Why take AP® Human Geography?

When faced with the choice of whether or not to take AP® Human Geography, the benefits often outweigh the costs for most students.

If you take the AP® Human Geography Exam and attain a high score while you are in high school, you may be able to qualify for credit toward your college requirements.

A more recent argument for taking AP® Exams, is that more colleges are going test optional. This means that SAT® and ACT® scores are potentially holding less weight in college applications, and a good AP® score could help tip the scale in your favor when it comes to college admissions.

Besides creating the opportunity to earn college credit for the work you do, AP® courses also develop crucial skills, challenge you academically, and help round out your knowledge in ways you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. The AP® Human Geography course is the equivalent of a sophomore-level college course, so is a great way to prepare high school students for a college standard of work. In addition to that, preparing for and taking the AP® Human Geography Exam provides excellent practice for college-level exams you may take in the future.

What can AP® Human Geography teach me?

Human Geography, also known as anthropogeography, is the study of humans and their interaction with the environment around them. You will learn key skills like:

  • How to apply qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Understanding spatial relationships on a geographical scale
  • The ability to read and decipher information shown in a variety of maps (e.g. topographic, thematic, mental etc), charts, infographics, tables, and images.
  • Being able to identify patterns and trends from data and visual sources
  • Connecting geographic concepts to real-life scenarios

“If understanding global trends, making sense of the world around you, or figuring out where you fit in this big crazy world seems like something you would be interested in, Human Geography is for you.” – Danny Sanchez (The Human Geo Guy)

That’s why a course like AP® Human Geography is so valuable. Young people in the U.S. and Canada now have an opportunity to broaden their worldview by learning about WHY communities and cultures are the way they are! It can also develop those valuable, but more “unteachable” traits like empathy, openness, and experience that students will carry with them throughout their entire lives.

In doing so, they’ll be able to get a depth of knowledge about the world at large that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Moreover, the course is taught from a global perspective, with a balanced coverage of all regions. This will ensure that students get a basic understanding of geospatial awareness.

How to sign up for AP® Human Geography

To register for the AP® Human Geography Exam, you need to contact your school’s AP® Coordinator, who can help facilitate your courses and exams.

Bear in mind you’ll likely need to complete requirements to be eligible to enroll in an AP® course. In order to register for the AP® Human Geography Exam, you have to join your class section online, on College Board’s My AP® Portal. Some schools will automatically register you for the exam if you’re enrolled in an AP® Human Geography class, but others won’t and you will have to register online through the portal. If you are unsure whether or not you are registered for the AP® Human Geography Exam, check with your AP® Coordinator.

For the 2020-21 school year, College Board is waiving their cancellation fees, so if you are unsure about taking the exam, you are better off registering for it anyway, and cancelling for free if you later decide not to take the exam. There is however, still a FINAL deadline for exam registration, so make sure you register through your AP® Coordinator by then to avoid paying any late fees. The deadline to register for exams is in the fall, but specific deadlines may vary by the school—be sure to check with your teacher or AP® Coordinator about your school’s particular registration policy.

How much does the AP® Exam cost?

Each AP® Exam costs a total of $95—if you’re in the mainland United States and its territories and commonwealths, Canada, or a U.S. Department of Defense Dependents School.

If you’re outside of those areas, the AP® Exam will cost $125 per exam.

College Board has a financial aid program that offers a $33 fee reduction in the exam. Read more about exam fees here.

You cannot use the My AP® Portal to pay fees – they will be collected by your AP® Coordinator.

When you take into account the cost of a college course versus the cost of the exam, though, you’ll see that the AP® Exam is actually a bargain. With a passing score, you may be able to earn college credit and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

When can I take the AP® Human Geography Exam?

The AP® Human Geography Exam date in 2021 is Tuesday, May 4th. You can find more information about dates and late-testing schedules for the 2021 AP® Human Geography Exam in our 2021 AP® Exam Dates article.

What’s on the AP® Human Geography course and Exam?

Knowing what’s on the AP® Human Geography Exam is the first step to nailing it. The exam will cover all of the topics that you cover in your coursework.

The AP® Human Geography course is organized into seven units of study which your APHUG teacher may choose to teach in whatever order he or she prefers. You will be expected to familiarize yourself with each of the following topics and be able to answer questions based around them on your exam.

Unit 1: Thinking Geographically

Exam Weighting: 8-10%

You’ll learn about the tools and methods geographers use in their study of places.

