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How Will AP Tests Work in 2021?

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Posted by Ashley Robinson | Mar 12, 2021 1:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

 

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If you’re wondering what AP exams will look like this year, you’re not alone. As a result of the continued COVID-19 pandemic, there are several changes to AP exams in 2021 that AP you need to know about. 

In this guide, we’re going to answer your pressing questions about changes to AP exams in 2021. We’ll explain everything you need to know about new AP exam guidelines for 2021, including how AP exams will be administered, AP 2021 dates and official schedule, the status on whether colleges are accepting AP scores for credit and placement, and three tips for how to prep for AP exams in 2021.

Let’s begin!

 

What Are the Changes for AP Testing in 2021? 5 Big Differences

The College Board is offering multiple testing options in 2021 to make AP testing more flexible and accessible for students. These new testing options involve some changes to past AP exam policies that you need to be aware of as you prep for the exams. This year, the main changes to AP exams from previous years include additional testing dates, mixed testing dates, mixed testing administration, and additional make up testing dates.

 

Change 1: School-Specific AP Testing Dates

First, the 2021 AP exam schedule provides three testing dates for each AP subject between early May and mid-June. This is different from the single testing dates offered per AP exam in years past. In 2021, testing dates are dispersed across three different weeks of testing that are designated as Administrations 1, 2, and 3. 

Instead of a national testing schedule like in years past, schools will work with CollegeBoard to decide which AP testing administration dates will be offered per AP exam at their school. The goal behind this is to help schools create more flexible testing schedules to accommodate students while still following COVID guidelines in their areas. Students will not be able to choose their testing date, but schools will do their best to pick the administration dates that best suit their students’ needs. 

 

Change 2: Additional AP Test Formats

Second, there will also be a mix of testing formats offered in 2021. Most AP exams will be offered in the traditional paper and pencil administration format and a digitally-administered format. All paper and pencil exams must be taken in school, whereas some digitally-administered exams will be taken with an online proctor from students’ homes. 

Though students will not get to choose their testing format, it’s likely that schools will provide a pencil and paper option and digital option for most AP exams to ensure that all students can take AP exams. Students should also be aware that all AP exams will be full-length this year, whether taken digitally or on paper. There will be no shortened AP exams in 2021. 

 

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Depending on which test you're taking--and what the COVID guidelines for your area are--you may be taking AP exams at home this year. 

 

Change 3: Optional At-Home AP Testing

In 2020, the College Board introduced at-home testing, and it looks like that trend will continue in 2021. This year, AP exams will be offered as both an in school administration and an at home administration. The College Board has stated that different exam administrations will be offered on different testing dates, though there aren’t many details about what that will look like quite yet. What we do know is that schools will provide instructions about where AP exams will be administered. 

 

Change 4: AP Portfolio Extensions and Make-Up Dates 

The College Board is making accommodations for other specific requirements. For instance, the deadline for final digital submissions of AP Art and Design portfolios and AP Computer Science Principles (CSP), AP Seminar, and AP Research performance tasks has been extended to Thursday, May 20, 2021. Additionally, make up testing will be offered after Administrations 2 and 3 for students who could not test during the original administration dates due to extenuating circumstances. 

 

Change 5: No Exam Cancellation Fees

Because of the many changes that schools and students have endured over the past year due to COVID-19, the College Board is also waiving all exam cancellation fees for 2021. Unlike in previous years, students won’t have to pay a penalty if they need to cancel their AP exam after registering. This applies even if a student needs to cancel their AP exam right up to their assigned exam day. 

 

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The 2021 AP exams will be offered in three different formats. We'll talk more about them below.

 

AP Exams 2021 Format

All versions of the AP exams in all subjects will be full length this year. They will also cover all required course content for AP college credit. 

