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2021 AP Research Exam Guide

5 min readโ€ขapril 3, 2021


Your 2021 Guide to AP Research Exam

We know that AP Research can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We have created this guide to help you excel on your performance tasks. We will continue to update this guide with more information about the 2021 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you score that 5. Create a Fiveable account and join our Discord to stay involved in all things AP!๐Ÿ˜

Format of the 2021 AP Research Performance Task

There is no written exam for AP Research, instead you will be assessed based on performance tasks for your yearlong project. The two portions of the test are as follows:
  • The academic paper
    • This should be around 4,000 - 5,000 words long, and accounts for 75% of your score
    • You will be scored based on the content, structure, format, and conclusion of your paper and your ability to accurately cite your sources
    • This portion of the exam must be turned in to the AP Digital Portfolio and will be scored by the College Board
  • The Presentation and Oral Defense
    • The presentation and defense will take 15-20 minutes and accounts for 25% of your score
    • You will present your research question, research methodology, and findings and answer a set of questions
    • This portion will be scored by your AP research teacher using a scoring rubric provided by the AP Program. Teachers have also taken part in mandatory training, so they can properly score this portion of the exam

2021 Scoring Rubric for AP Research

Below are the scoring guidelines for the Academic Paper based on the 2020 performance task.
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Check out our study plan below to find resources and tools to prepare for your AP Research Performance Task.

When do I have to submit and how do I submit my performance task?

The Academic Paper must be submitted no later than May 20, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST. Your teacher will determine when oral presentations take place. There may be more updates regarding the AP Research course, so create a Fiveable account to get updates on the latest 2021 exam news.ย 

How should I prepare for the performance task?

  • First, download the AP Research Cram Chart PDF - a single sheet that covers tips for the academic paper, presentation, and oral defense. Take note of things you can improve!ย 
  • Join our Discord channel to talk to real students just like you working on the course. We have TAs in each subject channel to support you this Spring.ย 

Pre-work: set up your work environment

Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means youโ€™ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual.ย 
๐Ÿ–ฅ Create a working space.
Make sure you have a designated place at home to work. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on working, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your workspace.ย 
๐Ÿ“š Organize yourย  materials.
Get your notebooks, textbooks, devices, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also create a space for you to keep track of your work. Start a new section in your notebook or start a Google Doc to keep track. Get yourself set up!
๐Ÿ“… Plan designated times for working.
The hardest part about working from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on a certain amount of time every day that you can devote to working on your research. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.
๐Ÿ† Decide on an accountability plan.
How will you hold yourself accountable to this work plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be working for x number of hours or getting through a section of your work. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!
๐Ÿค Get support from your peers.ย 
There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP courses just like you! Join our Discord channel to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also working on their research. You can even read each other's papers and practice presenting to one another!ย 

2021 AP Research Study Plan

โ“ Big Idea 1: Question and Explore

As part of the AP Research curriculum youโ€™ll learn about inquiry and investigation, one of the first steps to doing research. Under this big idea, youโ€™ll practice: identifying a problem/issue, organizing and locating information, evaluating the information sources that you will need, and looking at a problem/issue from a variety of perspectives.
๐Ÿ“ฐ Check out this article:

๐Ÿ’ญ Big Idea 2: Understand and Analyze

While doing your research youโ€™ll also learn how to read, comprehend, and explain a certain perspective or argument. You'll work on reading critically, explaining and analyzing an argument, evaluating evidence, and accessing conclusions.
๐Ÿ“ฐ Check out this article:

๐Ÿ‘ฅ Big Idea 3: Evaluate Multiple Perspectives

Learning to compare and contrast multiple perspectives on an idea or issue is a key part of doing research. To practice this skill, youโ€™ll learn how to identify, compare, and interpret different perspectives, and evaluate the limitations of certain arguments.
๐Ÿ“ฐ Check out this article:

๐Ÿ“ Big Idea 4: Synthesize Ideas

In order to form your conclusion and build your argument, youโ€™ll work to take your information and analyze and evaluate it. Youโ€™ll practice creating a well-formed argument, use data and information from various sources, link evidence to claims, and offer resolutions and solutions based on your evidence.
๐Ÿ“ฐ Check out these articles:

๐Ÿ“Š Big Idea 5: Team, Transform, and Transmit

Research revolves around communication, so youโ€™ll learn best practices for point of view and how to communicate your ideas to an audience. Youโ€™ll work on planning and presenting an argument to an audience depending on the context and purpose. Youโ€™ll also work on communicating information using appropriate mediums and using techniques to engage your audience.
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