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Different Versions of Exams

Each year, the AP Program develops and administers multiple versions of the AP Exam for each AP subject. Each version is developed with the same format, number, and type of questions. Having multiple versions of the exam provides several key benefits for the AP community:

  • A complete AP Exam in 16 large-volume AP subjects can be released to teachers of authorized courses each year, for use as an in-class practice exam
  • Schools have the option to offer late testing to students impacted by exceptional circumstances
  • The risk of students sharing exam questions across time zones is significantly reduced

To ensure that scores for these alternate exam versions can be compared, they are administered to small groups of students in the United States on the regularly scheduled testing date. Overall, in a given year, only a small subset of students in the U.S. (approximately 4%) take an exam that is not the most commonly administered version on the regularly scheduled testing date.

Different Versions in One School

There are two scenarios in which some or all students in one school may take a different version of the exam than the most commonly administered version:

  • New or redesigned exams: In order for multiple versions of some new or redesigned exams to be available for late testing and for international administrations, valid scores from statistically equivalent groups of examinees must first be obtained. This affects Calculus AB, Calculus BC, European History, U.S. History, and World History in 2017.
  • High-volume subjects: There are 15 high-volume subjects for which the College Board administers a different version of the AP Exam in different time zones internationally. These are Biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Physics 1, Physics 2, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics, Psychology, Statistics, and U.S. History.

Keeping Questions Secure

The most commonly administered set of free-response questions is posted on the College Board website two days after the exam. Only these questions may be discussed by students and teachers. Questions from other exam versions are not released publicly and are considered secure. Students and teachers shouldn’t assume that the free-response questions on any given version of the exam will be released online, and must check the questions posted on the College Board website before discussing any free-response questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the College Board decide which version of the AP Exam my students will receive?

Different versions of an AP Exam are distributed to a representative sample of schools of varying sizes across all major U.S. geographic regions. Selected schools are representative of the total population in terms of school characteristics and test performance. When a school receives two versions of an exam for a subject, approximately half of the students will take the version given to most U.S. students, and approximately half will take the additional version. For most subjects, a school will not receive an additional version of the exam in consecutive years.

Are there any special administration requirements for the additional versions of AP Exams given in some U.S. schools?

No. While the exam booklets will have different codes on their covers that distinguish the versions from each other, the school does not need to (and should not) take any action to determine whether it has received two versions of an AP Exam.

Instead, the AP coordinator should simply distribute the exams as usual to students on exam day.

If my AP class is one of the classes for which two versions of the exam are administered this year, how can the College Board guarantee that one version is not easier?

Through the process of equating. Because no two versions of a test can be developed to statistically equivalent levels of difficulty, equating is an essential process in the scoring of standardized tests for which score comparability is an important concern.

For exams in which two or more versions are administered, an Equivalent Groups Equating Design is applied following a random distribution of the different exam versions to statistically equivalent groups of examinees. The statistical procedures used in the equating process adjust for differences in difficulty among exam versions that are built to be similar in difficulty and content. As a result, the scores from the different versions can be used interchangeably. This allows the AP Program to ensure that students’ scores are unaffected by which version of an exam the students took.

What will happen to my AP Instructional Planning Report if my students receive an additional version of an AP Exam?

Your Instructional Planning Reports for the selected subject(s) will be divided into two separate segments: one for the students who received the most commonly administered version of the exam, and one for the students who took the additional version of the exam.

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