However, in contrast to previous years, the AP exams will be offered in multiple formats in 2021. The exam formats offered this year will include the following: 

  • In school administration, exam taken using paper and pencil
  • In school administration, exam taken using a digital device
  • At home administration, exam taken online using a digital device

Whether you’ll take your AP exam on paper or on a computer will depend on the subject. For example AP Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, and Statistics exams will be offered on paper and in school only in Administrations 1 and 2 this year. However, a full-length, digital exam will be offered in Administration 3 for students who can’t take the paper and pencil exam. The digital exam option will be taken entirely on a school-managed computer. 

Additionally, French, German, Italian, Spanish Language and Culture, Latin, Music Theory, and Spanish Literature and Culture AP exams will have no digital testing options this year. These full-length exams will be administered in school and entirely on paper to prevent unfair access to translation apps and musical instruments on digital devices. 

Chinese Language and Japanese Language AP exams will be administered in school only as well, but these exams must be taken using a school-provided digital device. Schools will administer these two exams during Administrations 1 and 2. Administration 3 will be offered as the final make up exam date.

If you’re wondering what format your test will be in, be sure to check with your school, since there may be COVID safety requirements that prevent you from taking your exams in a group setting. 

Now that you know the different administration formats for the AP exams in 2021, we’ll break down this year’s full AP exam schedule. This will make the changes to AP exams 2021 a little easier to visualize!

 

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AP Exams 2021 Schedule and Testing Dates

In 2021, the College Board is offering three testing dates and multiple testing formats for each AP exam. This year, schools get to decide which testing dates and formats will be provided to their students.

This means that students will need to prepare to take the AP exams on the testing dates and through the testing formats that their school provides.

For the most part, Administrations 1 and 2 are meant to be the main testing dates for AP exams this year. Schools may request to administer AP exams during Administration 3 in order to accommodate social distancing for students who are not able to take exams in person at school.

We’ve broken down the official dates and format for all three AP exam administrations below:

 
Administration Dates
In Person or Online?
Administration Format

Administration 1

May 3–7, 10–12, 14, and 17
Administered in school only
Traditional, full-length paper and pencil exams for all subjects.

Administration 2

May 18–21, 24–28
Administered in school and at home
Half of the subjects are paper and pencil, administered in school, and half are full-length digital exams, administered in school or taken at home due to coronavirus precautions.

Administration 3

June 1–4, 7–11
Administered in school and at home
Most subjects are full-length digital exams only, administered in school or taken at home due to coronavirus precautions.

 

As you can see, the College Board is offering a variety of testing formats, both in school and at home, and on paper and online, in order to accommodate a wide range of student needs and COVID-19 safety precautions.

Because each AP administration lasts for one to two weeks this year, knowing the individual schedule for each administration can help you know when you might be testing. We’ll break down the full schedule for AP exam Administration 1, 2 and 3 below.

 

AP Administration 1 Schedule

AP Administration 1 is scheduled for Monday, May 3, 2021 through Friday, May 7, 2021. This exam administration will be in school and completed with paper and pencil (with the Japanese Language and Culture exam being the exception as the only computer-based exam).

 

Week 1: Paper, in School

 
8:00 a.m. Local Time
12:00 p.m. Local Time
2:00 p.m. Local Time
Monday, May 3, 2021
United States Government and Politics
Physics C: Mechanics
Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Calculus AB
Calculus BC
German Language and Culture
Human Geography
N/A
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
English Literature and Composition
Japanese Language and Culture (computer-based)
Physics 1: Algebra-Based
N/A
Thursday, May 6, 2021
United States History
Art History
Computer Science A
N/A
Friday, May 7, 2021
Chemistry
Spanish Literature and Culture
European History
Physics 2: Algebra-Based
N/A

 


Week 2: Paper, in School

 
8:00 a.m. Local Time
12:00 p.m. Local Time
Monday, May 10, 2021
French Language and Culture
World History: Modern
Macroeconomics
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Seminar
French Language and Culture
Latin
Psychology
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
English Language and Composition
Microeconomics
Music Theory
Thursday, May 13, 2021
No Exams Scheduled
No Exams Scheduled
Friday, May 14, 2021
Biology
Italian Language and Culture
Chinese Language and Culture (computer-based)
Monday, May 17, 2021
Comparative Government and Politics
Computer Science Principles
Statistics



AP Administration 2 Schedule

AP Administration 2 is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18, 2021 through Friday, May 28, 2021. This exam administration is a bit more complicated because some exams will be offered in school and on paper, and others will be offered at home and using a digital device. 

