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Is AP Statistics a Hard Exam to Pass?

Is AP Statistics a Hard Exam to Pass?

4 min Read|September 26 2023
|Written by:

George Christofi


When assessing the general difficulty of an AP exam, many people focus on pass rates to demonstrate how hard a subject is. However, considering that AP subjects are non-mandatory as well as completely flexible in terms of which subjects a person can choose, there are often a lot of discrepancies. For example, AP Statistics has a 60% pass rate (those that scored a 3 or higher). Yet, out of these students, over 70% of test-takers were already taking all AP classes, demonstrating that this subject is typically taken by those that are performing well in a variety of subjects.

Due to this, it’s difficult to accurately assess this subject’s difficulty without turning to subjective content. In this article, we’ll be turning towards the AP Statistics course itself, going through the content involved and the structure of the exam. From there, you’ll be able to make an informed decision, seeing if the skills that are tested within this AP subject are something that you believe is in your wheelhouse.

We’ll also be covering some top tips for success in this subject, helping anyone that’s currently working toward their AP Statistics exam to thrive. Let’s get right into it.

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How is the AP Statistics Exam Structured?

When you arrive on exam day, you’ll have a total of three hours to work through all of the questions on the AP Statistics exam. Within the exam, there are sections, each of which tests a different set of mathematical skills.

  • Section 1: Multiple Choice - Within the multiple-choice section of the exam, students will have to answer 40 questions. Within this, there are question sets that follow a similar trend, as well as stand-alone questions.
  • Section 2: Free response - The second section of the paper has only 6 questions, five of which are in Part A and one final larger question in Part B. The first 5 questions are on collecting data, exploring data, probability, simulation, and one other skill question. The final question requires students to launch a whole investigation which will require many different skills at once.

In total, students have three hours to answer 46 questions. On all of these questions, students are allowed to use a calculator.

Like all AP subjects, students are graded from 1-5, with a 4 or a 5 being the grade that colleges are looking to see. Some US institutions will give college credit to students that reach grade 3 in this exam, or exceed that mark. Back in 2020, 16.2% of test-takers got a 5, 20.7% got a 4, and 23.1% got a 3. That leaves 40% of the exam takers that scored a 1 or a 2, which is a fail in this subject.

AP statistics


What is Tested in AP Statistics?

Within the AP statistics exam, there are four areas that are tested. Each of these is a general theme with several further skills within, creating a wide base of different mathematical abilities of which students are expected to show a complete understanding.

The four main areas in AP Statistics are:

  • Exploring Data - Students must be able to study patterns and deviations of patterns within data, understanding what certain shapes, variations, or locations could possibly mean.
  • Sampling and Experimentation - Students should be able to collect data in an efficient and reasonable way, using experimentation and sampling to gather their data before the analysis stages.
  • Anticipating Patterns through Probability - Data should follow a certain distribution within a given statistical model. This skill area is about being able to understand variables, and discuss distribution.
  • Statistical Inference - Students are expected to be able to select different models to draw conclusions from data. Equally, students should be able to understand why they are confident about a certain selection choice.

Across these main areas, students will demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of statistical mathematics, often going on to use these skills in mathematical, engineering, or business intelligence undergraduate degrees.

Typically, AP statistics gets a reputation for being difficult as it requires students to show proficiency in many different skills. Instead of focusing on one smaller area, students will have to understand a range of different statistical models and how to apply them.

Going beyond this, students will have to understand how all these skills tie in together, using them in tandem during the last question on the examination. If students have great study skills, as well as a good understanding of mathematics, this is a manageable AP subject.

Final Thoughts

When working towards getting a top grade in AP Statistics, the very best thing you can do to help yourself along the way is to partner with an online AP Statistics tutor. At TutorChase, our tutors have all achieved a 5 in AP Statistics, going on to study at some of the best universities in the world. With their expertise, they’ll be able to walk you through absolutely everything that you need to know about AP Statistics.

From teaching you great study methods and walking you through the exam structure to going through individual skills and concepts with you in their tutoring sessions, an online AP Statistics tutor can get you ready for the exam. Alongside working on your academic skills, tutors can also help you work through past paper questions, testing your knowledge while helping you to build up your confidence.

Much like the AP Calculus exam, the AP Statistics exam is a fairly formulaic exam, spending time building up your confidence with the specific problem sets that come up every year is a fantastic idea. When working with a professional AP Statistics tutor, you’ll be able to learn any concepts you don’t understand while reinforcing your strongest skills. If you’re in a pinch for time, tutors can help radically improve your potential mark for this notoriously difficult AP exam.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

George Christofi

Written by: George Christofi

Oxford University - Masters Philosophy

George studied undergraduate and masters degrees in Classics and Philosophy at Oxford, as well as spending time at Yale. He specialises in helping students with UK and US university applications, including Oxbridge and the Ivy League. He writes extensively on education including on schools, universities, and pedagogy.

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