11 Test Day Tips for Rocking the French AP

The AP is just around the corner.

Whether you have six months or six days, preparing for tests is a highly personal endeavor.

We all learn differently.

You and your perfect study guide are beginning to tire of one another.

You’ve taken beaucoup de (a lot of) practice exams and you’ve researched visualization techniques.

Your memory palace is chock full of great words and your accent is pretty darn good if you may say so yourself.

You’ve put in the work. You know the material. You’re ready.

Now it’s all about getting ready for jour J (D-day). Follow me.

The AP French Language and Culture Exam at a Glance

First, some housekeeping: the exam structure. Learn it, know it, breathe it. By the time test day rolls around, there should be no surprises.

According to the folks at the College Board, the AP French Language and Culture exam is meant to test your interpersonal, interpretive and presentation communication skills.

The exam is broken up into two main sections: multiple choice and free response, each worth 50 percent of the total score.

The score ranges from one to five, with five considered “well-qualified.” Colleges decide the scores they accept for placement or credit, but typically three points is acceptable.

Understand the multiple choice section

First up, multiple choice. The goal of this section is to test your ability to understand information from written and print resources destined for francophone audiences. You’ll have to answer 65 questions in all.

The first part of the multiple choice section contains 30 questions, based on print text. You’ll have 40 minutes to complete the first part.

The second part contains 35 questions that you’ll have 55 minutes to complete. In this section you’ll be working with combined print and audio material along with standalone audio recordings.

Get ready to write in the free response section

The aim of the free response section is to test your writing and speaking abilities. You’ll be expected to complete four tasks in an hour and 28 minutes.

Part one, which lasts 70 minutes, consists of two written tasks: the email reply and the persuasive essay.

The second section consists of spoken responses. The first task takes place in the form of short, prompted conversation, while the second requires expository speaking in which you’ll be expected to make cultural comparisons.

General Advice for the AP French Language and Culture Exam

Before we go into tips for rocking each section of the exam, here’s some general advice for tackling the exam as a whole.

  • Don’t get bogged down by the instructions. The instructions for each part of the exam will be the same as the ones on the practice exams you took. So while you should, of course, give the instructions a once-over, don’t waste too many valuable minutes reading when they could be otherwise spent on making sure you rock the multiple choice section.
  • Don’t get shaken by words you don’t know. As a French learner who’s made it pretty dang far on their French learning adventure, there’s no reason to get shaken by an unfamiliar word. New words won’t appear in isolation so, rather than stress, use the context to help you along.
  • Fuel (and refuel). Your butt will be in Seat Town for a little over three hours and the writing sections are towards the end of the exam. This means you should make sure to not only eat a big, nutritious breakfast but you should also bring along a small snack or two to give you a boost. It’s hard to remember subject-verb agreements when your stomach won’t stop grumbling. Water is also a must. Think small sips rather than large gulps, though.

11 Test Day Tips for Rocking the French AP

Rock the Multiple Choice Section

  • Read the entirety of each question. While the instructions of the exam may stay the same, questions, on the other hand, change. That’s kinda the whole point. But really, though, the fine people at College Board are notorious for the traps they set in multiple choice questions. Read carefully to be sure that the question you think you’re answering and the question you are answering are one and the same.
  • Answer every question. On the AP French Language and Culture exam, it really doesn’t hurt to guess on the multiple choice section because you’re not penalized for wrong answers—they’re simply not counted. The take-away: Leave no question unanswered because the odds are in your favor.
  • Budget your time. With 65 multiple choice questions to answer in 95 minutes, that leaves you about 1.5 minutes to answer each question. Don’t get caught hemming and hawing over a question for five minutes. You can either guess or circle the question, move on, and get back to it if you have time at the end. Like I said, you should answer all of the multiple choice questions, so make a time budget and stick to it.

Rocking the Talking

Whew! You’ve made it through the multiple choice questions. Still with us? Great, let’s take a look at some tips for rocking the free response section.

  • Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t let nervous jitters get to you and jumble your words. Speak slowly and deliberately. Have no fear. You can even throw in some fillers à la française (in the French style) such as uh and ben (well) to give yourself some time to gather your thoughts, find le mot juste (the right word), and sound elegantly fluent.
  • Smooth out your transitions. In a similar vein, in order to make your French sound as smooth and buttery as possible, you’ll need to be sure to have a store of transitions in your arsenal that will allow you to make logical connections and add variety to the structure and length of your sentences. Think of the free response section as an opportunity to show that you know the difference between words like pour que (so that) and quoi que (no matter what).
  • Register your register. Register is one of the areas in which you’ll be evaluated on the exam. In part one of the free response section, for example, you’ll be asked to reply to an email. If the email is addressed to a close friend, you’d use tu. Addressing a professional acquaintance, on the other hand, requires vous. You should have the difference between the formal and informal down pat.
  • Strut your stuff. Finally, think of the free response section as the space to show off. So, own it!

Tips for Writing an Explosive (and Persuasive) Essay

When you tackle the persuasive essay section, you must put yourself in the test grader’s shoes. In 2016 22,051 students took the French Language and Culture Exam. Visualize a tired, bleary-eyed grader and try to make the experience of reading and grading your essay as painless and legible as possible.

  • Outline, outline, outline (and make a point). The persuasive essay is not the space to improvise as you go. Even though an outline may feel like a waste of time when time is limited, don’t be tempted to wing it. You should have a thesis before you begin writing, as well as a clear idea of what you’ll put in your introductory, body and concluding paragraphs. Stick to your outline, remain concise and add supporting detail.
  • Don’t be passive. Whenever possible, avoid the passive voice. Be sure to check out this post if you need to brush up on when to use the passive voice in French.
  • Cite, cite, cite. A persuasive essay is only is as persuasive as its evidence so use the provided source material to provide support for your essay. Proofread. Make sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s crossed, that you’ve used the subjunctive when appropriate, and that you really meant to use l’imparfait (imperfect) rather than the passé composé (perfect past). 
  • Practice good penmanship (emphasis on the “pen”). Write neatly and in pen. Dull pencil is absolutely torturous to read.


And with that: you’ve got this. Get some rest before you get your AP on. I know you’ll rock it.

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