What Are AP® Exams?
Learn what AP exams are and how they work, from format and types of questions, to how the tests are scored.
About AP Exams
AP exams take between 2–3 hours to complete and are broken into two sections: multiple choice and free response. The amount of questions per section and the time allotted varies per test subject.
55 minutes for 55 multiple choice questions
50 minutes for four short response answers, 55 minutes for Document Based Questions, and a 35-minute long essay
55 minutes for 70 multiple-choice questions
3 essays, each with a time limit of 40 minutes
90 minutes for 63 multiple choice questions, plus six write-in questions
90 minutes to answer eight free response questions
28 questions in 55 minutes with no calculator, 17 questions in 50 minutes with a calculator
90 minutes to answer six free response questions
AP Exams are given once a year, in May. Each test subject can take anywhere from 15–40 hours of prep, depending on how well you are doing in your AP class and how you learn. Preparation is critical to getting a passing score on the exam, so it’s important to start planning your prep earlyStart studying
AP exams are scored on a scale of 1–5; a passing score on any AP exam is 3 or higher. Multiple choice answers are graded by computer, and only correct answers count—there are no deductions for incorrect or blank answers. The free response section is graded by teachers and college professors at the annual AP Reading Conference in June, with scaled scores ranging from 1–9. Your final score on an AP exam is a conversion of the composite score, which is obtained by putting the scores of the two sections together on a scale
Frequently asked questions
How many AP exams are there in total?
There are a total of 38 AP Exams. Subjects vary widely, from English to macroeconomics.
How long are the tests?
AP exams range in time from 2–3 hours, depending on the topic.
Can students take more than one test?
Yes. Students can take as many AP exams as they want, but they must register and pay for each test.
Can you take an AP test without taking an AP course?
Yes, but it will likely be extremely challenging as AP teachers have course books, practice tests, and dedicated class time to teach the material on which you’ll be tested.
Is each test the same length?
What are the main sections of AP tests?
Each AP test has two distinct sections: multiple choice and free response. The number of questions and lengths of time to complete these sections vary per AP subject.
Do I have to register for the tests?
Where are AP exams given?
AP exams are given at participating high schools. Check with your school’s AP Coordinator to find out more information. If your school does not have an AP Coordinator, contact AP Services at The College Board.
How are AP exams scored?
AP exams are scored on a scale of 1–5. A passing score is a three.
Who scores the sections?
The multiple choice sections are scored by computer. The free response sections are scored by teachers during the annual AP Reading conference held each June.
When do I get my score?
Scores are released the second week of July over a two-day period by state. You can check release dates on our AP Test Dates page or on The College Board AP site.
How long do I have to study for an AP exam?
All AP exams are given in May, so you have until the beginning of May to review and study for your tests. Creating a study plan is critical to success. We suggest starting 10–12 weeks before your exam.
Can I retake an AP exam if I don’t get a passing score?
Yes, but you have to wait until the next exam period the following year to do so. Also, all scores are reported for every test taken.
Can I use a calculator on the AP exams?
Four-function, scientific, and graphing calculators are allowed only on the free response section of certain science and math AP tests. To find out if the test you are taking allows a calculator, visit The College Board AP website.
Get more free resources