2021 AP Exam Overview

By IvyWise on Thursday, February 4, 2021

Here’s How AP Exams Will Be Administered in 2021

AP Exams are an opportunity for students to demonstrate their expertise in advanced classes, get a taste of college-level coursework, and maybe even earn credit towards their undergraduate degree. This year there are significant changes to the AP Exam process due to COVID-19, and students will have the chance to sit for exams either in-person or virtually.

Keep reading to learn more about what you can expect for AP exams in 2021.

Multiple AP Exam Dates and Formats

The College Board has announced three testing dates for AP exams that span May and June of 2021 and allow for both in-school and at-home examinations. If safety conditions allow, schools can offer in-person testing for students who wish to sit for AP Exams. Otherwise, the AP coordinator at every school will be able to authorize a full-length digital contingency exam that students can take at home. 2021 AP Exam dates and formats are as follows:

  • Administration 1: May 3-7, 10-12, 14, 17 (Exams are paper and pencil and will be administered in school.)
  • Administration 2: May 18–21, 24–28 (Half of the subjects are only paper and pencil, administered in school, and half are only digital, administered in school or taken at home.)
  • Administration 3: June 1–4, 7–11 (Most subjects are only digital, administered in school or taken at home.)

All AP exams, whether delivered digitally or on paper, will be full-length and cover the entirety of the course content. The three administration time frames aim to accommodate students that have not covered the entirety of the course content by then, however, it is up to each individual school to determine how and when to administer the AP exams. For example, a school may mix and match the different administrations in order to better align with the school’s instructional schedule and allow for proper social distancing protocols, or choose to only adhere to one administration. Individual registrations can be moved from Administration 1 to 2 or 3 starting in March. Your AP Coordinator at your school will handle moving your registration if necessary.

If a student decides not to test or to cancel their exams, there will be no associated fees. Teachers are encouraged to leverage AP Classroom resources to support their students, including daily videos, course pacing guidelines, and practice questions. There will also be live online review sessions from April 19-30, to help students review all course content and skills.

Should I Take AP Exams This Year?

This is a decision that each student will need to make for themselves and will depend on each school’s policy, student access and resources, how prepared they are for the exams, and how exams are presented on transcripts. Since the exams will cover the full course, and many students had delayed school starts or are behind because of virtual learning or other interruptions due to COVID-19, it may not make sense for students to take the exam if they’ll receive a low score that will look bad on their transcript. However, if the final course grade or gaining credit for that course toward their high school diploma requires an exam score, students might have to take it anyway. In that case, it might make sense to advocate for one of the later testing administrations in order to have time to prepare. Again, that will also depend on each school’s testing timeline and if they’ll mix and match administrations as needed.

Another consideration is the testing policy of the schools on your balanced college list. For example, Georgetown University recommends students who have AP scores to submit them as part of their application, especially now that SAT Subject Tests are eliminated.

If you are planning to independently study and register for AP Exams this year because your school doesn’t offer a subject you’re interested in testing for, understand that opportunities to do that might be limited with all the changes happening this year. With multiple AP Exam administrations and social distancing considerations, many schools might not be allowing homeschooled or independent students to sit for AP Exams. However, the digital exams taken at home might work in your favor. If you choose to continue to independently register for the exams, please be patient with AP Coordinators at different schools as they work to navigate this process with their own students as well as any independent registrants. You can also explore online university courses, MOOCs, and other offerings to explore subject areas unavailable at your school and wait to take an independent AP exam next year if possible.

Tips for Students Preparing for 2021 AP Exams

If you’re planning on sitting for AP Exams this spring and currently feeling a bit overwhelmed, you are not alone. Many students have encountered obstacles and course changes that may have delayed their test preparation strategy. Instead of panicking, focus on using the time you have to boost your confidence level by exam day.

Looking to level up your study strategy? Consider the following tips:

  • Take advantage of the additional resources. New course pacing guides are available and designed for classrooms that have only completed approximately 25% of typical course content by January. Use these guides as a benchmark to help you stay on top of your test preparation strategy without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Check out AP Daily Videos, which are meant to cover content and skills in every AP course offered to students. Watch the videos that correspond with the exam you are planning to take to supplement your test preparation.
  • Keep an eye on the 2020-2021 AP calendar. This academic year is unlike any other and as a result, the AP testing process is also unique. Avoid the stress that can come with confusion and missed opportunities by staying on top of the AP timeline. This resource highlights important dates, including the different AP Exams administration timelines and when scores will be released.
  • Consider tutoring. Getting some outside help to aid you in preparing for AP Exams can be extremely beneficial, especially if your final course grade is dependent on your AP Exam performance (and grades are by far the most important factor that admissions officers consider.) IvyWise’s team of tutors are subject matter experts with extensive experience preparing students for AP Exams.

While preparing for AP exams can feel overwhelming, you can reduce your stress levels by staying on top of the preparation process. If you’re looking for personalized testing guidance, our team of tutors can help you create a plan of action.

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