The AP Macroeconomics Exam: A Comprehensive Guide

25/03/202418 minute read
The AP Macroeconomics Exam: A Comprehensive Guide

The AP Macroeconomics Exam provides a comprehensive assessment of the college-level economics concepts covered in the AP Macroeconomics course curriculum. Getting a top score on the exam helps you demonstrate the concepts you've learned and can boost your academic profile when you're applying to top colleges and universities. In this guide you'll learn exactly what's covered on the exam and how it's structured and scored, with tips from experts on ways to prepare and do your best on exam day.

A Snapshot of the AP Macroeconomics Exam

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are rigorous, college-level courses, with corresponding assessments. The courses are commonly offered in US high schools. Curricula and exams are governed by the College Board.

Doing well on AP assessments can translate to college credit in US and Canadian universities, and perhaps more importantly, a good AP score will elevate your university application profile, constituting a distinct marker of your ability to master rigorous academic content in core subject areas.

The AP Macroeconomics Exam will test your knowledge of macroeconomic principles and concepts and require you to apply your knowledge to a range of models, projections, and scenarios, including using a variety of charts, graphs, or similar visual representations.

How long is the test?2 hours and 10 minutes
Are calculators allowed?Yes — a four-function calculator is permitted for use on both sections of the exam
What kinds of questions are on the test?- 60 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) - 3 Free Response Questions (FRQs)
How much time per question, as an average?- 70 seconds for MCQs - 20 minutes for FRQs
How many points is each section worth?- MCQs count for 66% of your score - FRQs count for 33% of your score

What's Covered on the AP Macroeconomics Exam?

The AP Macroeconomics Exam tests the core concepts and skills students typically learn about in high school courses aligned with the College Board's year-long AP Macroeconomics course curriculum.

If your school doesn’t offer the AP Macroeconomics course, don't worry! You can check out a wide range of Crimson's online AP course offerings HERE.

The table below shows you the key course units and related topics, as well as their relative weight or prominence for the AP Macroeconomics Exam.

Below the table, you'll see what skills are tested in the MCQ and FRQ sections of the exam.

UnitTopics CoveredExam Weight
Unit 1: An introduction to foundational economic concepts, principles, and models for the study of macroeconomics- Scarcity - Opportunity cost and Production Possibilities Curve - Comparative advantage and gains from trade - Supply and demand - Market equilibrium, and changes in equilibrium5%-10% of exam score
Unit 2: Measuring economic indicators and defining business cycles- The circular flow and GDP - Unemployment - Price indices and inflation - Real vs. Nominal GDP - Business cycles12%-17% of exam score
Unit 3: Understanding how changes in aggregate spending and production, economic fluctuations, and policies affect national income, unemployment, and inflation- Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply - Equilibrium and changes in the Aggregate Demand —Aggregate Supply Model - Fiscal policy17%-27% of exam score
Unit 4: Financial sectors and implementing monetary policy- Financial assets - Definition, measurement, and functions of money - Banking and the expansion of the money supply - Monetary policy18%-23% of exam score
Unit 5: Economic growth and the impacts and long-run consequences of fiscal and monetary policy actions- The Phillips Curve - Money growth and inflation - Government deficits and national debt - Crowding out - Economic growth20%-30% of exam score
Unit 6: International trade, finance, and open economies- Balance of payments accounts - Exchange rates and the foreign exchange market - Effects of policies and economic conditions on the foreign exchange market - Changes in foreign exchange market and net exports - Real interest rates and international capital flows10%-13% of exam score

The MCQs — Skills Tested

The MCQs consist of 60 questions with a 70-minute time limit and require a range of skills and applications:

  • Defining economic principles and models
  • Explaining given or projected economic outcomes
  • Determining or projecting the outcomes of specific economic situations

The MCQ section accounts for 66% of your exam score.

The FRQs — Skills Tested

The FRQ section has a 60-minute time limit that includes a 10-minute reading period. 1 LONG FRQ is worth 50% of the section score, and 2 SHORT FRQs are each worth 25% of the section score.

The FRQs test students' skills in the following:

  • Making assertions about economic concepts, principles, models, outcomes and/or effects
  • Explaining economic concepts, principles, models, outcomes, and/or effects
  • Performing numerical analysis and calculations
  • Creating graphs or visual representations

To take a look at FRQs from prior year exams, go here.

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AP Macroeconomics Exam Scoring

The AP Macroeconomics Exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score possible. The scoring breakdown is as follows:

  • Multiple Choice: 66% of the total exam score
  • Free Response: 33% of the total exam score

Once all raw scores are calculated, they are converted into scores on a scale of 1 to 5.

AP Statistics Exam ScoreQualificationClosest Equivalent College Grade
5Extremely well qualifiedA+ or A
4Very well qualifiedA-, B+, or B
3QualifiedB-, C+, or C
2Possibly qualified-
1No recommendation-

Converting the scores takes the difficulty of each exam into account and allows for fair comparison of scores across different years.

The average AP Macroeconomics score varies from year to year. In 2023, the mean score was ​​ 3.08, with 64.7% of students scoring a 3 or higher:

  • 17.1% of students scored a 5
  • 22.9% of students scored a 4
  • 24.7% of students scored a 3
  • 21.6% of students scored a 2
  • 13.7% of students scored a 1

For more information about deciding when to submit an AP score with your college applications, check out our companion post, the Crimson Education AP Exam Guide.

