Top 5 Tips for the AP® Econ ExamsNick Anello, M.A. General Administration and Curriculum & Instruction
So, it’s almost time for the AP Economics exams. Hopefully, you have started a countdown. If not, that is step one. You want to remind students (so long as it doesn’t increase their anxiety) how many days of studying there are before the exam.
Students and teachers have worked so hard all year, or semester, to prepare for the exam. Students may be feeling anxious, overloaded (especially those who signed up for like seven AP exams😱), stressed, nervous, or all the above. You want to encourage students daily. Make sure they know they are prepared, and that you will continue to prepare for the exam in the coming days and weeks. Remind students that you all are a team. You are on their side. You want to see them succeed. You are going to help them as much as they want to be helped.
Now. Let’s go over the basics for the AP Economics exams. Students will have 70 minutes to complete 60 multiple-choice questions. Then there is the 60-minute free-response portion which includes one long free-response and two short free-response questions. The exam is weighted so the multiple-choice section is worth two-thirds of the overall score and the free- response is one third. Diving into this a little deeper, the long FRQ is worth 50% of the overall free-response score, and the shorter questions are worth 25% each.
There are two routes of review that you should consider in planning: in class review and after (or before) school review sessions. Build out a cohesive plan that incorporates both routes. Consider that you will usually have ALL your students in class, yet only some in after school review sessions. When you think through your plan, try to incorporate the most important review in class and extend that review into after school sessions.
Now that we’ve gotten some of the groundwork out of the way, here are my Top Five Tips for making sure your students are prepared for the AP Econ exams.
- Ensure students have access to AP multiple-choice and free-response questions to review. Content covered throughout the year is important to review as well (see Tip 2), however, students need to practice the skill of selecting the correct answer in multiple-choice questions and practice drawing diagrams in free response questions. Use practice multiple-choice questions before a review session (to see what they know) or at the end of the review session (to see what they learned).
- Students need to review previously covered topics and skills. If students first learned a topic or graph in September, they will need to review it. Especially with the most challenging graphs, each student needs to draw the diagrams again and again. Provide them with the opportunities to do so. Practice makes perfect!
- Give students bell work activities showing a diagram with an error(s). This diagnosis activity gives students the opportunity to practice their higher-level thinking skills. Students will need to first know what a correct diagram looks like, and then look for the error(s). Students will likely challenge each other in finding the right error(s) in these diagrams. This activity allows students to think like a grader in looking for errors. The skill of reflection and diagnosis can help students on the exam check their diagrams for errors.
- Have students grade a free response. Give them the question, give them the rubric, and then give them a sample student response. There are several examples on the College Board AP Economics website. This exercise, like Tip 3, puts the student in the frame of mind of a grader. Looking at the actual test question, then looking at the rubric, and then comparing it to a student response can be a powerful activity for students to engage in. They may also gain a new appreciation for the work you have done reading over their answers during the semester.
- Host a mock exam day. Give students an opportunity to go through a full exam that is timed and graded. This helps students to know what to expect on test day. This is especially important for students taking their first AP exam. Grade the exam using the 1–5 scale (you can find conversion charts with a simple Google search) so students have an idea how they’ll perform on exam day.
These tips are just the beginning—there are tons of other great ideas that you can use to prepare your students. What are some of your favorite tips to help your students feel ready for the AP exam? I bet you are creative. Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Nick Anello has taught AP® Economics for nearly a decade at Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School in Flossmoor, Illinois, in addition to teaching IB SL Economics. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and two Master of Arts degrees in General Administration and Curriculum & Instruction from Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. He has led professional development programs at local, state, and national levels on the teaching of economics. In 2017, he received the 3M and Econ Illinois Outstanding Economics Educator award. He also served as a member of the AP Instructional Design Team during the most recent curriculum update.