10 FACTS ABOUT THE AP U.S. GOVERNMENT & POLITICS TEST
10 FACTS ABOUT THE AP U.S. GOVERNMENT & POLITICS TEST
1.The AP Program Offers High School Students an
Opportunity to Receive College Credit for Courses They
Take in High School.
The AP program is a collaborative effort of secondary schools, colleges and
universities, and the College Board. More than 1 million students like you
who are enrolled in AP or honors courses in any one or more of thirty-eight
subject areas may receive credit or advanced placement for college-level work
completed in high school. While the College Board makes recommendations
about course content, it does not prescribe content. The annual testing
program ensures a degree of comparability among high school courses in the
2.Thousands of Colleges and Universities in the United
States and in 30 Other Countries Participate.
Neither the College Board nor your high school awards AP credit. You will
need to find out from the colleges to which you are planning to apply whether
they grant credit and/or use AP scores for placement. It is important that you
obtain each school’s policy in writing so that when you actually choose one
college and register, you will have proof of what you were told.
3.The AP U.S. Government & Politics Test Measures Factual Knowledge
and a Range of Skills.
According to the course description for the AP U.S. Government & Politics Test, the test
measures a variety of skills and abilities. Among them are:
• Factual knowledge: facts, concepts, and theories of U.S. government
• Comprehension of the typical patterns of political processes and behaviors and
• Analysis and interpretation of governmental and political data and of relationships
in government and politics
• The ability to analyze and interpret a variety of stimuli as the basis for essays that
draw conclusions and relate information to general concepts
• The ability to craft well-organized and specific essays
4.The AP U.S. Government & Politics Test Has Two Sections: Multiple
Choice and a Four-Part Essay Section.
The total test is 2 hours and 25 minutes. Section I: Multiple Choice has 60 questions and
counts for 50 percent of your total score. You will have 45 minutes to complete it.
In Section II, you are given four essay topics to write about. Unlike the old government test or
some of the other AP tests, you have no choice about which four essays you respond to. This part
of the test is 100 minutes (1 hour and 40 minutes) and counts for 50 percent of your total score.
5.The AP U.S. Government & Politics Test Covers Six Areas of American
Government and Politics.
In its course description for the AP U.S. Government & Politics Test, the College Board lists
six broad areas of study and twenty-three categories that are further broken down. The basic
course outline looks like the following:
• Constitutional Basis of the Government
• Influences on the Framers of the Constitution
• Separation of powers and checks and balances
• Concept of federalism
• Theories of democratic government
• Political Beliefs and Behaviors of Individuals
• Basic political beliefs that individuals hold
• Ways people acquire political knowledge and attitudes
• Public opinion
• Methods of political participation, including voting
• Factors that influence how and why people develop different political
beliefs and behaviors
• Political Behavior of Groups: Functions, Activities, Sources of Power, Influences
• Political parties
• Interest groups, including PACs
• The mass media
• National Government: Organization, Functions, Activities, Interrelationships
• Federal judiciary
• Federal bureaucracy
• Role of voters, nongovernmental groups, and public opinion
• Linkages between government institutions and voters, public opinion,
interest groups, political parties, mass media, and subnational governments
• Public Policy
• How policy is made and by whom
• How policy is implemented: the role of the bureaucracy and the courts
• Influences: political parties, interest groups, voters, and public opinion
• Linkages between public policy and political parties, interest groups,
voters, and public opinion
• Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
• Constitutional guarantees
• Role of judicial interpretation
• Impact of the Fourteenth Amendment
In designing the test, the test writers allot a certain percentage of questions to each broad
area. Note that one question may actually ask you about several areas because topics may
overlap. For example, a question about civil rights might involve the role of the federal
judiciary and the Constitution. The following list shows the range of questions that might
appear on an AP U.S. Government & Politics Test:
• Constitutional Basis of the Government—5 to 15 percent
• Political Beliefs and Behaviors of Individuals—10 to 20 percent
• Political Behavior of Groups: Functions, Activities, Sources of Power, Influences—
10 to 20 percent
• National Government: Organization, Functions, Activities, Interrelationships—
35 to 45 percent
• Public Policy—5 to 15 percent
• Civil Rights and Civil Liberties—5 to 15 percent
As you can see, the largest number of questions (between 21 and 27), will deal with the
institutions of the national government.
6.There Is No Required Length for Your Essays.
It is the quality, not the quantity, that counts. Realistically, a one-paragraph essay is not going
to garner you a high score because you cannot develop a well-reasoned analysis and present it
effectively in one paragraph. An essay of five paragraphs is a good goal. By following this
model, you can set out your ideas with an interesting beginning, develop a reasoned middle,
and provide a solid ending.
7.You Will Get a Composite Score for Your Test.
The College Board reports a single score from 1 to 5 for the two-part test, with 5 being the
highest. By understanding how you can balance the number of questions you need to answer
correctly against the essay score you need to receive in order to get at least a 3, you can relieve
some of your anxiety about passing the test.
8.Educated Guessing Can Help.
No points are deducted for questions that go unanswered on the multiple-choice section, and
don’t expect to have time to answer them all. A quarter of a point is deducted for wrong
answers. The College Board suggests guessing IF you know something about a question and
can eliminate a couple of the answer choices. Call it “educated guessing.” You’ll read more
about this later in this chapter.
9.The Test Is Given in Mid-May.
Most likely the test will be given at your school, so you do not have to worry about finding a
strange building in a strange city. You will be in familiar surroundings, which should reduce
your anxiety a bit. If the test is given somewhere else, be sure to take identification with you.
10.Studying for the Test Can Make a Difference.
The first step is to familiarize yourself with the format and directions for each part of the test.
Then, you will not waste time on the day of the test trying to understand what you are
supposed to do. The second step is to put those analytical skills you have been learning to
work, dissecting and understanding the kinds of questions you will be asked; and the third
step is to practice “writing on demand” for the essays. So let’s get started.