Note: This article accounts for the latest revisions to AP Microeconomics (Fall 2012). Students studying for the AP Microeconomics Exam should only reference study materials published after this date.
Well, Magooshers, I have another confession to make. But before I reveal my deep dark secret, I want to say that I really enjoy writing these articles. It’s nice, too, thinking that my knowledge and experience are helping students like you. Yet that’s not the real reason I do this.
Yeah, I, like everyone else, have bills to pay. Rent, groceries, insurance, a little bit of fun here and there…it all adds up. That’s microeconomics (and Capitalism) for you. To understand how money moves throughout our daily lives, there is no better class than AP Microeconomics.
Today I’m here to guide you through the AP Microeconomics Exam. If you get to the end of this article and still have questions, be sure to check out the official College Board website for AP Microeconomics.
How You’re Assessed on the AP Microeconomics Exam
AP Microeconomics is a smorgasbord of topics. There’s a little history. There are some rules and concepts. There are even graphs and charts. Throughout the year, your teacher will cover four broad topics from the following Concept Outline. Below are the topics, along with the percentage weight each one has on the AP Microeconomics Exam. The following is in no way a study guide, but an introduction to what you will encounter throughout the course.
- Basic Economic Concepts (8-14%)
- Economic systems
- Property rights
- Scarcity and choice
- The Nature and Functions of Product Markets (55-70%)
- Supply and demand (15-20%)
- Theory of consumer choice (5-10%)
- Production and costs (10-15%)
- Firm behavior and market structure (25-35%)
- Factor Markets (10-18%)
- Market Failure and the Role of Government (12-18%)
So yeah, there’s a lot to learn. If you don’t already know, microeconomics focuses mainly on how people (you and me, for example) and businesses make economic decisions. Compared to macroeconomics, microeconomics is much more relevant to our daily lives. Finally, AP Microeconomics won’t teach you how to become a billionaire, but you will learn how and why billionaires exist. 🙂
Successful Time Management
In this section, I will break down the length of the AP Microeconomics Exam and offer suggestions on how to make sure you successfully finish each section. Before we dive in, though, my biggest piece of advice is to take many timed practice exams to become used to the exam’s format, content, and pacing. For students with a College Board Account, a full-length practice exam is available for you to take right now.
Section I: Multiple Choice (60 Questions, 70 Minutes, 66.6% of Exam Score)
Okay, so you have one minute and 10 seconds to answer each multiple choice question. To finish on time, you need to complete six questions every seven minutes.
After taking your first practice test, you discover that the multiple choice section is a mix between word problems and those containing graphs. In short, this means most of your time on the exam will be spent reading and analyzing. Have your pencil ready to underline key words in the passages. Also, don’t forget to cross out incorrect answers when you spot them.
If you’re taking AP Microeconomics, I bet you’ve already taken your fair share of high-stakes standardized tests. Even so, check out my article on ACT Time Management. The article goes over some simple tips and tricks that you can’t afford to miss on exam day.
Another thing to remember is that like all AP Exams, on AP Microeconomics there is no penalty for guessing. That’s right; no points are deducted for incorrect answers. Why is that a good thing for you? Well, if there is a question or two where you get stuck, there is no shame in guessing and moving on. Just don’t leave any questions blank!
Break (10 Minutes)
Break is an important time during any AP Exam. Yet even for a two-hour exam like the AP Microeconomics Exam, you’re only at the halfway mark. Go to the bathroom, drink a little water, and don’t forget to eat something. There’s a lot of writing coming up, and you’re going to need some fuel to finish strong.
Section II: Free Response (3 Questions, 60 Minutes, 33.3% of Exam Score)
Okay, so you have an hour for three questions. But not all of these questions are created equal. Here is the breakdown for Section II:
- 1 long free-response question
- Worth 50% of section score
- 2 short free-response questions
- Each worth 25% of section score
If we’re thinking about time management, it makes sense to give the long free-response question 25 minutes of your time. The two short free-response questions require approximately 12 minutes each.
Don’t forget that answering each question will require you to read and analyze information, including charts/graphs. For the long free-response question, I strongly recommend that you outline your reply, too. All of this takes time, so practice tests are key to success.
Section II Pro-Tip: If you’ve taken multiple timed practice tests, and are comfortable with time management, try to squeeze in the last 2-3 minutes to review what you wrote. AP exams are stressful experiences and all the pressure might make you leave out something important, even if you had it in your outline. Having time to review means the chance to catch and fix mistakes.
Test Content: Section I (Multiple Choice)
Because the exam hasn’t changed in over four years, many multiple choice questions from previous years’ AP Microeconomics Exams are still a valid way to practice for test day. In fact, you will likely see old, but still relevant exam questions on your tests in your AP Microeconomics class.
All the questions in the multiple-choice section are ‘stand alone,’ meaning there is not a single chart/graph followed by multiple questions. For some students, this will be a blessing. Yet for others, having to jump to a new topic each question can be a mental strain.
To improve your score on the multiple-choice section, let me recycle some advice: focus on your weaknesses. After your first practice test, go through your missed questions and make a list of topics where you struggled. After some studying (how you study I’ll leave up to you), take another practice test. Rinse and repeat.
One last thing about time management: If you’re good with time management on other standardized tests, you should also be good with the AP Microeconomics Exam’s multiple-choice section. Even so, remember: if necessary, guess and move on.
Test Content: Section II (Free Response)
Like many of the questions on the multiple-choice section, to answer the Free Response questions, you need to analyze data in the form of text, charts, graphs, or graphics. The first 10 minutes is strictly a reading period. Here’s how I’d use this time.
- 1 minute: Count the total number of tasks you have to complete in the 50-minute writing time.
- 9 minutes: Brainstorm notes in the margins as you examine the questions/text/charts/graphs/graphics.
- Seriously, mark up your test booklet. And until you actually start writing your replies, no one cares how bad your handwriting is, either. 😉
In short, the pencil should not leave your hand this entire time. Okay, so the reading period ends, and it’s time to write!
Let’s say, for example, that the three questions represent 14 tasks (parts). That means you have approximately 3.5 minutes to complete each task. To write your best answers, consider applying the following strategy when you tackle a practice AP Microeconomics Exam:
- 1 minutes: Plan out your reply.
- Review/add to your notes. Is this what you really want to say? Missing anything important?
- 2.5 minutes: Write your reply.
- The only thing that matters is that you a) answer the question and b) follow the directions.
- If you take multiple practice tests, the act of writing answers under pressure will become second nature, something that doesn’t take up a lot of brain power compared to the questions themselves.
- The only thing that matters is that you a) answer the question and b) follow the directions.
AP Microeconomics is a course taken by mainly 12th grade students. Just during the time where many of you will be caught up in graduation euphoria and in the transition to college, you will receive your AP Microeonomics score, as the College Board releases AP scores in early July.
For those of you that earn a 5, congratulations! You definitely just earned a semester’s worth of college credit. Some colleges, though, don’t accept 4s for various reasons. As you’re making your final decision about which colleges to apply to, make sure to research potential colleges’ AP score policies. That’s a good strategy no matter which AP courses you decide to take.
Even if you earn a 3 (or less) on the AP Microeconomics Exam, it’s not the end of the world. The fact that you are taking it your senior year will make your college applications shine a little bit brighter. Also, if you have to retake the course in college, you will come in with a great foundation of knowledge. Just remember to keep your AP Microeconomics notes/materials.
Till next time, Magooshers.
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About Thomas Broderick
Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.
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