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How to CRUSH the AP Stats Free Response

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

It's the end of the year and you are trying to get ready for the AP Statistics Exam. You know that the free response is worth 50% of the overall grade and you want to be ready. In this video and blog post, we outline the best strategies to use for success.

This video is part of the official Stats Medic AP Stats Exam Review Course. Download the strategies from this video:

Activity: How to CRUSH the AP Stats Free Response

Activity: DOCX / PDF


Strategy #1: Know What to Expect

There are some general trends of "types" of questions to expect.

  • 1-variable stats. Be prepared to describe or compare two distributions.

  • 2-variable stats. Be prepared to describe the relationship between two variables.

  • Sampling methods or experimental design. Be prepared to explain how a sample design might lead to bias, or how to explain the components of a good experiment.

  • Probability. Be prepared to handle traditional probability questions, normal distribution calculations, or a binomial distribution calculations.

  • Significance test. Check out this blog post to help you decide which test.

  • Investigative Task. Check out Strategy #2.

Strategy #2: Survive the Investigative Task

  • The Investigative Task (#6 on the free response) is worth 25% of free response grade.

  • New stuff! The Investigative Task will start with content that is very familiar to you, but at some point will venture into something you have not seen before. Use your statistical thinking and reasoning skills to make your way through the rest of the question.

  • The Investigative Task tends to have 4 to 5 parts. Generally the first one or two parts will cover content from the course and the second or third part will start the investigative portion of the question.

  • The parts are scaffolded. The first few parts should be very accessible (easy) and then get progressively harder. The last part of the Investigative Task often requires you to look back holistically at all of your previous answers and summarize.

  • Check out this video that has specific strategies for surviving the Investigative Task.

Strategy #3: Have a Plan

  • You have 90 minutes for 6 questions. While this sounds like a long time, you will likely use all of the minutes. Plan to spend an average of 13 minutes for each of questions #1 - 5 and 25 minutes on the Investigative Task (#6).

  • Take a practice exam! Do this all in one sitting and give yourself 90 minutes on the clock. This will help you to "feel" what the time constraint will be like on the actual AP Exam day. It will also help you to decide which of the following two approaches to take.

  • Two approaches:

(1) Do all six questions in order.

Use this approach if your practice exam went very smooth and you know you will have enough time.

(2) 1 --> significance test --> 6 --> probability --> others.

If you know you will be short on time, you need to make sure you get points where you can get them. Start with question #1 (easy confidence builder), then move to the significance test (should also be easy). Next, find the "probability" question because this one tends to go faster than the others. Finally, do the others in the order of from most confident to least confident.

Strategy #4: Get All Your Points!

  • Don’t leave any blank. Even if you aren't sure how to solve a question, write down what you do know or think might be part of the solution.

  • Make up an answer. Suppose you know that the answer from part (a) is needed to answer part (b), but you have no clue how to answer part (a). Make up an answer! Then use that answer to work through part (b). AP Exam graders are trained to grade each part based on student work from the previous part.

  • Always use context. Context shows up on AP Exam rubrics over and over and over again. You might even be able to get some partial credit for using context even if some of your other calculations are totally incorrect.

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