How to Score a 5 on the AP Statistics Exam


Getting ready to take the AP Statistics exam? Create the perfect AP Statistics study guide these helpful tips from Olympia, WA tutor Tali H


The three-hour AP Statistics exam consists of two sections, the 90-minute 40-question multiple-choice section and the 90-minute short answer section (which will have four to seven 10-minute open-ended questions and one 30-minute investigative task). The exam covers exploring data (describing patterns and departures from patterns), sampling and experimentation (planning and conducting a study), anticipating patterns (producing models using probability and simulation), and statistical inference (estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses). For more information about the exam content visit the College Board Website. Here are some tips for pulling together your AP statistics study guide:

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1. Have Multiple Resources

The concepts in statistics are relatively easy to understand if the material is presented in a clear, concise way. However, for many students, the textbook doesn’t do the best job of quickly clarifying information. So what materials do you supplement your textbook with?

This site is beyond helpful for AP preparation. It offers its own free online course, designed specifically with the AP test in mind. Most concepts have an in-depth explanation with examples and two sample questions to answer at the end (in the AP format style), and (this is the best part) excellent PowerPoint videos to visually illustrate almost every concept. Unlike many other instructional videos, these videos move quickly and have been expertly scripted ahead of time. This site also offers graphing calculator technology so you can compute online and on-site, plus links to cheap places to buy calculators and other study materials. Everything you would ever need to ace the exam can be found here.

  • Find a quality AP Statistics study guide

For most AP courses, I recommend getting the Princeton Review AP Test Study Book. But for the AP Stats course, I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if you use the website listed above. The book covers exploring data, and the sampling and experimentation sections satisfactorily. Plus, it comes with two full-length practice tests. However, it is slightly repetitive and confusing when it comes to the anticipating patterns and statistical inference sections, which are the hardest to understand anyway.

2. Know Your Calculator Like the Back of Your Hand

Statistics is very “calculator-heavy,” meaning, if you don’t know how to use your calculator on the test, you’re toast. I recommend getting the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX Graphing Calculator, which can usually be found used online for about $60. Before the test, you should be extremely familiar with how to perform tests on your calculator and how to interpret the data. In many cases, especially on the multiple-choice section where no work needs to be shown, you can just plug in some numbers and solve the question. Make sure to bring extra batteries for your calculator when you take the test.

3. Understand the Equations Your Calculator is Doing

In order to get a good score, you need to know more than routine calculator calculations. You need to understand what is actually happening. This is especially important in the short answer section because showing your work is required. In fact, most of the points come from showing your work and only 1 to 2 points come from having the right answer. Although, some work points may be deducted if you get the wrong answer. At some point in your statistics course, it would be wise to attempt a practice test the long-way, using as little of the calculator as possible (for some problems, it’s necessary), and doing all the calculations yourself. After that, the test with a calculator will be easy.

The most difficult part about statistics isn’t actually doing the work (since most of that is done by your calculator), it’s knowing what process or test you’re going to use to solve the problem. Repetition of material is key! Working with a statistics tutor can be a huge help toward remembering and differentiating between all the subtle nuances of statistical tests. Check out the array of excellent statistics tutors on for additional help!

TaliHTali H. tutors in various academic subjects in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 



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