How To Evaluate a Good AP® Question for AP Instruction

A high school teacher learning how to evaluate a good AP question for AP instruction

Advanced Placement® teachers have many options to choose from when looking for AP resources to support their instruction and monitor AP mastery. But all AP resources aren’t equal; some materials can be outdated (especially print versions) if they are not always updated annually when the AP exams change. Moreover, teachers can struggle to write their own questions for quizzes, unit tests, and practice, which is a time-consuming effort.

So, how can an AP teacher know what to look for when choosing the right partner for AP instructional support? It boils down to the questions—you’ll want to go with a resource that offers up-to-date, high-quality AP questions and content. This article will offer insights into what characteristics define a good AP question to help you evaluate AP learning tools as you guide your students to a deeper understanding of the material throughout the year so they can succeed in class and ace their AP exams.

1. Content Writers Are Subject Matter Experts

The best review questions for AP instruction are written by AP experts, either current or former AP teachers or professional content writers who exclusively write AP material. When evaluating a good AP question, examine:

  • Whether there is a targeted objective or essential knowledge (EK) from the AP curriculum provided by the College Board® in the course exam description.
  • The quality of the distractors: There should be something tempting about the answer choices; if you can cross off four of the five options easily, it’s not a good question.
  • Whether it’s a commonly asked question from recent tests: Some products include outdated questions. For example, if you notice i, ii, and iii for answer options and students have to choose which are correct, you are looking at a question type no longer used, so that product is likely outdated.
  • How it compares to a similar released exam question:
    • Look at the question stem
    • Look at the correct answer choice (this is usually the part that corresponds to the objective/EK)
    • Look at the distractors: why is each wrong? What makes each tempting? For example, one distractor might be true of paragraph 2 in a passage, but the question asks about paragraph 3.

2. Questions Mirror the College Board AP Curriculum

Since the College Board is responsible for developing the AP course outline and exams, a high-quality AP learning tool features questions modeled after the AP scope and sequence. When evaluating an AP prep question, make sure it is aligned with the College Board. See if the distractor logic used matches the rationale the College Board uses. Also, think about how you’d explain each answer choice to students and why it’s right or wrong—if you have trouble explaining it, there’s likely a flaw with the option.

When evaluating an AP question you have written yourself, examine if you have met all the above guidelines and have a peer review it; sometimes, self-made questions can be interpreted differently, whereas the College Board doesn’t allow for that in their questions.

At UWorld, we offer Learning Tools for AP Courses that equip AP teachers with a comprehensive AP supplement to prepare students for AP success throughout the school year. For all AP subjects, our learning tools:

  • Feature questions modeled after the AP curriculum and updated weekly to ensure accuracy
  • Provide in-depth answer explanations to help students understand and retain concepts 
  • Include robust reporting to measure mastery and make instructional decisions 
  • Allow teachers to easily integrate content into their lessons throughout the year.

Below are examples of AP questions from the College Board and UWorld and how they compare:

A College Board AP English Language and Composition Sample Question*:


A College Board AP English Language and Composition Sample Question*:

Question Based on the Passage

A College Board AP English Language and Composition Sample Question*:

A UWorld AP Question:


A UWorld AP Question:

Question Based on the Passage

A UWorld AP Question:

Comparative Analysis:

College Board sample question:

    a. Not true b/c it relates only to paragraph 1’s idea of failed space missions (The passage is about the metric system, and space missions are only one example.) 

    b. Not true b/c it relates only to paragraph 1’s discussion of space missions

    c. Answer b/c it represents the passage’s overall focus and position

    d. Not true b/c it relates only to paragraph 1’s discussion of space missions

    e. Not true b/c it provides a more general connection to the passage’s topics

UWorld question:

    a. Not true b/c it provides a more general connection to the passage’s topics (like the model’s E)

    b. Not true b/c it relates only to paragraph 1’s discussion of warming ocean waters (like the model’s A)

    c. Not true b/c it relates only to paragraph 1’s discussion of oceans’ increasing lack of diversity (like the model’s B)

    d. Answer b/c this represents the passage’s overall focus and position (like the model’s C)

    e. Not true b/c it relates only to paragraph 1’s discussion of damaged reef habitats and the harm to fish who live there (like the model’s D)

As you can see, the UWorld question aligns with the College Board’s, matching the structure, answer choice option format, and distractor logic of the College Board. Both address objective 3A: Identify and explain claims and evidence within an argument, specifically EK CLE-1.A: Writers convey their positions through one or more claims that require a defense. When evaluating supplemental AP questions, apply the same reasoning to ensure that you prepare your students with good AP questions.

Choosing the Right AP Resources and Tools

Once you have understood how to evaluate what constitutes a good AP question, what other criteria should you consider when looking to supplement your curriculum with quality learning tools for AP instruction? We recommend the following key features:

  1. Confidence-Building Practice
    • Exam-like experience: Up-to-date College Board-level questions and answer choices ensure that students practice with content that aligns with their AP course and mimics what they will experience on their exams.
    • Built-in support: Vocabulary assistance, hints, formula sheets, and hyperlink mini-lessons are included to support students based on their needs.
    • Individualized learning: Teachers can create assignments aligned to their curriculum for individual students, groups, or the entire class based on the skills students need to spend the most time practicing.
  2. Concept-Mastery Strategies
    • Detailed explanations: A core part of the learning experience and concept mastery is knowing “the why” and that’s where in-depth explanations for both the correct answer and all incorrect answer choices are critical.
    • Immediate feedback: Thorough explanations of ALL answer choices help students learn from their mistakes and develop critical thinking skills.
    • Active recall: Illustrated explanations and digital flashcards improve memory retention by reinforcing key concepts, themes, and equations.
  3. Intuitive Teaching Tools
    • User-friendly: Learning tools designed to be simple, straightforward, and effective save you valuable time.
    • Assignment tools: Easy-to-use tools that enable you to effortlessly find, preview, and assign content prevent the loss of instructional time.
    • Presentations: Convenient presentation tools simplify integrating content into your classroom lessons.
  4. Robust Reporting
    • Performance monitoring: Usage and progress monitoring give teachers and school administrators valuable insights on performance at the student, class, campus, and district levels.
    • Real-time data: Reporting features give you and administrators the information you need to make instructional decisions and any adjustments to monitor and improve the effectiveness of your AP courses and overall AP program.

Ultimately, the best learning tools for AP courses empower you to give your students the highest-quality AP education possible. Up-to-date questions modeled after the College Board’s content and features that facilitate instruction, foster concept mastery, and track and monitor performance make up the foundation of quality AP learning tools for AP instruction.

Learn more about our Learning Tools for AP Courses

*Disclaimer: The sample exam question above is an AP English Language and Composition question written and published by the College Board. It is derived from the following document: AP English Language and Composition Course and Exam Description, Effective Fall 2020, and is available on the College Board’s website. UWorld makes no ownership claims to the sample question. It is included in this blog article for comparison references only.

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