Apple trees bear fruit in one of three locations. Tip bearing apple trees produce fruit on the ends of new branches, which it grew the previous year. Spur bearing apple trees produce apples on small thorn or spur-shaped branches off the main branches. The "spurs" are roughly 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) long. Other varieties combine both locations, bearing fruit on branches and spurs. Several techniques exist to determine which type of tree you possess.
Identify the species of apple tree. Over 60 species of apple trees bear fruit at the tip of their branches including Fuji, Granny Smith and Empire. Another 25 varieties produce fruit on spurs and tips such as Pink Lady, Northern Spy and Shamrock.
Note the location of the flowers or apples. Those located on the tip are tip bearing trees; trees producing fruit on the edge of thick stubs on main branches are spur bearing trees. If it possesses apples or blossoms on both, then the tree falls into both categories.
Go to the apple tree and stand beneath its branches. The tree may have foliage, so you may need a ladder to get a closer look on older, larger apple trees.
Look for spurs -- the thick thornlike protrusions on the main branches. While spurs resemble thorns, spurs are much more substantial. Each holds fruit that weigh several grams. If you see the spurs, then you either have a partial tip bearing tree or a spur bearing tree.
Look for branches that indicate it will bear a fruit next spring. Tip bearing tree produce fruit on newly grown branches that sprouted during the previous growing season. Those branches appear browner and less worn. If you plan on pruning your tip bearing tree, cut branches that appear greyer in colour. If you note spurs and tips, then you possess a partial tip bearing tree.