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Chapter One: Inside the AP Statistics Exam
Advanced Placement exams have been around for a half century. While the format and content have changed over the years, the basic goal of the AP program remains the same: to give high school students a chance to earn college credit or advanced placement. To do this, a student needs to do two things:
The first part is easy, since a majority of colleges accept AP scores in some form or another. The second part requires a little more effort. If you have worked diligently all year in your coursework, you've laid the groundwork. The next step is familiarizing yourself with the test.
Introduction to the AP Statistics Exam
If you are reading this, chances are that you are already in (or thinking about being in) an Advanced Placement Statistics course. But you don't have to be a statistical genius to know that 3 hours is a relatively small part of 36 hours, a little more than 8%. Likewise, $82 is a relatively small percent of $1,500, roughly 5%. So if you are going to receive a fixed product, in this case the 3 credit hours of an introductory Statistics class, how much time and money would you like to invest in it: the full 100% or less than 10%? It doesn't take a Statistics major to know which is the better deal.
Your decision to take the AP Statistics exam involves many factors, but in essence it boils down to choosing between paying $1,500 or $200 for the exact same product. You can spend $82 and take the AP Statistics exam, and if you score high enough on it many universities will give you three hours of credit (one class) in a related introductory statistics course. Or you can spend $1,500 (a rough estimate for three credit hours) and take the introductory statistics course in college -- usually in an auditorium filled with at least 100 students where you are unable to meet the professor (most introductory courses are taught by teacher's assistants), let alone ask any questions or get extra help -- where you will learn the EXACT same material that is taught in your AP Statistics course. By doing well on a three-hour exam, you can forego the headache-inducing chaos of an introductory course -- and for a fraction of the price!
Depending on the college, a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Statistics test will allow you to leap over the freshman intro course and jump right into more advanced classes. These classes are usually smaller in size, better focused, more intellectually stimulating, and simply put, just more interesting then a basic course. If you are solely concerned about fulfilling your math requirement so you can get on with your study of Elizabethan music or political science or some such non-statistics-related area, the AP test can help you there, too. Ace the AP Statistics exam and, depending on the requirements of the college you choose, you may never have to take a mathematics class again.
Overview of the Test Structure
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) -- the company that creates the AP exams -- releases a list of the topics covered on the exam. ETS even provides the percentage amount that each topic appears on the exam. This information is useful to give you an idea of not only what is covered on the exam, but also how much of the exam covers each topic. Anyone considering taking the test should check out the breakdown below.
Topics Covered on the AP Statistics Examination
I. Exploring Data: Describing patterns and departures from patterns (25%)
A. Constructing and interpreting graphical displays of distributions of univariate data
B. Summarizing distribution of univariate data
C. Comparing distributions of univariate data
D. Exploring bivariate data
E. Exploring categorical data
II. Sampling and Experimentation: Planning and conducting a study (15%)
A. Overview of methods of data collection
B. Planning and conducting surveys
C. Planning and conducting experiments
D. Generalizability of results and types of conclusions that can be drawn from observational studies, experiments, and surveys
III. Anticipating Patterns: Exploring random phenomena using probability and simulation (25%)
B. Combining independent random variables
C. The normal distribution
D. Sampling distributions
IV. Statistical Inference: Estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses (35%)
A. Estimation (point estimators and confidence intervals)
B. Tests of significance
The AP Statistics exam is 3 hours long, and consists of two parts: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. In Section I, you have 90 minutes to answer 40 multiple-choice questions with five answers each. This section is worth 50% of your total score.
Section II consists of six "free-response" questions that are worth the other 50% of your total score. The term "free-response" means roughly the same thing as "large, multi-step, and involved," since you will spend 90 minutes answering only six problems. Although these free-response problems are long and often broken down into multiple parts, they usually do not cover an obscure topic. Instead they take a fairly basic statistical concept and ask you a bunch of questions about it.
Section II will be broken into two sub-parts. One part will consist of five questions which will require 12 minutes apiece to answer. These questions usually relate to one topic or category. The other part will consist of an "investigative task." This means the question will require about 25 minutes of the allotted time and will be a broad-ranging question involving numerous topics and concepts. Whatever free-response questions you are given will require a lot of statistical work, but it will be fundamental statistical work.
Not only are calculators allowed on the AP Statistics exam, but you are EXPECTED to bring a graphing calculator with statistical capabilities. Minicomputers, pocket organizers, electronic writing pads (e.g. Newton), and calculators with QWERTY will not be allowed. Your calculator's memory can be used only to store programs that bring your calculator's abilities/functions up to the level of other acceptable calculators. Accessing any notes on or copying and storing any part of the exam into your calculator will be considered cheating on the exam. If you forget your calculator, you will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle since calculators CANNOT be shared. If you sometimes think you are a walking embodiment of Murphy's Law, you may bring up to TWO calculators (in case one blows up in the middle of the exam).
Formulas and Tables
Formulas and tables are an intricate part of understanding and studying statistics. However, the AP Statistics course is more concerned with you developing and understanding fundamental concepts than memorizing and regurgitating formulas. You will be given an appropriate list of formulas and tables to help in answering the questions. You are expected to have a working familiarity with the formulas and graphs, so this information is intended to be needed only as a reference.
A list of the formulas and tables that will be provided appears on page 409.
How the Exam is Scored
When your three hours of testing are up, your exam is sent away for grading. The multiple-choice part is handled by a machine, while qualified graders -- current high school and college statistics teachers -- grade your responses to Section II. After a seemingly interminable wait, your composite score will arrive. Your results will be placed into one of the following categories, reported on a 5-point scale.
5 Extremely well qualified (to receive college credit or advanced placement)
4 Well qualified
2 Possibly Qualified
1 No recommendation
Some colleges will give you college credit for a score of 3 or higher, but it's much safer to score a 4 or a 5. If you have an idea of what colleges you want to go to, check out their Web sites or call the admissions office to find out what their particular rules regarding AP scores are. If you don't get the grade required by your college, it is always a good idea to take a copy of the syllabus and a copy of your AP exam results to show the department when you arrive. In some cases, you may be able to obtain credit even though you have not met the official requirement.
REGISTRATION AND FEES
You can register for the exam by contacting your guidance counselor or AP Coordinator. If your school doesn't administer the exam, contact AP Services for a listing of schools in your area that do. The fee for each AP exam is $82. For students with financial need, a $22 reduction is available. To learn about other sources of financial aid, contact your AP Coordinator.
For more information on all things AP, visit collegeboard.com or contact AP Services:
P.O. Box 6671
Princeton, NJ 08541-6671
Phone: (609) 771-7300 or (888) 225-5427 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada)
Copyright © 2006 by Anaxos, Inc.
Excerpted from Kaplan AP Statistics 2006 by Cynthia Johnson Copyright © 2005 by Cynthia Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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