AP Statistics Exam Tips

The following strategies for answering the free-response questions will help you on exam day.

  • Before beginning work on the free-response section, read all 6 questions to determine which ones you feel most prepared to answer. Do them first.
  • The 6th free-response question (called the “investigative task”) is worth 25% of that section and usually takes 25-30 minutes to complete. Do not save this question until the end, as you may be too tired and rushed to think creatively. A good strategy is to complete question 1, then question 6, then the remaining 4 questions.
  • Show all your work; partial credit is given for partial solutions. If your answer is incorrect, you can still receive credit for correct thinking if the person scoring the exam sees evidence of it on paper.
  • If you make a mistake, just cross it out—don’t waste time erasing it.
  • Organize your work as clearly and neatly as possible, showing the steps you took to reach your solution. If the person scoring the exam cannot easily follow your reasoning, you are less likely to receive credit for it.
  • Don’t write a bunch of equations hoping that the correct one will be among them so that you can get partial credit. You can lose points for the extraneous or incorrect information.
  • Explain your reasoning. When asked to choose between several options, give reasons for your choice and why you did not choose the others.
  • Do not use statistical vocabulary unless you are sure you are using it correctly. Define all symbols, draw pictures, etc. Never just give a numerical answer without showing how you found it and why.
  • Do not rely on calculator syntax. If you write down calculator syntax, clearly label each number.
  • When you are asked to compare 2 distributions, use explicit comparison phrases such as “higher than” or “approximately the same as.” Lists of characteristics do not count as a comparison.
  • Do not give 2 different solutions to a problem. Your score will drop because of the incorrect work in the lower-scoring solution.
  • Answer all questions in the context of the problem.
  • If the question asks you to use results from previous parts of the question, be sure to explicitly refer to them in your answer.
  • If you cannot get an answer for an early part of a question but need it for a later part, make up a value or carefully explain what you would do if you knew the answer.
  • Space on the exam is not suggestive of the desired length of an answer. The best answers are usually quite succinct. There is no need for “extra fluff” on an AP Statistics Exam.
  • Use words like “approximately” liberally, especially with the word “normal.”

Task Verbs

Pay close attention to the task verbs used in the free-response questions. Each one directs you to complete a specific type of response. Here are the task verbs you’ll see on the exam:

  • Calculate: Perform mathematical steps to arrive at a final answer (e.g., algebraic expressions or diagrams with properly substituted numbers and correct labeling). Calculate tasks are also phrased with “Find” or interrogatory questions such as “How many?” or “What is?” or “What values?” or “How likely?” or “How often?”
  • Compare: Provide a description or explanation of similarities and/or differences.
  • Construct/Complete: Represent data in graphical or numerical form.
  • Describe: Provide the relevant characteristics of representations, distributions, or methods.
  • Determine: Apply an appropriate definition or perform calculations to identify values, intervals, or solutions. Determine tasks are also phrased with interrogatory questions such as “Do the data support?” or “Do the data provide?” or “Is there evidence?” or “Which is better?” or “Does your answer match?” or “Can it be assumed?”
  • Estimate: Use models or representations to find approximate values for functions.
  • Explain: Provide information about how or why a relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome occurs, using evidence and/or reasoning to support or qualify a claim. “Explain” tasks may also be phrased as “Give a reason for…”
  • Give a point estimate or interval estimate: Use models or representations to find approximate values for uncertain figures.
  • Give examples: Provide a specific example that meets given criteria.
  • Identify/Indicate/Circle: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic in words or by circling, shading, or marking given information, without elaboration or explanation. Also phrased as “What is?” or “Which?”
  • Interpret: Describe the connection between a mathematical expression, representation, or solution and its meaning within the realistic context of a problem, sometimes including consideration of units.
  • Justify: Provide evidence to support, qualify, or defend a claim and/or provide statistical reasoning to explain how that evidence supports or qualifies the claim.
  • Verify: Confirm that the conditions of a particular definition, distribution, or inference method are met in order to verify that it is applicable in a given situation. Verify tasks may also be phrased as “Have the conditions been met” or “Can it be assumed.”