Unit 2: Population and Migration Patterns and Processes

Exam Weighting: 12-17%

You’ll explore the patterns associated with human populations.

Unit 3: Cultural Patterns and Processes

Exam Weighting: 12-17%

You’ll focus on how and why language, religion, and other cultural practices spread over space and time.

 Unit 4: Political Patterns and Processes

Exam Weighting: 12-17%

You’ll build on your knowledge of populations and cultural patterns as you learn about the political organization of the world.

Unit 5: Agriculture and Rural Land-Use Patterns and Processes

Exam Weighting: 12-17%

You’ll learn where humans first developed agriculture and how farming practices spread throughout the world.

Unit 6: Cities and Urban Land-Use Patterns and Processes

Exam Weighting: 12-17%

You’ll explore the origins and influences of urbanization, examining cities across the world and the role of those cities in globalization.

Unit 7: Industrial and Economic Development Patterns and Processes

Exam Weighting: 12-17%

You’ll study the origins and influences of industrialization, along with the role industrialization plays in economic development.

Course Skills

The following table lays out the skills you will be taught over the course of your AP® Human Geography class. These are also the skills you will be assessed on when it comes time to take your AP® Human Geography Exam.

 Skill
 Description
 1. Concepts and Processes  Analyze geographic theories, approaches, concepts, processes, or models in theoretical and applied contexts
 2. Spatial Relationships  Analyze geographic patterns, relationships, and outcomes in applied contexts
 3. Data Analysis  Analyze and interpret quantitative geographic data represented in maps, tables, charts, graphs, satellite images, and infographics
 4. Source Analysis  Analyze and interpret qualitative geographic information represented in maps, images (e.g., satellite, photographs, cartoons), and landscapes
 5. Scale Analysis  Analyze geographic theories, approaches, concepts, processes, and models across geographic scales to explain spatial relationships

What is the test format for the AP® Human Geography Exam?

The test format of the AP® Human Geography Exam is split up into two sections, and includes both multiple-choice, and free-response questions.

Students will have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam. The exam is made up of a 60-minute section of multiple-choice questions, and a 75-minute writing section where students will answer three essay prompts.

Here is what the format of the AP® Human Geography exam looks like—along with how much of the exam score depends on each section:

SECTION I SECTION II
Part A: Multiple-Choice Free-Response Questions (7 points each)
  • 60 questions
  • 60 minutes
  • 50% of total exam score
  • Three questions
  • 75 minutes
  • 50% of total exam score

SECTION I, the multiple-choice section, will include both individual and set-based questions and will test you on the following skills, in the following relative weightings:

Skill Category Exam Weighting
1: Concepts and Processes 25-36%
2: Spatial Relationships 16-25%
3: Data Analysis 13-20%
4: Visual Analysis 13-20%
5: Scale Analysis 13-20%

SECTION II, the free-response section, you will be assessed on all five AP® Human Geography skill categories: at least two different skill categories per question.

Free-Response Question 1 will not include any stimuli to analysis.

Free-Response Question 2 includes one stimulus (data, image, or map) that you will need to reference in forming your answer.

Free-Response Question 3 includes two stimulus (data, image, or map) which you will need to reference in forming your answer.

Although the free-response questions are each structured differently, they will ALL present you with an authentic geographic situation and assess your ability to describe, explain, and apply geographic concepts in forming your answers. This means NO one-sentence answers! You will have to hone your analysis skills in connection to each of the five skill categories listed below:

Skill Category Exam Weighting
1: Concepts and Processes 23-29%
2: Spatial Relationships 33-43%
3: Data Analysis 10-19%
4: Visual Analysis 10-19%
5: Scale Analysis 10-19%

How is the AP® Human Geography Exam scored?

The AP® Exam’s scoring system is on a scale of one to five—with five being the best and one being the worst.

Here’s a good table that breaks down the score you could get and what it means.

AP® Score What it means

5

Best. The highest score you can get on your AP® Human Geography Exam. This score typically guarantees college credit or placement out of a required course at colleges that accept AP® Exams.

4

Good. While not the highest, this is still a very good score. You’ll usually get college credit with it.

3

Okay. Not the worst, but plenty of room for improvement. This is the usual threshold for colleges to give you credit, though not at the most competitive colleges.

2

Bad. Not a good score at all. If you can, you’ll want to retake the exam, as schools will rarely ever give credit for it.

