Students Earning Each Score (2020)
Source: The College Board
Where Can You Find Practice AP Stats Tests?
Practice tests are an important part of your AP Stats prep. There are official and unofficial AP Stats practice tests available, although we always recommend official resources first. Below are some of the best practice tests to use.
Official Practice Tests
To learn more about where to find AP Statistics practice tests and how to use them, check out our complete guide to AP Statistics practice exams.
3 Tips for the AP Statistics Exam
In this section we go over three of the most useful tips you can use when preparing for and taking the AP Statistics test. Follow these and you're more likely to get a great score on the exam.
#1: For Free Response, Answer the Entire Question
As we mentioned earlier, free-response questions on AP Stats are graded holistically, which means you'll get one score for the entire question. This is different from many other AP exams where each correct component you include in a free-response question gets you a certain number of points, and those points are then added up to get your total score for that question.
The Stats free-response questions are graded holistically because there are often multiple correct answers in statistics depending on how you solve the problem and explain your answer. This means you can't just answer part of the question and expect to get a good score, even if you've answered that part perfectly. If you've ignored a large part of the problem, your score will be low no matter what.
So instead of trying to get a point here and there by including a correct formula or solving one part of a question, make sure you're looking at the entire problem and answering it as completely as possible. Also, if you need to include an explanation, be sure it explains your thought process and the steps you took. If your explanation shows you understand important stats concepts, it could help you get a higher score even if your final answer isn't perfect.
Aiming for the most complete response possible is also important if you can't answer one part of a question that's needed to answer other parts. For example, if you can't figure out what the answer to part A is, but you need to use that answer for parts B and C, just make up an answer (try to keep it logical), and use that answer to solve the other parts, or explain in detail how you'd solve the problem if you knew what the answer to part A was. If you can show you know how to solve the latter problems correctly, you'll likely get some credit for showing you understand the stats concepts being tested.
#2: Know How to Use Your Calculator
You'll need a graphing calculator to answer pretty much every question on the Stats exam, so make sure you know how to use it. Ideally, the calculator you use on test day will be the same one you've been doing homework and taking tests with throughout the school year so you know exactly how to use it.
Knowing how to solve common stats functions on your calculator and interpret the answers you get will save you a lot of time on the exam. Your calculator will likely be most useful on the multiple-choice section where you don't need to worry about showing work. Just plug in the data you're given into your calculator, and run the right equations. Then you'll have your answer!
#3: Know Your Vocabulary
You may think that since AP Stats is a math course, vocab won't be an important part of the test, but you need to know quite a few terms to do well on this exam. Confusing right- and left-skewed or random sampling and random allocation, for example, could lead to you losing tons of points on the test.
During the school year, stay on top of any new terms you learn in class. Making flashcards of the terms and quizzing yourself regularly is a great way to stay up-to-date on vocab. Many AP Stats prep books also include a glossary of important terms you can use while studying.
Before the AP Stats exam, you should know all important terms like the back of your hand. Having a general idea isn't good enough. A big part of stats is being able to support your answers, and to do this you'll often need to use stats vocab in your explanations. Just stating the term won't earn you nearly as many points as being able to explain what the term is and how it supports your answer, so make sure you really know your vocab well.
Summary: Statistics AP Exam
The AP Statistics exam is three hours long and consists of 40 multiple-choice questions and six free-response questions. To prepare well for AP Stats exam questions, it's important to take practice exams and know how to grade them so you can estimate how well you'd do on the actual test. When studying for the AP exam, remember to answer the entire question for free response, know how to use your calculator, and be on top of stats vocabulary.
Feel the need to do some quick reviewing after looking through what'll be covered on the AP Stats exam? Take a spin through our guide to statistical significance to refresh yourself on how to run a t-test.
How difficult is AP Stats compared to other AP classes? Get the answer by reading our guide to the hardest AP exams and classes.
Wondering which other math classes you should take besides statistics? Math is often the trickiest subject to choose classes for, but our guide will help you figure out exactly which math classes to take for each year of high school.
A prep book can be one of your best study resources for the AP Stats exam. But which prep book should you choose? Check out our guide to AP Stats prep books to learn which is the best and which you should avoid.
One of the single most important parts of your college application is what classes you choose to take in high school (in conjunction with how well you do in those classes). Our team of PrepScholar admissions experts have compiled their knowledge into this single guide to planning out your high school course schedule. We'll advise you on how to balance your schedule between regular and honors/AP/IB courses, how to choose your extracurriculars, and what classes you can't afford not to take.
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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.