On the eve of an AP exam, it’s likely that you’re trying to get some last-minute studying done before you get a good night’s sleep. Maybe you’re reviewing notes, practicing test questions online, or quizzing a friend. You’ve put in nine months of hard work and you are ready to show off your hard-earned knowledge and put the test stress behind you. But could you be prepared to ace the test without being ready for the logistics of test day?

Packing your bag with the right supplies for test day is critical. Although your proctor will have extra pens, pencils, and calculators for the unlucky student who forgets them, set yourself up for success by packing your own supplies and avoiding any extra test-day anxiety. Not to mention, no one wants to get stuck using a calculator they’re unfamiliar with on an important test. Read on to learn what you definitely should, and definitely should NOT bring to your AP exam.

What Do I Need to Bring to My AP Exams?

  • #2 Pencils and black or dark blue colored pens. For every exam, you’ll need at least one of these writing utensils. Even on tests that are administered entirely on a computer, such as the AP Chinese Language and Culture exam, you’ll be allowed to take notes, so you will want a writing utensil for doing so.
  • Government or school-issued identification. This is required if you are taking the test at a school other than your own, since it’s unlikely that anyone there will be able to vouch for your identity. However, it’s a good idea to bring regardless, especially if you go to a larger school where the exam proctor may not necessarily know every student personally.
  • SSD Student Accommodation Letter (if applicable). If you have a documented disability and have been approved to test with accommodations, you will need to bring your official SSD Student Accommodation Letter to the exam. Although your proctor will have already been informed of any necessary accommodations, your letter will serve as verification in case there are any questions. This includes accommodations such as braille, large-type exams, and extended time.
  • Your six-digit school code. In order to have your results returned to the correct school, you’ll need to enter your school’s six-digit code when you fill out the exam’s cover page. If you are testing at your regular high school, your proctor will provide you with this number on exam day. If you are testing at a school other than your own, you’ll need to get this code from the administration at your school before test day. Do not use the code of the school hosting your exam. If you are homeschooled, you will use the six-digit homeschool code that will be supplied to you on test day.
  • A ruler or straight-edge if you are taking an AP Physics exam. A ruler or other straight-edge is allowed for drawing diagrams on the AP Physics exams. Protractors, however, are prohibited.
  • A calculator if your exam allows or requires one. See the details below about which specific exams allow the use of calculators, and which models are acceptable.  

What Other Things Might I Choose to Bring to My AP Exams?

  • A Watch. Although it’s not required, it is a good idea to have your own timepiece to help you manage time during the test. Keep in mind that watches with Internet connectivity or that make noises during testing time are not allowed. Watches with recording abilities are also prohibited.
  • Food and Drinks. While you’re not allowed to bring food or drinks into the actual exam room, you can leave them outside the room and will have access to them during your 10-minute break. It’s a good idea to have some water and a nutritious snack, such as a banana or a protein bar, which will provide you with some energy during the second-half of the exam. If you have special medical concerns and will need to eat or drink during the exam, you will need to apply to test with accommodations ahead of time. 
  • Social Security Number. The College Board does not require you to fill in your social security number on your test booklet, but if you do it will appear on your score report. Some colleges and universities use Social Security numbers as student identifiers when assigning AP credit or advanced placement for qualifying AP scores. You may want to check with any colleges or universities where you plan to send scores to see if they prefer that you provide a Social Security number.

For Which AP Exams Can I Bring and Use a Calculator?

  • AP Biology: For this test, you will be allowed a basic four-function calculator with square root tool, but you are not required to use one.
  • AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC: For these exams, you are required to use a graphing or scientific calculator on one part of the multiple-choice section and on one part of the free-response section.
  • AP Chemistry: For this exam, a scientific or graphing calculator is recommended (but allowed only on section two). A simple, four-function calculator is also allowed, though it is not the recommended tool of choice.
  • AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, AP Physics C: Mechanics, AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism: For the AP Physics exams, four-function, scientific or graphing calculators are allowed.
  • AP Statistics: On this test, graphing calculators with statistics capabilities are expected. Non-graphing calculators are permitted if they have the required statistics computational capabilities described in the AP Statistics Course Description.

For a complete list of calculator policies, including approved models, see the official AP Calculator Policy page. 

What Should I Leave at Home on AP Exam Day?

  • Electronic equipment. This includes cell phones, smartphones, laptops, computers, portable listening or recording devices (MP3 player, iPod®, etc.), cameras or other photographic equipment, tablets or other devices that can access the internet, and any other electronic or communication devices. Some proctors may provide a secure place for you to store these belongings during the exam, but don’t rely on having that option. If you are caught with any of these devices during the exam, you will be excused from testing and your score will be canceled. School-owned handheld recording devices are allowed only for the AP World Language and Culture Exams and the AP Music Theory Exam, and these will be distributed by your exam proctor.
  • Active reading tools. Correction fluid, dictionaries, highlighters, notes, or colored pencils (unless highlighters or colored pencils have been preapproved as an accommodation by the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities office prior to the exam date) are all prohibited. Practice your active reading skills using only a pencil or pen before exam day.
  • Scratch paper. All notes can be made on portions of the exam booklets or, for the Chinese or Japanese Language and Culture Exams, on scratch paper provided by the proctor.
  • Study materials. Reference guides, keyboard maps, other typing instructions, study guides, and notes should all be left home. Although you’ll have a break during the exam, you are not allowed to access study materials during this time.
  • Clothing with subject-related information. Anything that could count as reference material, even if printed on your clothing, is prohibited. So it’s best to leave your super-lucky Chemist’s Guide to the Periodic Table t-shirt at home if you’re taking the AP Chemistry Exam.
      • Calculators with QWERTY (i.e., typewriter) keypads as part of hardware or software 
      • Calculators with pen-input/stylus capability
      • Calculators with wireless or Bluetooth capability
      • Calculators that require an electrical outlet, “talk,” make noise, or have a paper tape
      • Calculators that can access the internet
      • Calculators that have cell phone capability or audio/video recording capability
      • Calculators that have a digital audio/video player
      • Calculators that have a camera or scanning capability
      • Some models with touch-screen capability (e.g., Casio ClassPad)

Although the lists of required and prohibited AP exam tools seem lengthy at first glance, most of them are common sense. Your teacher will prepare you in advance by reviewing what is expected on exam day, and you can find the answers to any additional questions you might have online. When in doubt, ask your teacher or AP coordinator before exam day if you have any specific questions. If exam day rolls around and you’re still not sure, approach the proctor before students are seated for the exam. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you feel like you need more help with reviewing for your AP exams, or you are not sure that you can do it on your own, look no further. For personalized AP tutoring, check out the CollegeVine Academic Tutoring Program, where students who are intimately familiar with the exam can help you ace it too, just like they did.     

For more about information about APs, check out these CollegeVine posts:

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist