GDP, aggregate supply and demand, monetary policy – these are just a few of the terms that you will fully understand by the time you finish AP Macroeconomics. Whether you’re about to take your exam or getting ready to take AP Economics for the first time, AP Macro may seem super intimidating. There are a ton of terms, graphs, models, theories, and so much more you will be required to recall in a relatively short test. However, it is definitely doable. In fact, in 2019, 57.9% of students received a 3 or above on the exam, with 40.5% earning a 4 or a 5, and almost definitely getting college credit.
So… How Do You Do It?
#1 – Understand, Don’t Memorize
This serves as a general tip for most AP classes, but it’s super important in AP Macro. The amount of concepts in the class – as opposed to pure information – makes this piece of advice essential. For example, in AP Calculus, you may have to know how to apply specific math to situations. But, in AP Macro, you’ll have to synthesize 6 units of information to analyze economic stability, health, and policy. Following that, you’d have to apply that to models, graphs, and situations. This is why in AP Macro especially, it is so important to be able to apply your knowledge, rather than simply memorizing things. For example, something you may memorize is “Expansionary fiscal policy shifts aggregate demand to the right”. Instead of memorizing this fact, understand WHY expansionary fiscal policy shifts aggregate demand to the right (something you will learn in AP Macro, don’t worry!). If you understand the ins-and-outs of the content, you’ll not only be better at applying your knowledge, but you may even be able to deduce the answers to questions you haven’t encountered. Using your newfound economic reasoning skills would provide you with this capability.
#2 – Understand and Memorize Your Graphs!
Okay, okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking – “But Dylan! You just told us not to memorize things!” – and you would be right, except for your graphs. There are 6 primary graphs in AP Macro:
Productions Possibilities Curve (Unit 1)
Aggregate Supply and Demand (Unit 3)
The Money Market (Unit 4)
Loanable Funds Market (Unit 4)
The Phillips Curve (Unit 5)
Foreign Exchange Market (Unit 7)
These big 6 are instrumental in your understanding of economics. Being able to not only draw these graphs (the memorization part) but understand the curves, how they work, and how they impact OTHER graphs (for those of you studying for AP Macro right now, this video by Jacob Clifford is great!). Like #1, you should understand the ins-and-outs of each graph and know how to APPLY them rather than just know “demand is downward sloping”. This will come in handy on the free response questions – problems where you will be required to not draw these graphs and apply them to situations. Not only this, but graphing can come in super handy on tricky multiple choice questions. Being able to draw a quick AD-AS graph on the side like it’s second nature can help you visualize scenarios and understand the question better.
#3 – Know The Exam
If I had one piece of advice for ANY AP test, it is to KNOW YOUR EXAM LIKE IT IS THE BACK OF YOUR HAND. When walking into that exam at 12PM, the last thing you want to be thinking is “oh jeez, what will the questions look like?” or “How much time do we have for the free response?” If you know the exam, these fears will go away. More importantly, however, is knowing what the questions on the exam will look like. In order to accomplish this, you need to do practice questions! For example, after a while, you’ll realize that FRQ #1 follows a similar structure and know what to expect. If you consistently practice this and know what to expect walking into the exam, it can relieve exam stress and help you with time management along with answering the questions.
#4 – Stay Up To Date With Modern Economics
In AP Macro, you’ll be learning about all sorts of models, theories, and policies that have varying effects on the economy. A really simple way to keep your skills sharp and see how your knowledge can actually be applied is by staying up to date with modern economics. For example, see what the Federal Reserve and the government are doing to respond to real life economic issues! While you don’t have to become super political or know everything, just reading or watching the news every so often can help you see how the material in AP Macro is applied in the real world. For example, if you read in the news that a recession is coming, you can keep track and see what the Federal Reserve actually does to respond to economic problems. This will allow you to see the impact that the material in AP Macro has, and how different topics relate to each other in the broader economy. If you keep up with this, not only will you become a more informed citizen, but you will also become better at AP Macro.
#5 – Get Help When You Need It
A huge tip for AP Macro that cannot go unnoticed is that if you don’t understand something, you need to get help as soon as you can. This is because all of the material in AP Macro is additive and builds on each other. If you have trouble with Supply and Demand in unit one and don’t get help quickly, you will have a hard time understanding aggregate supply and demand in unit 3 and then trouble with questions regarding policy in units 3, 4, and 5. As you can probably tell, this chain of events can prove detrimental to success in AP Macro. In order to make sure you don’t fall down this spiral. Get help IMMEDIATELY when you’re confused with something, whether that is early in unit 1 with comparative advantage, or later in the year with foreign exchange or monetary policy.
With these 5 tips, and a little bit of work on your part, getting a 5 on AP Macro should be a piece of cake!