1

Worst. If you really want to perform well on this exam, you would probably need to do a lot of studying before taking the exam a year later.

When it comes to AP® Human Geography, you’ll want to aim for a score of 3 or higher. Most colleges will give you college credit if you score within that range.

It varies from college to college though. So, if you want to know the score that a specific college will accept in exchange for credit, you’ll need to check with the college’s registrar’s office to find out information about AP® credit for the AP® Human Geography Exam. Often, you can find this information on the school’s website. You can also check out College Board’s search tool for AP® credit policies.

NOTE: Colleges sometimes change their requirements for awarding college credit or offering placement out of required courses. So always check in with the college to make sure you have the most relevant and recent information.

Bottom line: You’re going to want to score as high as you possibly can. Sure your dream school only requires a 3, but you should always be aiming for the highest possible score regardless.

When you get that credit, you will effectively be walking into college with part of the requirements already completed. It means you could skip a geography or social studies requirement and take whatever class you wanted to. Or, you could even save money on college tuition by spending less time getting credits. Either way, getting that college credit before college is a great way to set yourself up for the next four years. Read more about how AP® exams helped Marco Learning’s tutors earn college credits.

What can I bring to the AP® Human Geography Exam?

Below is a list of all the things you can bring with you into the exam room. Note: It’s possible that not all of the items will apply to you (e.g., the Student Accommodations Letter).

  • Two No. 2 pencils with erasers. These will be used on the multiple-choice portion of the exam.
  • Two black or dark blue ink pens. These will be used for the free-response questions. Be sure to bring black or dark blue ink pens only. Leave your gold glitter pens at home.
  • A watch. This is a simple analog or digital watch with no internet access or alarms. Don’t even try to bring your smart watch in the room.
  • The AP® Student Pack. This is given to you just before you take your exam and contains a label that you need to place on your exam. Follow the labeling instructions carefully.
  • Government- or school-issued ID. If you don’t attend the school where you’re taking the AP® World History Exam, you must also bring a government- or school-issued ID.
  • College Board SSD Student Accommodation Letter. If you require accommodations beyond the regular exam, you’ll receive a letter that verifies this (e.g., you need a braille or large-type exam).
  • Remember, you won’t have to bring all these things—but it’s in your best interest to be as prepared as you can for the exam.

Take a look at our Test Day Checklist to make sure you are 100% prepared to take your AP® World History Exam when the time comes!

How do I study for AP® Human Geography?

Here are the best study tips for APHUG:

#1: Take practice tests

Be prepared! You don’t want to take your first AP® Human Geography Exam on test day. To that end, take as many practice tests as you can before the big day. Take note of the areas you performed the weakest in and dedicate extra study time to those areas. Only by practicing over and over again can you expect to be better at any skill—including test-taking. If you don’t have much experience taking practice tests, check out John Moscatiello’s Step-by-Step Guide to taking a practice test like a pro.

#2: Write as much as you can

The free-response section of the AP® Human Geography Exam is probably the most daunting part of the entire test, especially if you’re taking AP® Human Geography as a freshman, and don’t have much experience with written tests. To prepare, you should be practicing writing succinct, relevant essays in the weeks leading up to the exam. College Board’s website has a page dedicated to past exam questions. Read them and start to craft essays around them. You can have your AP® teacher read them and provide feedback as to which areas you can improve. If you’re looking for ways to improve your writing skills, you can register for our Free AP® Human Geography Writing Workshop. Every session is designed specifically to teach you fundamental and advanced skills about how to tackle and formulate essay responses. All sessions are recorded and will be sent to you via email if you miss or want to review a session later.

#3: Find resources that work

When it comes to studying for your exam, there is no “one size fits all”. Just because your best friend loves to use flashcards, doesn’t mean that flashcards are right for you! We encourage you to take some time to figure out what study methods you are most comfortable with; it could be a mixture of everything!

We know it can be overwhelming starting from scratch. If you feel stuck, we suggest downloading our free AP® Human Geography study guide as a jumping off point and going from there.

If you’re looking for live video reviews before the AP® Exams, we will host live AP® review sessions on our YouTube channel.

You can also check out Danny Sanchez’s website, The Human Geo Guy. Danny’s website is packed with useful information and resources for AP® Human Geography students, or if you’re looking for something more intensive, he is also available for private tutoring.