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3 Review Tests = 1 AP Exam: An AP Exam Prep Strategy

Jeff Eicher teaches AP Stats and Math III at Classical Academy HS in Escondido, CA. He is an AP reader and has served on the Instructional Design Team, reviewing and editing the questions that would later appear as Personal Progress Checks on AP Classroom. He also serves as a NMSI Coach and Content Developer.

After teaching AP Statistics for 10 years, I feel like I’ve reviewed for the AP exam in 10 different ways. Here are a few of my phases:

The “Let the Students Figure It Out” Phase

In the first years of teaching AP Statistics, I was just glad to finish the content without doing too much damage to my students’ statistical souls. I hoped I didn’t skip too many of the difficult topics, such as “blocking” (whatever that is), stratified and cluster sampling, sampling distributions, interpreting P-values, anything about power, and inference for the slope (what do you mean the slope can vary from sample to sample?!)

How did I review then? Give students gobs and gobs of released FRQs and expect that they’ll pore over the scoring guidelines and figure out the nuances of how to earn a partial. I sat at my desk, poring over the FRQs myself, hoping students wouldn't ask something I didn’t know (which means much of the content!)

Like a savvy teacher, I assigned student pairs one of the chapters in the textbook, and had them review it with the whole class, while I sat and watched from the safety of my desk.

The “I Should Probably Assess Them – on Everything, All at Once” Phase

After a few years of teaching statistics and gaining more confidence with the material, I decided I would give several mock exams, testing students on everything, all at once. The AP exam was going to do that, right? Some years I’d fit in three mock exams over 5 weeks. We barely had time to review the completed mock exam before we jumped into the next one.

This phase could also be called over-test-them-so-they’re-exhausted-and-fed-up-with-full-exams-by-the-time-the-real-exam-arrives.

The “3 Review Tests = 1 AP Exam” Model

About two years ago, I realized I’d get better results if I actually tested the students each week on smaller amounts of content. The AP Calculus teacher next door had done this for many years, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. This model takes three weeks. On the last day of each of the three weeks, the students take a Review Test. Combining these three Review Tests makes 1 full AP Exam (40 MC and 6 FRQ).

Here’s the basic idea, on my school’s 4-day schedule:

Week 1: Exploratory Data Analysis, Regression, Study Design

CED Units 1-3

Days 1&2: Reteach and emphasize the most important topics in these units, using 2 released FRQs each day as practice (including an investigative task).

Day 3: Do MCQ practice on these units using questions from a secure exam.

Day 4: Give a test ~13 MC and 2 FRQs, trying to scale the time to fit the class period

Week 2: Probability, Random Variables, Sampling Distributions

CED Units 4-6

Days 1&2: Reteach and emphasize the most important topics in these units, using 1-2 released FRQs each day as practice.

I like the following (but beware of 2015 #6 and 2013 #3, there are tricky parts in those!)

Day 3: Do MCQ practice on these units using questions from a secure exam.

Day 4: Test on ~13 MC & 2 FRQs

Week 3: Confidence Intervals and Significance Tests

CED Units 7-9

Day 1: We review the various intervals and tests with “Which Procedure?” on Larry Green’s website.

Day 2: Reteach and emphasize the most important topics in these units, using 1-2 released FRQs each day as practice:

Day 3: Do MCQ practice on these units using questions from a secure exam.

Day 4: Test on ~13 MC & 2 FRQs

Week 4: Day 1

Take a day to revisit all three tests, give the students a scoring sheet, and have them calculate their composite (raw) score, and then convert it to an AP exam score 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (see handout at the bottom of this blog post). These are great opportunities to encourage students that it’s within their reach to score at least one level up: “Pick out 2-3 MC that you can get right next time, pick 2-3 parts out of the total 6 FRQs you did that you can increase from an I to a P or a P to an E.” Use a test corrections page (see handout at the bottom of this blog post) to organize their work and as a study tool for reviewing for the real AP exam.

Other helpful notes

  • Consider using the 2012 released MC and FRQs because (a) you can let students take them home, and (b) they form a full exam with cut points provided. Don’t let students take them home until after you’ve scored them in week 4.

  • As I grade their tests, I like to write the number of MC correct and their FRQ scores at the top of the first page to make it easier for students to find when they tally their results on Week 4, Day 1.

  • Grade the FRQs as strictly as possible. If the students gets a 2.5, round down (except a 0.5, I’d round up to encourage the poor kid that they got something, known affectionately as “a glimmer”).

  • To practice with taking the timed AP exam, take the # MC * 2.5 + # FRQs * 12, so, for example, a test with 13 MC and 2 FRQs, you’ll need a 13*2.5+2*12 = 56.5 minutes in a class period.

  • If possible, it’s nice to finish your third exam (on CIs and STs) the Friday before the first week of AP testing.

I find this new model, 3 Review Tests = 1 AP Exam, keeps students engaged in learning and reviewing, gives them valuable feedback on their progress, and puts passing the AP exam within their reach.

How Do I Make the 3 Tests?

If you use 2012 released exam for MC, here’s the breakdown:

Week 1 Review Test (CED Units 1-3)

12 MC Questions: #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 15, 36

FRQ #1 (sewing machines), FRQ #3 (household size)

Week 2 Review Test (CED Units 4-5)

11 MC Questions: #8, 13, 16, 19, 23, 25, 33, 34, 37, 39, 40

FRQ #2 (spinner); FRQ #6 (Peter & Rania)

Week 3 Review Test (CED Units 6-9)

16 MC Questions: #9, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 35, 38

FRQ #4 (commercials), FRQ #5 (fitness test)

Note: I skipped MC#14 because it was not used in scoring this year.


If you would like to use one of the secure exams available AP Classroom, go to “Question Bank”, then “Assessment Purpose and Source” and select, for example, “2017 International Practice Exam.” You would then create three different tests, with the following questions on each test:

Week 1 Review Test (CED Units 1-3)

14 MC: #1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 24, 29, 35, 37

FRQ #1 (pop pyramid); #5 (mechanical problems)

Week 2 Review Test (CED Units 4-5)

10 MC: #3, 7, 9, 14, 19, 21, 25, 30, 32, 34

FRQ #3 (tennis); #6 (Emily walks)

Week 3 Review Test (CED Units 6-9)

16 MC: #4, 5, 11, 17, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 31, 33, 36, 38, 39, 40

FRQ #2 (visual search); #4 (grandparents’ age)

*Note: The FRQs may have content from other CED units than what was reviewed in the given week.

Helpful Files

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Kieron Boyle
Kieron Boyle
Mar 31, 2022

How do you give feedback on the Frappys with so many assigned? Thanks! Love this review setup!


Aaron Hayes
Aaron Hayes
May 09, 2021

This works really well. A colleague and I started doing this a few years ago as well. We used a standard practice test for the exam - like the idea of doing a released one so the kids could take it home.

Here's what we've done:


Brittany Kiser
Brittany Kiser
Apr 23, 2021

I would love access to the Kahoots you've created for this!


Carter Hempleman
Carter Hempleman
Apr 07, 2021

As a second-year teacher currently in the "Let the students figure it out" phase (so true btw). I really appreciate the experienced guidance and how actionable this post is. THANK YOU!

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