MAST Master-Tutor, Bill B. has come up with some tips for the AP Macro Economics and AP Micro Economics exam. He is an experienced teacher with 9+ years, teaching AP Micro and Macroeconomics, so he knows the in's and out's of the AP Macro Economics and AP Micro Economics Exam. We hope these tips will help your understanding and preparation for the exam!

AP Economics Exam Tips

Posted by:
Bill B.
May 10, 2018

Looking for the last bit of material to cram into your heads for the exam?  Look no further.

1. Okay by topic, here are the top 5 most commonly tested for the exams:
  • AP Macro Economics
  • EVERY single graph and how they related to each other
  • Open market operations in monetary policy
  • Effects of fiscal and monetary policy
  • Shifts of every single curve, including the shifters for money demand and how they are affected by the AD-AS model
  • FOREX:  shifts and capital flows (RIR and Loanable Funds)
  • AP Micro Economics
  • Perfect Competition and Monopoly (far and away the most heavily tested)
  • Marginal Analysis, especially marginal utility and marginal product
  • Short-Run vs. Long Run:  Production, Costs
  • Labor Market
  • Externalities

Understand, these lists are not exhaustive, anything and everything in the AP syllabus is fair game.

2. Don’t hesitate to destroy the economy or the firm if you are asked to.

If you get a question where the correct solution requires you to do something stupid like cause hyperinflation or mass unemployment or deliberately take a loss for the firm, it’s not you.  Micro and Macro love to set up questions where the answers are the opposite of what you should do to correct the problem, but conveniently, the correct response will be one of the other answer choices.

3. Stick to the strict wording of the language in the question.

Do not read more into what’s there.  This is especially true when talking about banking and money creation.  College Board takes time to carefully word the questions to where there will be only one correct answer.

4. The tests are split up between 67% Multiple Choice and 33% FRQs

To score a high 3, that's roughly 38 MC questions and half the points on the FRQs.  In terms of an overall grade, that comes out to roughly a low D.  Surely you can do better than that!

5. Multiple Choice

Write all over your test. You are not being graded on neatness.  If your test booklet is pristine, that means you did all the work in your head, which also means you're working too hard.  Draw out reference graphs.  Do some math off to the side.  Make t-accounts.  Mark up the payoff matrix.  And so on.  Visuals help.Column questions.  These questions provide two to four columns asking you how the scenario changes the information in the column.  Go column by column, starting with the information you know for sure.  Eliminate the answers that have the wrong response in that column.  Continue to the next column.  Process of elimination is your friend.Similar answer questions. These are similar to the column questions, but they will give a sentence that provides what happens to each bit of information, and they all seem like the same answer.  Your approach is similar to the column questions.  Start with the first bit of information in the sentence.  If it's true, keep that answer.  If false, eliminate that answer.  Move to the next part, and continue the process. Know the shifters of the curves in all the graphs.  There are a number of questions that ask these points on individual graphs, so it's important to know what causes what shift.  The harder questions deal with how changes in one graph will affect another, for example, how an increase in price level in the AD-AS model might affect the money market model.  If you know the shifters, you can reason this out.  In Micro, the questions dealing with shifts often revolve around lump sum and per unit taxes and subsidies. Know the characteristics of market structures.  On the Micro exam, sometimes the problem will describe a particular market structure, but not identify which market structure it is.  If you know the characteristics, you can identify the market structure, and oftentimes, you'll end up eliminating 3 to 4 wrong answer choices based on that alone. Do not beat yourself up if you have no idea what the question is asking or if you didn't cover it in your study or class. There are 60 questions on the multiple choice covering anything from basic economic concepts to international trade.  There may be one or two questions that were missed in instruction or you just didn't focus on. That's fine.  Remember, there are a whole lot of other questions that you do know the answer to. International Trade has two sides to every transaction.  In international trade questions, one pattern that shows up is to ask what happens to one country's currency or trade given what happens in another country.Carefully read the question asked vs. the information given.  In Micro, this is especially true.  The test will ask you about average variable cost, for example, but only provide you with total variable cost, or marginal cost, anything but the information you're being asked for.Relax.  You have 70 minutes for this portion of the exam.  That's 70 seconds per question or 1 minute and 10 seconds.  That really is plenty of time.  Some questions you'll only spend a few seconds on; others might need a couple of more minutes. Either way, you still have the time to work through all the problems appropriately.  Do not watch the clock.  Besides, your proctors will announce how much time you have left anyway.Practice Exams from College Board. Your best practice tools are practice exams from College Board itself.  No particular book has it right more than another.

6. FRQs

Answer the question asked. And only that question.  Do not volunteer information not requested. Your reader has to read the entire answer, so if you give the correct answer in the first part, and then go on to give an incorrect explanation, then they have to mark the whole thing wrong.  This is frustrating if you didn't even have to explain it in the first place.  Think of it this way.  When someone asks you what time it is, the answer is not 1:43 PM.  The answer is yes or no.  The questions are deliberately designed this way.Answer in complete sentences. You wouldn't go up to your parents and say, "Cars.  Keys. Now."  Why bark at your reader that way?Be authoritative.  Don't use the words "I think" or "I feel."  Even if you don't feel confident in your answer, write with certainty.  Dare your reader to find something wrong.Label your graphs.  If in doubt, label everything.  Graphs often count up to 3 points on the FRQs, and some count as much as 6.  You shouldn't be losing any points on graphs for failing to label.Label your graphs.  If in doubt, label everything.  Graphs often count up to 3 points on the FRQs, and some count as much as 6.  You shouldn't be losing any points on graphs for failing to label.Master the graphs.  Same reasoning, as above.  If you get the graphs right, then many of the answers that fall afterwards are based on the answer to your graphs.Show your work.  This is especially for the higher level calculus students that are used to doing simple math operations in their head.  The AP Micro/Macro exams are about process.  Even if the math is simple, if it says calculate, you must show some type of mathematical equation.Relax.  You have 60 minutes total for the FRQ portion.  10 minutes are recommended for reading, with the other 50 split between the FRQs, 25 minutes for the long form and 12 1/2 minutes for the short forms.  Given how specific questions are, there is more than enough time to finish the FRQs, and even review them.Don't worry about mistakes. College Board grades for consistency, so if they can award you points, they will.  Say you get part (a) wrong, and parts (b) through (d) are all based on your answer (a).  If your answers in (b) through (d) are correct based on your original wrong answer, assuming they're giving consistency points for that FRQ, you will still score points.Explaining your answers. The questions that require you to explain are written objectively.  There is no subjective analysis in economics, only critical analysis based on the hypothetical situation given in the FRQ.  Explain answers fully and logically.  Don't simply say, "The money supply increases, so aggregate demand increases."  You have to explain how that happens, connect the dots.Do not simply give up.  Sometimes College Board throws an FRQ out there that seems completely bizarre and unworkable.  They're not.  Even with those odd FRQs, there are still things you can answer correctly to score points, and even the majority of points on that FRQ.Practice FRQs from College Board. College Board has every set of FRQs given for almost the last 20 years available free on their website, along with the answers.  There is no better substitute for practice.

7. Final note 

If you find that you are finished with the exam with plenty of time to spare.  Like, an obscene amount of time left over.  That's okay.  If you've done the test correctly, for both Multiple Choice and FRQs, you'll find yourself with plenty of time to review your answers, and then put your head down for a well-deserved nap for the rest of the testing period.

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