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How to Study for the AP Gov Exam

How to Study for the AP Gov Exam

AP US Government and Politics is not only a manageable AP class, but also a formative one, giving students insight into the functioning of our government and political system. AP Gov is an excellent way to earn AP credit while also fulfilling many high schools’ civics requirements. Though generally considered an easier AP class, the questions asked on the exam are known to be tricky. Preparing the test requires specific and efficient studying tactics, as well as a familiarity with particularities of the questions themselves. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to achieve a great score on the AP Gov exam!

Lucy T
Lucy T
Advanced Placement

AP US Government and Politics is not only a manageable AP class, but also a formative one, giving students insight into the functioning of our government and political system. AP Gov is an excellent way to earn AP credit while also fulfilling many high schools’ civics requirements. Though generally considered an easier AP class, the questions asked on the exam are known to be tricky. Preparing the test requires specific and efficient studying tactics, as well as a familiarity with particularities of the questions themselves.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to achieve a great score on the AP Gov exam!

What is on the AP Gov Exam?

So what is on the AP US Government exam? AP Gov tests a student’s understanding of the US political system and their ability to analyze founding documents and Supreme Court decisions.

The course consists of 5 units:

  1. Foundations of American Democracy
  2. Interactions Among Branches of Government
  3. Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
  4. American Political Ideologies and Beliefs
  5. Political Participation

For this test, your analytical skills are just as important as your knowledge of the content. Students need to know how to interpret data in tables, graphs, maps, and infographics, read and analyze founding documents, and apply Supreme Court decisions to real life scenarios.

AP Gov Exam Structure

Like many other exams, AP US Government includes both a multiple choice and a free-response section, with each section counting for 50% of your score. The multiple choice section, which comes first on the test, will cover three main types of questions: quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and visual analysis.

The free response section has four questions, including an evidence-based essay requiring students to support a claim, also known as the “argument essay.” The free-response section will also always include one response that requires students to compare a specific Supreme Court case with another legal case, so remember to study up on your SCOTUS history.

How many questions are on the AP Gov Exam?

There are 55 multiple choice questions and 4 free response questions on the AP Gov Exam.

How long is the AP Gov exam?

The AP US Government test is 3 hours long. The multiple choice section, which comes first, is one hour and twenty minutes, while the free response section is one hour and forty minutes.

When is the AP Gov Exam in 2022?

The AP US Government and Politics exam will be held on Monday, May 2, 2022

Is the AP Gov Exam Hard?

While many students find their AP US Government class to be straightforward and manageable, the exam has one of the lowest percentages of test takers that receive a 5, at just 9.8% in 2015. In the same year, over a quarter of the students who took the test only received a 1. So what accounts for this disconnect?

To start off, multiple choice questions can be surprisingly tricky, asking students to not only memorize numerous pieces of historical legislation, definitions regarding the political process, and intricacies of law creation, but also to apply these terms to real-world scenarios.

In addition, the free response questions diverge from the usual long-response thesis and supporting paragraph structure, asking students to instead provide short but complex paragraphs that demonstrate a clear understanding of terms and real-world application.

The AP US Government test can also prove a challenging endurance test, especially since the free response questions are in the latter half. Practice tests are the name of the game here!

How to Get a 5 on the AP US Government and Politics Exam

In order to ace the AP US Government exam, students should review both their course material as well as supplementary texts and resources to truly understand a concept. Whether an article, short history, or even YouTube video, students should plan to do a deep-dive on topics outside the classroom to ensure they are retaining what they learn.

We recommend taking several practice tests, both to build up stamina for the three-hour test and to become familiar with the structure of the questions. Initially, students often have difficulty with the way the questions are phrased, but these questions eventually become much easier once students learn to recognize familiar patterns.

Remember, while the multiple choice section may seem the most daunting, with 55 questions full of terms and definitions, the free response questions are each worth a full 12.5% of the grade. Make sure to re-read the question and plan out your answer before diving into the responses, making sure that you aren’t just regurgitating facts and definitions, but putting them together into a clear and cohesive response.

What percent is a 5 on an AP Gov Exam?

Students have to score an 80% or above to get a 5 on the exam. This would be scoring 96 or more points out of 120 on the test.

What is the average score on the AP Government Exam?

The average score on the AP Gov exam in 2021 was 2.62. Generally, about 50% of students score a 3 or higher.

AP Gov Exam Tips

  1. Study outside the test! The more specifics you know about each topic, the better. Stay up to date with articles, books, and other videos.
  2. Know the value of each question and the scoring guidelines. Since each free response question is worth a full 12.5%, don’t get burnt out on the multiple choice section, which comes first. In addition, make sure to understand what constitutes a full-points free response question for each type of question.
  3. Don’t get confused by the wording. When a free response question gives a few different cases, you will often get to choose among them, rather than having to address them all. Make sure to answer exactly what the question is asking! Practice tests can help students get more familiar with the test.
  4. Stick to the terms you know best. In a perfect world, you’d know every term inside and out by the day of the exam, but in reality, there will be some definitions that just stick better than others. Don’t get in over your head on the test. If you aren’t quite sure what a term means, leave it out. It’s better to show you really understand the terms you know in your free response than include ones you aren’t sure of.
  5. Budget your time! Since there are 4 free response questions, it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to time. Make sure you have concrete answers down for each question before going back and checking your responses.
  6. Don’t overwrite. Planning out your answers beforehand can seem like a time suck, but it can actually prove extremely helpful when moving efficiently through the questions. Sometimes, less is more, and a clear, concise answer is always better than a rambling or disorganized one. Make sure to have a rough sketch of your answer beforehand, which will help you formulate your response before diving in to writing.

Final Exam Preparation

While a 4 or a 5 on the AP US Government exam is harder to achieve than on other AP tests, it is possible! Students are encouraged to take advantage of the tutoring process to learn study tips, get supplemental materials, and learn how best to structure and craft a free response.

Preparing for the AP US Government exam with Ivy Tutors involves careful review of course terminology, practice using the questions to one’s advantage - for example, paying clear attention to the vocabulary used in the question to respond more specifically - and help with stamina.

Students will also learn how to navigate the line between evidence and opinion, using concrete facts and what they know about a topic to argue a point in their free response questions, which is something that can trip students up on the AP US Government test.

Ultimately, while the AP US Government test can prove challenging, it is known as one of the most useful AP classes out there for both school and life. Remember to pace your studying, get in a few practice tests to get familiar with the test, and identify what you still have to review with plenty of time before the exam date.

AP Gov Study Review Notes and Resources

Want to see what you scored from a practice test? Use this calculator here.

Use this useful Quizlet for terminology review!

Forgot your presidents? Access this History.com primer here.

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