How to Ace the AP Statistics Exam

October 29, 2020
By AdmissionSight

How to Ace the AP Statistics Exam

One of the very best ways to make the most of your high school years is to invest your time and energy in challenging courses and tests like the AP Statistics Exam. As a high schooler, you have the option to either enroll in the AP Statistics course to prepare for the exam or to simply prepare for the exam through self-studying without enrolling in the class at all.

When it comes to the AP Statistics Exam, it is actually one of the most popular amongst students. Typically, around 10 percent of high school students who take AP exams take the AP Statistics Exam. That usually equates to about 200,000 students!

Before we at AdmissionSight dive deeply into how students can increase their chances of scoring a perfect 5 out 5, let’s go over why millions of high schoolers take AP courses of all kinds each school year.

Why AP Courses are so valuable

  1. One reason why AP courses are such a great way to high schoolers to spend their time in school is that they can actually help students prepare for college in more ways than one! First off, students will learn quite a lot about how college courses are taught and tested thanks to AP courses. The reason why is because the College Board develops each AP course to closely resemble introductory courses that students will experience in college.
  2. Another great way that AP courses help students prepare for college is by literally offering them the chance to earn college credits and placement while still in high school! Each AP exam is graded on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the best score and 1 being the worst. Students who score at least a 3 on the exam will have the opportunity to earn credits in that subject in college. However, one thing to keep in mind is that colleges and universities are able to decide how much credit a student receives from passing an AP exam. For that reason, if your dream is to attend a specific college (one of the best colleges in the country, no doubt!), then you will want to make sure what their credit and placement policies are regarding AP exams.
  3. One other fantastic thing to keep in mind is that AP courses look absolutely fantastic on college applications. College admissions officers at many of the top colleges and universities make it a point to look for AP courses on the transcripts of students who apply. The reason why is because AP courses help to prove that high schoolers are ready for the high workload and difficulty of the material that AP courses forces students to master. On top of that, high school students who take AP courses are able to prove that they have the work ethic and determination to succeed in courses that are at the level of many college classes. It’s a win-win in that respect.
  4. The final reason why AP courses are so great for high school students who are looking to learn more about a subject that they love. If students are interested in STEM (science, technology, math, and engineering), there are many options to choose from – like the AP Statistics Exam for example. If students are passionate about history, there are lots of classes to choose from. The same can be said for students who are interested in literature and the English language, art, foreign languages, and more! No matter your passion, if a high school student is looking to dive deeply into a specific topic, chances are good there is an AP course and exam that is perfect for them.

While there are many other reasons why AP courses are so great for high schoolers, it’s now that we shift our focus specifically to the AP Statistics Exam.

About the AP Statistics Course

The AP Statistics course introduces high school students to the major concepts and tools needed to collect, analyze, and draw conclusions from data. There are overall themes that are evident in the content, skills, and assessment of the AP Statistics course. Those are: exploring data, sampling and experimentation, probability and simulation, and statistical inference.

In the course, students will have to use technology, investigations, problem solving, and writing as they build conceptual understanding. On top of that, students will have to master the use of technology, investigations, problem solving, and writing as they build mastery over the concepts of the course.

When it comes to the level of difficulty of the AP Statistics course, it is considered equivalent to a one-semester, introductory, non-calculus-based college course in statistics.


In order to take the AP Statistics course and exam, students will want to have completed quite a few prerequisites in order to assure that they are ready for the exam. Students will want to have completed a second-year course in algebra so that they have the necessary mathematical maturity and quantitative reasons abilities. Due to the fact that second-year algebra is a prerequisite, the students who make up the AP Statistics course are typically juniors or seniors.

Course Skills

In the AP Statistics course, students will have to master four different course skills in order to score a perfect 5 out of 5 on the exam. A breakdown of those four-course skills is below:

Course skills in Statistics

Big Ideas

Similar to the case of all AP courses, students who have enrolled in the AP Statistics course will want to learn the Big Ideas that serve as the foundation of the course and allows students to make meaningful connections from concept to concept.

Typically, these Big ideas are overarching concepts or themes that become unifying threads that run throughout the course. These Big ideas help students develop deeper conceptual understanding.

The three Big Ideas within the AP Statistics course are as follows:

AP Statistics course

AP Statistics course


Finally, the AP Statistics course is made up of nine individual courses. The course is organized into these commonly taught unites that have been arranged in a logical sequence that is often found in college courses and textbooks.

Take a look at the nine units of the AP Statistics course as well as what range of weight each unit is given in the AP Statistics Exam below:

Units of AP Statistics

About the AP Statistics Exam

Now that you understand the basic breakdown of the AP Statistics course, it is time for us at AdmissionSight to break down what you can expect in the AP Statistics Exam.

