What’s on the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam?

The AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam covers a breadth of topics surrounding the cultural, political, and social changes in U.S. history.

To get the best score possible, you’re going to want to make sure you know what to expect when you sit down to take the test.

That’s why we want to break down exactly what’s on the AP® U.S. Government and Politics Exam—as well as give you a few good tips on how to study for it.

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:

SECTION I SECTION II
Multiple choice (55 minutes)

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

  • 4 questions
  • 50% of total exam score

There are four questions students must answer with an essay 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.

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

How to study for the AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam

The best way to prepare for what’s on the AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam is through proper study tactics. Here are a few of the best ones you should employ to make sure you get the best score possible:

Study Tip #1: Talk to someone who’s been there before

One of the best ways to learn any topic is by talking to someone who has experience taking AP® exams—and asking them questions.

It might seem simple, but many students often ignore this step and try to learn things on their own. While it’s possible to get a good score by studying by yourself, you’re actually shortchanging yourself by not drawing on the experience and expertise of others.

That’s why it’s a good idea to get mentorship from someone with experience in the AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam—preferably a former student who scored high on the test themselves.

Sit down with them and ask them different questions on what to expect. Some suggestions:

  • How did you go about studying the topics?
  • What was the most difficult part of the exam and course?
  • If you could go back, what would you change about the way you studied and the topics you looked over?

These questions will give you a wealth of insight into the exam you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Study Tip #2: Read (and re-read) as much as possible

A big portion of the exam covers the reading and interpreting of foundational documents, Supreme Court cases, and multiple data sets. That’s why it’s so important that you’re both familiar with these readings and know how to interpret them.

The best way to do that is through good old-fashioned reading.

Make sure you read through all of your course material and review it frequently. Frequent reviewing is actually one of the most crucial factors when it comes to learning and retention.

It’s scientifically proven that the more consistently you review and repeat information to yourself each day, the better you remember it. So make sure you take time out of each day to read and review your material.

Study Tip #3: Take a lot of practice tests

The best way to get better at something is by practicing.

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 free AP® practice exams for you to take on your own time and test out your knowledge.

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