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 these key benefits for the AP community:

  • 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.

Keeping Questions Secure

The most commonly administered set of free-response questions is posted on AP Central two days after the exam. Some subjects will have more than one set posted. 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.


Why are more than one set of free-response questions for certain subjects posted on AP Central two days after the exam?

For some subjects, more than one version of the exam is administered on the regularly scheduled testing date in order to reduce the risk of exam content being shared between students.

For subjects administered both on paper and digitally, the free-response questions from both versions of the exam are posted on AP Central. 

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How can College Board guarantee that students’ AP scores are equivalent on different versions of the exam?

The AP Program designs different exam versions to be of similar difficulty and equivalent in the content and skills they cover. However, some exam versions may be slightly more difficult than others. Despite these minor variations in difficulty, student scores will not be affected. After the exam, differences in difficulty are identified through psychometric equating processes that assign higher and lower “cut scores” required for AP scores of 2, 3, 4, and 5 to reflect the relative difficulty of each version of the exam. This ensures that overall AP scores represent the same levels of achievement, regardless of which version of the exam a student takes.

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What equating processes does the AP Program use?

The AP Program uses two different types of equating processes:

  • Common-item equating: A set of common exam questions is used across different versions of the exam administered to different student populations.
  • Random groups equating: Different versions of the exam are administered to groups of examinees that are statistically equivalent but randomly assigned.

In both equating designs, the statistical procedures adjust for differences in difficulty among exam versions that are built to be similar in difficulty and content. This allows the AP Program to establish “cut scores” for multiple versions of the exam that result in comparable AP Exam scores of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. While the cut scores may differ by a few points depending on the difficulty of the exam versions, the exam scores will represent the same performance standards (and hence, a student’s score will represent the same level of achievement) no matter which version of an exam a student takes.

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My students took two versions of the same exam on the regularly scheduled testing date. Why does this occur and how does College Board decide which version of the AP Exam my students will receive?

For some subjects, we administer alternate exam versions to small groups of students in the United States on the regularly scheduled testing date. This is to ensure that scores for different exam versions (worldwide) can be compared in a statistically valid way. However, this does also mean that some or all students in one school may take a different version of the exam than the most commonly administered version(s). Overall, in a given year, only a small subset of schools in the U.S. receives and administers more than one version of the exam simultaneously on the regularly scheduled testing date.

These different versions of the 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, and are determined through psychometric and statistical analyses. When a school receives two versions of an exam for a subject, approximately half of the students will take one of the versions given to most U.S. students, and approximately half will take the additional version.

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When there are multiple versions of an exam, what happens to my AP Instructional Planning Report (IPR)?

All students who test on the regularly scheduled exam date will be included in an AP Instructional Planning Report. If more than one version of the exam was administered to your students on the regularly scheduled exam date, you will have an IPR for each version.

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

No. Schools do not need to (and should not) take any action to determine whether they've received multiple versions of an AP Exam.


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