AP Statistics Exam: 2021 Results

The following data reflect the 183,181 students worldwide who took either the paper or the digital AP Statistics Exam prior to June 12.

AP Statistics Score Distributions, 2019 vs. 2021

The following table enables comparisons of student performance in 2021 to student performance on the comparable full-length exam prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

AP Score 2019 2021
5 15% 16%
4 18% 20%
3 27% 22%
2 19% 17%
1 21% 25%

Out of these 183,181 students, 2 answered every multiple-choice question correctly and received perfect scores on all 6 free-response questions by every college professor and AP teacher who scored their work.

It’s also important to honor the work of students who did not qualify for a score of 3+, but who nonetheless developed basic understandings and skills in the course. As a reminder, the most recent research on students who achieve a score of 2 in AP Statistics found that they proceed to earn significantly higher grades when taking the course in college than students with the same high school GPA, SAT score, race, and gender. And these outcomes are stronger for AP Statistics students who receive a 2 than they are for students receiving 2s in any other AP subject.

The May 17 In-School Paper Exam

The largest exam date for AP Statistics was May 17, so the following information is specific to the exam version administered on that date.

As usual, students scored significantly higher on the multiple-choice section than on the free-response questions.

Multiple-choice section:

  • Course Units:
    • AP Statistics students generally scored very well on questions about Units 1, 2, and 3, with ~18% of students answering all such questions correctly.
    • The most challenging units were 4 (Probability, Random Variables, and Probability Distributions) and 5 (Sampling Distributions). 5% of students answered every question about these units correctly, and 5% of students answered no questions about these units correctly.
  • Skill Categories:
    • AP Statistics students’ strongest skill was generally Skill Category 2; 18% of students answered every question that required this skill correctly.
    • The most challenging questions for students required Skill Category 3, Using Probability and Simulation. Scores would have been significantly higher if students performed this skill as well as they performed Skill Categories 1 and 2.

Free-response section:

  • The strongest results were typically on Question 4 and Question 6. Students found the starting point of Question 6 to be the easiest of the 6 free-response questions, and more students (10%) earned all 4 points possible on Question 4 than on any of the other free-response questions.
  • By far the most challenging questions on this year’s exam were Questions 2 and 3; ~1% of students earned all 4 points possible on these questions.

The Digital Exams

To support student access, different testing modes—paper and digital—were essential. To protect exam security, many different exam versions were necessary. Accordingly, to provide students with similar opportunities for success regardless of which version they took, each version of the exam had to be analyzed separately by psychometricians to identify its unique difficulty level so that standards for scores of 3, 4, and 5 could then be separately identified for each exam version. Analyses focused on:

  • Differences in the testing mode (paper or digital). For sections of the exam that proved easier to take digitally, the digital versions require more points for each AP score. For sections of the exam that proved easier to take on paper, the paper exam requires more points for each AP score.
  • Differences in the difficulty of specific questions. When exam questions prove easier, more points are required for each AP score, and when exam questions prove more difficult, fewer points are required on one version than another.
  • The net result for this year’s AP Statistics Exams is that out of 100 points possible, the digital versions were generally somewhat easier than the paper versions. Accordingly, students taking one of the somewhat easier digital versions needed to earn 1–7 more points to earn a score of 3+, depending on their version, than students who took the paper exam on May 17.