To help you know what your AP exam will look like in Administration 2, we’ve broken down each week of the Administration 2 schedule below. Remember: all exams, including digital, at home exams, will be full-length. 

 

Week 1: Digital, in School, and at Home

 
12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
English Literature and Composition
Computer Science A
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
European History
United States History
Art History
Macroeconomics
Thursday, May 20, 2021
United States Government and Politics
World History: Modern
Psychology

 


Week 1: Paper, in School

 
8:00 a.m. Local Time
12:00 p.m. Local Time
Friday, May 21, 2021
Italian Language and Culture
Japanese Language and Culture (computer-based)
Latin
Spanish Language and Culture
Chinese Language and Culture (computer-based)
French Language and Culture
German Language and Culture
Music Theory
Spanish Literature and Culture



Week 2: Paper, in School

 
8:00 a.m. Local Time
12:00 p.m. Local Time
Monday, May 24, 2021
Calculus AB
Calculus BC
Physics 1: Algebra-Based
Physics C: Mechanics
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Chemistry
Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
Physics 2: Algebra-Based
Statistics

 

 

Week 2: Digital, in School, and at Home

 
12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
English Language and Composition
Computer Science Principles
Seminar
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Biology
Environmental Science
Friday, May 28, 2021
Comparative Government and Politics
Human Geography
Microeconomics

 

 

AP Administration 3 Schedule

AP Administration 3 is scheduled for Tuesday, June 1, 2021 through Friday, June 11, 2021. The format of this exam administration is determined based on each individual exam. Some will be in school and some at home, and some will be completed with paper and pencil, and some tests will be administered digitally. 

The charts below clarify the exam schedule for Administration 3. Note that Administration 3 is spread out over the course of the first two weeks in June, and digital, paper-based, in school, and at home exam administrations are offered. 

 

Week 1: Digital, in School, and at Home

 
12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
English Literature and Composition
Computer Science A
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
European History
United States History
Art History
Macroeconomics
Thursday, June 3, 2021
United States Government and Politics
World History: Modern
Psychology

 

 

Week 1: Paper, in School

 
8:00 a.m. Local Time
12:00 p.m. Local Time
Friday, June 4, 2021
Italian Language and Culture
Japanese Language and Culture (computer based)
Latin
Spanish Language and Culture
Chinese Language and Culture (computer based)
French Language and Culture
German Language and Culture
Music Theory
Spanish Literature and Culture

 

 

Week 2: Digital, in School, and at Home

 
12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Monday, June 7, 2021
English Language and Composition
Computer Science Principles
Seminar
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Comparative Government and Politics
Human Government
Microeconomics
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Calculus AB
Calculus BC
Physics 1: Algebra-Based
Physics C: Mechanics
Thursday, June 10, 2021
Chemistry
Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
Physics 2: Algebra-Based
Statistics
Friday, June 11, 2021
Biology
Environmental Science

 

 

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Will Colleges Still Accept AP Scores for Credit/Placement in 2021?

Given the extenuating circumstances caused by COVID-19, most colleges that have accepted AP exam scores in the past will continue to do so in 2021. However, colleges set their own AP score policies, and these can change on a yearly basis. To find out a school’s AP score policy for course credit and placement in 2021, you should consult their admissions website, search for a statement on AP scores, and/or contact an admissions counselor. 

Many schools provide an official AP score policy for 2021 online. For instance, Boston University dedicates an entire webpage to explaining their AP course credit and placement policy. The policy states that “most academic programs at Boston University award credit for test scores of four or five on most AP examinations.” However, BU also notes that AP credit will be accepted based on the discretion of each school or college.

