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AP Research Assessment 2024: Maximize Your Score with These Insider Tips

Updated: May 5

Feeling like a research guinea pig? Distinguished from traditional AP exams, the AP Research exam is an assessment and doesn't include multiple-choice questions or a standard exam format. Instead, AP Research students are assessed on the Academic Paper and Presentation and Oral Defense of their research, which together determine the student's score.

The AP Research assessment challenges students to design, conduct, and present their research on a topic of their choice. Achieving a high score requires a blend of creativity, critical thinking, and meticulous execution.

Student giving an oral presentation and showing a bar diagram on the screen

Mastering the AP Research evaluation can open doors to academic success and college admissions. Therefore, as the 2024 assessment approaches, we've gathered insider tips to help you maximize your score and achieve your academic goals!

The AP Research Assessment


AP Research is one of the courses in the AP program that requires students to undertake a research project on a subject of their choice. The course culminates in a Performance Task that is assessed by the College Board and teachers as part of the AP Research Assessment.

The AP Research Assessment assesses students' ability to conduct independent research, analyze scholarly sources, formulate arguments, and communicate their findings effectively.


The AP Research Assessment or Performance Task does not include a traditional sit-down exam; instead, it centers around the Academic Paper and the Presentation and Oral Defense of a student's research.

Both components of the assessment evaluate a wide range of skills: from your Research, Academic Writing and Time Management skills to your Presentation skills as well as your level of Analytical and Critical Thinking to analyze data, synthesize information, and draw conclusions.


The AP Research assessment has consistent weighting and scoring guidelines every year (source: The College Board):

Scoring Guidelines

Scoring for the AP Research Exam is on a scale of 1 to 5, with scores reflecting the quality of the written paper and the oral presentation. For more information on the scoring guidelines, please refer to the AP® Research Academic Paper and AP® Research Presentation and Oral Defense pages.

The AP Research assessment has a pretty high passing rate. According to the College Board, 84.4% of high school students who took the AP Research class in 2023 achieved a score of 3 or above.

Insider Tips To Maximize Your Score

Craft a Compelling Academic Paper

The Academic Paper is the centerpiece of your assessment. It weighs 75% of your AP Research final score. Develop a clear and coherent argument, supported by relevant and credible sources. Pay close attention to the rigorous academic research standards your paper must adhere to including structure, argumentation, and citation format.

Consistently follow and adhere to the APA (American Psychological Association) style in your paper including citations, references, tables, and figures. This will not only help you organize your research, lend credibility and professionalism to your research work but also influence your final score.

Here are the sections your academic paper is required to showcase:

  • Choose the Right Research Methods: Whether qualitative, quantitative, or a mix of both, it is crucial that your methods align perfectly with your research question and objectives. Provide a detailed description of your methods, including data collection and analysis procedures, to ensure reproducibility and transparency.

  • Analyze Data Thoroughly: Ensure your analysis answers your research question and that you discuss any limitations found in your data. This section should reflect your ability to engage with data critically and draw meaningful conclusions.

  • Master the Literature Review as it demonstrates your understanding of the topic's background and the existing gaps your study aims to address. Use a wide range of sources, including academic journals, books, and credible online resources. Synthesizing these sources effectively will showcase your critical thinking skills and command over the topic.

In the age of artificial intelligence (AI), it is extremely important that your academic paper is an original piece, illustrating your ability to engage in scholarly debate and understanding of the chosen topic.

Prepare a Polished Presentation

The Presentation and Oral Defense is your opportunity to shine, showcase your research and engage with the three assessors (your AP Research teacher and two other panel members chosen by your teacher) by communicating effectively and succintly. It aims at assessing your articulation of the inquiry process, understanding of results and conclusions, and reflection on the research experience.

Below are the College Board task directions to keep in mind as you put your presentation together:

Organize your findings coherently, ensuring each part of your presentation flows logically into the next. Use visual aids like charts, graphs, and slides. Practice your presentation skills, clearly explaining your research, and your delivery to maintain engagement and confidence during the actual presentation. Make sure that your presentation is no longer than 15 minutes to ensure at least 5 minutes for the oral defense.

During the oral defense, the panel will ask you three questions. Anticipating potential questions and being ready to defend your work with confidence will positiviely impact your score. These three questions are chosen from the oral defense question list, which is provided to students in advance, and focus on the student's:

  • research or inquiry process

  • depth of understanding

  • reflection throughout the inquiry process as evidenced in their PREP (process and reflection portfolio).

Here is a link to the 2017 College Board question list. A fourth question is permitted to clarify one of the student's answers to a previous question. Any additional questions are at the discretion of the teacher but should not be used in scoring of the oral defense.

As you prepare for your presentation and oral defense, remember that while your assessors are here to provide guidance, you're the expert on your research! You've delved much deeper into your research topic than anyone else!

Seek Feedback and Revise Iteratively

Throughout the research process, seek feedback from your teacher, peers, and mentors. Use constructive feedback to refine your research and presentation work and make necessary adjustments as this iterative process is key to producing a polished final Academic Paper and Presentation.

Practice your presentation in front of your peers to gather feedback and learn how to respond succintly to questions and critiques. This type of exercise will assist you in preparing for your presentation and oral defense.

Manage Your Time Effectively

The AP Research assessment requires a significant investment of time and effort. Develop a detailed timeline and stick to it, ensuring you allocate sufficient time for research, writing, and rehearsing.

Key Takeaways

The AP Research assessment is a challenging but rewarding endeavor. By following these insider tips, you can approach your project with confidence and rigor, and you'll be well on your way to maximizing your score on the 2024 AP Research assessment! Remember, the journey of conducting personal research is as significant as the outcome, and the key to success lies in thorough preparation, attention to detail, and a genuine passion for your research topic. Embrace the process, and you’ll find success and satisfaction in your scholarly pursuit. Good luck!

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