How to Prepare for the AP Macroeconomics Exam: Expert Tips

The AP Macroeconomics Exam covers a huge range of information. Here are some expert tips to help you prepare effectively and maximize your score:

1. Study Past Questions

Practice makes perfect, and this definitely applies to getting good grades on the AP Statistics Exam.

Digging into past exam questions & scoring guidelines is a good way to get a feel for the format, question types, and the level of difficulty you can expect. This exercise not only helps you identify your weak spots but also boosts your confidence as you become more familiar with the exam's nuances.

2. Review the Chief Reader Report

Review the AP Macroeconomics Chief Reader Report on Student Responses provided by the College Board. This report is your secret weapon for understanding what the examiners are looking for.

This report also provides quicks insights into common mistakes made by students in previous years, helping you avoid similar pitfalls and fine-tune your strategies for success.

3. Understand Common Tasks Verbs Used on the Exam

AP Macroeconomics questions often come with specific task verbs providing well-defined task direction. Understanding how to interpret the task verbs as intended for this specific exam can help you objectively understand how to respond.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this! As you prepare for the exam, review the list of task verbs below and apply this guidance as you explore past test questions or take practice tests.

CalculatePerform mathematical steps to arrive at a final answer. Showing work is required.
ExplainProvide information about how or why a relationship, pattern, position, situation, or outcome occurs, using evidence and/or reasoning. Graphs and symbols are acceptable as part of the explanation.
Draw a correctly labeled: Create a graph or visual representation that illustrates or explains relationships or phenomena. Labels are required.
Identify. What? Which? Will? and other interrogatory words:Identify or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.
Show/Label/Plot/Indicate:Show, label, plot, or indicate an economic scenario on a graph or visual representation created by the student. Clearly labeling all axes and curves and showing directional changes where relevant is required.

4. Be a Graphing Calculator Master!

Students sitting for the AP Macroeconomics Exam are expected to bring a four-function calculator.

Getting practice using your calculator is one important way to prepare, since calculator mastery will help you answer questions much more quickly.

Try to use the same calculator when taking practice tests, so you're already familiar at using it for this purpose.

Learn which calculators are approved for use by the College Board for this exam.

5. Work with a Tutor

Tutors provide one of the more effective results-oriented methods of AP test preparation.

A highly qualified tutor can provide personalized assistance, offer targeted feedback, and help you navigate challenging topics. It's like having a dedicated coach in your corner, ensuring you're fully prepared for whatever the exam throws at you.

If you’re looking for the perfect score, the support of a strong tutor matched to your learning style is crucial.

Thanks to our network of tutors, many with Ivy League backgrounds, it's easier than ever to get highly qualified support. Consider taking advantage of Crimson's online AP tutoring services to get your own personalized AP tutoring.

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Tips For the Exam Day

1. Get a Good Night’s Rest

Let's start with the foundation — a good night's sleep. This isn't just a casual suggestion; it's a game-changer.

Your brain needs to be firing on all cylinders, and a well-rested you is more likely to tackle those AP Macroeconomics challenges effectively.

Aim for 7–9 hours of sleep before exam day. Create a bedtime routine to wind down, avoid caffeine late in the day, and resist the urge to pull an all-nighter — it’s never worth it.

2. Deep Breaths and Mindfulness

As you enter the exam room, find your zen zone. Take a few deep breaths — in through the nose, out through the mouth. This isn't a cliche; deep breathing calms your nervous system, reducing anxiety.

Remind yourself that you've prepared for the AP Macroeconomics Exam thoroughly. Read each question carefully, underlining key terms. This helps organize your thoughts and signals to your brain that you've got this under control.

3. Manage Your Time

Time management is your invisible companion in this AP test-taking adventure. Mastering time management during the exam is crucial - here’s how to do it:

  • Don't get stuck: If a question feels like quicksand, don't let it pull you under. Mark it, skip it, and revisit it later.
  • Be efficient: Use your mastery of the task verbs (listed above) and apply this as you're reading and interpreting exam questions. Don't let your mind wander: identify key terms, underline essential information, and focus on what's being asked.

4. Pack Smart

When packing your exam essentials, think like an empirically minded economist.

As mentioned above, you’ll need the right calculator, but you’ll need to pack a few other things too:

  • ID
  • Sharpened Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Water Bottle

Maybe a lucky charm too??... If it brings you comfort, toss it in!

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Final Thoughts

Now you know what to expect when it's your time to prepare for and take the AP Macroeconomics Exam.

Studying the AP Macroeconomics curriculum is a great way to elevate the academic rigor of your high school accomplishments and get a feel for university-level academics. Studying AP-level econ is also an exciting way to really explore a future major in economics, get insights into what economists do, and build a solid foundation in important economic concepts and principles.

If you want to know more about the role AP courses and exam scores play in your college admissions planning, check out these companion articles:

Do AP Courses Matter?

How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

A Comprehensive Guide to the AP Exam

Remember, the Crimson Education network can also give you immediate access to a qualified AP Exam Tutor — one who has already aced the AP Macroeconomics exam and knows what you're up against.

Finally, when you're ready to take the next step and get personalized admissions planning geared toward strategies for success at the most competitive schools in the US, UK, and Europe, reach out for a free consultation. Together, we'll discuss how to build a strong academic and extracurricular profile with an eye to the right strategies for your circumstances and target schools.