Similarly, UCLA also provides a detailed AP score policy online. UCLA’s AP statement reads, “UCLA awards college credit for AP exams with scores of three or higher. The specific credit you receive depends on the college/school your major belongs to.” UCLA then provides specific guidance on AP credit policies in different colleges and schools to help you figure out how your AP scores impact earning college credit.

If you’re unable to locate an AP score policy statement on a school’s website, you can use CollegeBoard’s AP Credit Policy Search tool to find a school’s AP score acceptance policy. To use this tool, select the name of your AP test and the name of a college. The tool will tell you the minimum score required for a given AP exam at the school you select. 

Remember: if you’re unsure whether your AP scores will be accepted at a given school, it’s important to cover your bases. Check the school’s admissions website for an AP score policy statement first. Next, make sure you’re aware of any AP score acceptance policies for individual colleges, schools, or programs at a given institution. Finally, double check that you’ve asked the College Board to send your AP scores to your colleges of choice. 

 

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How to Prep for AP Exams During COVID-19

With the challenges presented by COVID-19, it can be hard to know how to prep for AP exams in 2021. We’re here to help you prep for the AP exams in 2021 with the three tips below. 

 

Tip #1: Use CollegeBoard’s AP Daily: Live Review

AP Daily is an online, video study resource provided by CollegeBoard. AP Daily videos are on-demand segments led by expert AP teachers. These videos cover all AP course content and skills that could potentially appear on the AP exams. AP Daily videos are a great way to prepare for AP exams—especially for students who need  guided practice from experts. 

AP Daily videos are available through AP Classroom. You can access AP Daily videos by signing into your AP Classroom student account. Video release dates are posted on the CollegeBoard website for each AP course. In most cases, videos are uploaded on a weekly basis over the course of the months leading up to AP exam administration dates. 

Alternatively, AP Daily Live Review videos will be available on YouTube April 19-29. These videos are designed to help students review course content and skills in the weeks leading up to the official AP exam dates. While the videos will originally be offered live, they will also be recorded for students to use to study at their own pace. 

 

Tip #2: Take Practice Tests

You should always take practice tests before AP exams, and this is still true in 2021. AP exams will be full-length and will test the full range of content and skills your AP courses are supposed to cover. Taking practice exams will help you assess your AP exam readiness and highlight areas where you need extra prep before your exam day. 

When you take practice exams, do your best to replicate aspects of the real testing environment, including timing, format, and the tools you’re allowed to have on hand (e.g., pencil, calculator, scratch paper). After you take practice exams, you can use your results to plan out another phase of AP prep that’s focused on your weaker areas. 

The good news is that you can often find past AP exams online. These past exams are well suited for AP practice because they give you a sense of what real AP questions will look like in context. We’ve compiled huge lists of past AP exams by subject on our blog...all you have to do is search for your specific test! You can also use the College Board’s online bank of past exam questions for each AP subject. 

 

Tip #3: Prep on Paper and Digitally

Because the format for each AP exam is determined on a subject-by-subject basis this year, you might have to take different AP exams in different formats. For instance, you might have to take the Calculus AB exam on paper, and the English Literature and Composition exam on a digital device. This means it’s in your best interest to prepare for exams using both paper and digital prep materials.

Since you’ll likely know in advance which exams you’re taking on paper and which ones you’re taking digitally, you can use this info to prepare for your exams. Consider preparing for digitally administered exams by taking online practice exams. For exams that will be on paper, try using AP guidebooks and taking practice tests on paper. 

Preparing for AP exams in the format that you’ll be taking them will help you get comfortable with navigating the different formats before your test day. 

 

What’s Next? 

Is this your first time taking AP classes and tests? Check out this article to learn more about what to expect. 

If you’re prepping for your AP exams, it’s a good idea to take a practice test or two. Here’s our guide to finding the best AP practice tests available.

Wondering what a “good” AP score is? Our list of average AP scores for every exam will help you figure out how stack up to the competition. 

 

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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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