The AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam is scored on the same rubric as the rest of the AP®exams: On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest score.

Each section of the exam itself accounts for a different percentage of your final score, though. To help you fully understand how the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam is scored, let’s take a deeper look into the scoring rubric, and break down what exactly goes into the test.

How is the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam Scored?

The AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam tests students on their knowledge of a wide variety of topics surrounding the United States’ governmental bodies and institutions. The course itself will go over five units covering the following topics:

  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

Students have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam. There is a 1 hour and 20-minute multiple-choice section, followed by a 1 hour and 40-minute free-response section. A full breakdown of each section is provided below:

Multiple choice (1 hour, 20 minutes)
  • 55 questions
  • 50% of total exam score
Free Response (1 hour, 40 minutes)
  • 4 questions
  • 50% of total exam score

The multiple-choice portion of the exam challenges students to:

  • Apply Supreme Court decisions to real-life situations
  • Provide analysis for “foundational documents” and other text sources
  • Compare and contrast different political processes and ideas
  • Analyze different charts, tables, and other visual data sets

The free-response section tasks students with answering four questions with an essay. The questions cover:

  1. Concept Application. Students are given a political scenario and must explain the impact of a political “institution, behavior, or process.”
  2. Quantitative Analysis. Students are given a piece of quantitative data, and they must show how that data relates to a political process.
  3. SCOTUS Comparison. Students are tasked with comparing a non-required Supreme Court case with a required one and showing how they’re relevant to one another.
  4. Argument Essay. Students must craft an argumentative essay based on required documents and evidence.

College Board recommends students take 20 minutes to answer each of the free-response questions. As noted above, the free-response section accounts for 25% of your score.

How each section is scored

The sections are scored differently, too. The multiple-choice section is scored by a computer that scans your answer sheet and records the total number of correct responses.

It’s worth noting that incorrect answers aren’t deducted from your score. So be sure to answer every question even if you’re unsure!

The free-response section is scored during an annual event called the AP® Reading. This occurs during the first two weeks of June. Professors and high school teachers from all over the country gather to help read and score thousands of essays from the free-response section of every AP® test.

What scores are good for the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam?

As mentioned above, the AP® exam is scored on a scale of one to five. The higher the score, the better.

Check out the table below for a good breakdown of what each score means.

AP® Score

What it means


Extremely well qualified. The highest score you can get on your AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam. This score typically guarantees college credit.


Very well qualified. While this isn’t the highest score possible, it’s still a very good score. You’ll typically get college credit with it.


Qualified. Some schools will give you college credit for this score, but there is room for improvement.


Possibly qualified. If you can, you’ll want to retake the exam as schools most likely won’t give credit for this score.


No recommendation. Sign up to retake the exam if you can—and use one of Marco Learning’s free study guides to help you.

When it comes to the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam, you’ll want to aim for 3 or higher. Most colleges will give you college credit if you score within that range. But it does vary from school to school, so if you want to find out the score you’ll need, you should contact the school’s registrar’s office and ask for information about their AP® credit policies. Alternatively, you can check the school’s website for more information.

NOTE: Schools sometimes change the score required for AP® college credit. So be sure to check in with the school to make sure you have the most recent information.

When are scores released?

The 2020 AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam will take place on Monday, May 4, 2020 at 8:00 am local time.

Exams will take place at designated AP® test-taking facilities unless students have approved exemptions from the College Board (e.g. if the student is overseas).

After the exam, students have to wait about two months before they can find out their score in July. While there’s no specific date for the release of individual scores yet, students can check the College Board website for updates as it  gets closer to the expected score release date.

At that point there’s not much students can do other than wait. So try to relax as best you can as you wait for your scores to come in.

Let us help you

The best way to approach your AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam score is to not worry about it…well, try not to worry about it too much.

The best way to alleviate your concerns is by good preparation.

That’s why it’s so important that you take practice tests to help you get better at the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam. Only then can you expect to get a good score—and even improve your score.

That’s why we want to help. Marco Learning has created a host of resources to help you prepare for AP® exams, including video lessons, study guides, drills, and, most importantly, practice tests.

Download our AP® U.S. Government and Politics practice exam for FREE here.

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