Students need an understanding of the test format of the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam if they want to succeed. With anything in politics: Context is key. That’s why we want to break down exactly what you should expect on the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam. That way, when you go in on test day, you’ll be prepared and know what to expect. (Well, you’ll know mostly what to expect. We can’t give you the answers after all.)

What is the test format of the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam?


The AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam will test you on the subjects of “constitutionalism, liberty and order, civic participation in a representative democracy, competing policy-making interests, and methods of political analysis.” (College Board)

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

There are four essay questions students must answer on the AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam. The questions are:

  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.

The College Board suggests that students take at least 20 minutes to answer each question during the allotted time.

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

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