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Section I: Multiple choice

With the proctor's word "Begin," you open the Section I multiple-choice book and dive in (Chapter 3 covers the strategy for handling multiple-choice questions). For now, just realize that the 80 questions each have 5 alternatives for a total of 400 possible answers. You are going to be reading 400 possible answers, 320 of which are wrong and designed, at least minimally, to trick you into picking them. You have 55 minutes to answer the multiple-choice questions, which means you have 41 seconds per question and only 8 seconds per possible answer. Don't panic; the time is longer than it seems. Try holding your breath for 41 seconds; you'll feel how long that is.


You don't have to be right about everything to score a perfect 5 on the AP exam. The test grade is curved; test writers realize that few people are going to burn through all 80 multiple-choice questions at 41 seconds each and come up with a perfect score. You can skate by on Section I by getting fewer than 50 questions right and still pull it out with a perfect 5 score just by getting two-thirds of the possible credits for essay writing in Section II.

Panicking is something to avoid at all times during the test, but especially during the multiple-choice section. If you panic on multiple-choice questions, you'll lose concentration and stop reading carefully. The situation only gets worse; the reality is that the questions get harder as you move through the 80 mini-challenges.

If you aren't sure about a question, cross off the answer choices that you know are wrong in the question book. If you can cross out only one, do it and move on. Keep going, moving along, harvesting all the good answers that you know (most people don't even get through all the questions). After you've got all the easy answers, go back and work on the tougher questions. Use every minute to complete multiple-choice questions that you skipped earlier and to double check the answers you've already marked. You need to put an answer on every question because there's no penalty for guessing, and you just may be right.


Don't outsmart yourself on the multiple-choice section. Save double-checking for last, because you don't want to trap yourself by overthinking. Usually, your first hunch is your best shot; you don't get any smarter by squinching up your eyebrows. Obsessing over every question as you go only slows you down. If you have time for a recheck, don't change any answers unless you're sure those answers are wrong.

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