What We Know About 2021 AP Exams and How They're Being Held

Student Life

As someone who is self-studying for the AP exams (and as a person who somehow decided that taking AP World and AP Gov would make for an amazing first College Board experience), I know all about the anxiety only the fast-approaching 2021 AP exams can bring us all.

Studying the actual exam content should be stressful enough-- figuring out how we're going to take the exam in the first place shouldn't be an extra stressor in our lives. That's why, in this time of uncertainty, I’m here to provide clarity, with lots of help from Marco Learning and the official CollegeBoard website, on many of the common AP concerns.

When will the 2021 AP exams be taken?

To tailor best to everyone’s personal needs and preferences, the College Board has decided to provide three available AP exam administration dates, ranging from early May to mid-June.

  • Administration 1, which is only for those who want to take the test in person and not digitally, lasts from May 3rd to 17th.
  • Administration 2 and 3 are for those who want to take their exams either in person or online. Administration 2 lasts from May 18th to 28th and Administration 3 lasts from June 1 to 11.

For a complete chart of all the available test dates for each exam within each administration period, visit Marco Learning's PDF.

What time on these dates will students take the exam?

The times students will take their exams depend on whether they are taking the paper and pencil option or the digital option

  • Paper and Pencil Option: AP exams will start between the times of 8:00 to 9:00 or 12:00 to 13:00, local time.
  • Digital Option: AP exams will start at the same time for everyone. This is either at 12:00 or 16:00, Eastern Daylight Time. International students are not exceptions, so they must align these time periods with their local time.


How do I know which administration date and method to take?

In 2021, your school has the freedom to select the testing options they see most suitable for their students. This ranges from which administration period to select to whether the exam will be paper and pencil or digital for its students. However, there will be no online exam option for APs like AP Music Theory.

Are you hoping your school chooses the latest possible test date? You're definitely not alone.

Will the exam content be cut this year, like so many were in 2020?

All AP exams will be administered in full length, save for the AP Physics 1 exam, which will not include Units 8 to 10. Yep, this means experienced AP test takers will witness the return of all the dreaded AP exam sections that were cut off from last year's exam.

Can I take my AP exam on any type of gadget this year?

Last year, some students were able to take the online exam on their phones. This year, students taking the digital format must use laptops or desktop computers. Don’t forget to charge them beforehand and preferably keep them charged as you take your exams!

What if my Wi-Fi crashes mid-exam?

College Board understands the unpredictability and instability of Wi-Fi everywhere, so they have designed the 2021 exams in such a way that tolerates internet disruptions.

Are there any new features on how the College Board will prevent cheating?

Yes, definitely.

All students know how strong the temptation to take just a three-second peek or to skim the top search result is, and evidently, so does the College Board.

Like last year, the creators of the AP exams will do their best to ensure the questions and problems presented aren't answerable through a simple internet search or glance at the notes. In addition, this year, students will not be permitted to move between questions, whether those questions be answered or unanswered. You must answer the question before you immediately and, once you move on, you cannot return.

How do I stay updated?

  1. Email your school for news. Don't forget that they are the ones who determine a lot regarding your exam experience!
  2. Regularly search the internet for exam updates.
  3. Follow the College Board on Instagram!

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In Conclusion...

These definitely are, as we've all heard so many times over the past few months, unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about major changes to areas of our lives that seemed set in stone, and AP exams are just one of them. At times, it may seem like we're struggling alone, but don't forget that there's a whole world of educators and fellow high schoolers who would be more than willing to help you out or even just to make the journey with you. The Simple Studies page on TikTok is just one platform that helps students get together to help one another study or to simply support each other. To everyone stressing out there, you're not alone, and we can do this!

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Meg P.
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Meg is a sophomore in high school and is especially interested in the fields of economics, environment, philosophy, and politics. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and watching movies.