The reason why this is so important. To be familiar with is because studying for an AP course (no matter the subject) is much like studying for a standardized test such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. What that means is that studying the content and subject matter that students will find on the test is important, but so too is studying the actual format of the exam! Studying the format of the exam will allow students to get a good idea of what kind of questions they will face, and how they can look for the correct answer.

When it comes to the AP Statistics Exam, it is one of the longer AP exams, and clocks in at a total of three grueling hours. In those three hours, students will face two different sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

Multiple Choice

The first section of the AP Statistics Exam is a multiple-choice section made up of 40 total mathematical questions. It takes up the first half of the exam (one hour and 30 minutes) and similarly makes up 50 percent of a student’s total score of the exam.

If you are interested in what kind of questions you may face in this section, we have included several samples so you can start to get familiar with the subject matter and question formats that you could face on the day of the actual exam.

Sample Statistics question

Sample Statistics Question

Sample Statistics Question 3

Free Response

The second and final section of the AP Statistics Exam is the free-response question which takes up the remaining one hour and 30 minutes and makes up the other 50 percent of the exam’s total score. In this section, students will have to answer five short-answer questions and investigate one task.

Examples of the free-response section of this exam are below:

Free-Response Question

Now that you are familiar with the format of the AP Statistics Exam as well as what some kinds of questions look like, it is time to break down what your chances of success are! When it comes to the score breakdown of the AP Statistics Exam, it is actually one of the harder math and computer sciences AP courses.

Last year, just under 15 percent of students were able to score a perfect 5 out of 5 on the exam. Only the AP Computer Science Principles Exam saw fewer students score a perfect 5.

Here is a table showing the score distribution from the AP Statistics Exam from last school year:


Exam AP Statistics

So, what’s next?

As we at AdmissionSight have mentioned, studying for this exam is going to require that you get familiar with the subject matter of the exam as well as the content of the exam itself. For that reason, we have broken down a very simple to follow the study regimen in order to increase the chances of success once you sit down and take the exam.

Let’s break down that study strategy together!

Take a practice exam to assess your knowledge and ability

The first step preparing for this – and any – AP exam is to take a full practice exam. While you should feel free to time yourself on this exam as you will be timed on the day of the actual exam, that is optional and not necessary to your learning at this time.

What is most important is that you make sure to take the time to cross-check the answers that you came up with compared to the answers that are provided in the key. This way, you will not only get an opportunity to learn, but you will also be able to take note of questions that you failed to answer correctly so that you can make sure to commit extra time to study the subjects and units that you have issues with.

Study the material

When it comes to understanding what you need to know for the exam, you will need to master things from overarching topics to specific equations. It can easily get overwhelming and that sense of being overwhelmed can not only get in the way of your studying but can also impact you on the day of the actual exam.

To make the most out of your studying, consider breaking it down into the big ideas of the course and then narrow them down individually. If you break down each big idea, you will not only get to delve deeply into the minutia of the course, you will also get the chance to understand how they all tie together and expand your knowledge of the subject of statistics.

It can be difficult to study alone so two of the best ways to make the most of your time is to either work with your teacher who taught the AP Statistics course at your school or to form a study group with your fellow peers who are also looking to make the most out of the exam. This will not only give you a valuable resource if you find yourself struggling with the material and can keep you accountable so that you make sure that you continue your pursuit of mastering the material.

Practice multiple-choice and free-response sections

After you have spent the time necessary to master the material, it is time to start testing yourself on a regular basis. The best way to that is to take advantage of the many different resources of practice questions. The most popular is to use question sets in the best study guides that are available to purchase or to utilize practice sets that can be found for free online.

Remember, the more practice sets you to do, the better prepared you will be for the exam. Finally, make sure that every time you practice at any time, make sure that you are cross-checking the answers that you come get with the answers that are offered. That’s the only way to identify any problem areas and continue learning!

Take full practice exams

The final step to the best way to prepare for the AP Statistics Exam is to take it! Seriously! Take full exams to see how you are dealing with the entire process of the exam. Most importantly, make sure that you are timing yourself in the same way that you will be timed on the actual exam.

That means one hour and 30 minutes for the multiple-choice section and one hour and 30 minutes for the free-response section. After that, grade your exam and see how you did. The more practice exams you can do before the day of the actual exam, the better.

With that being said, keep in mind that as the day of the exam truly nears, you will want to take a break from this kind of practice. Instead, you will want to trust that you have prepared as best you can and give your mind the rest it needs to perform at its best on the day of the actual exam.

Good luck!





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