Ap Government Frq Sample Essays

Almost every AP student wants to know how hard the exams will be. So, you are not alone if you are asking yourself, “Is AP US Government Hard?” It can be difficult to find a direct answer to this question, however.

We’ve created this AP US Government review to demystify the whole AP Gov course and exam. This includes and explanation of how AP US Gov difficulty compares to other AP courses offered, some of the best AP US Government study guide strategies, and a thorough breakdown of what makes the AP Gov course and exam uniquely difficult (and sometimes easy).

Let’s get started!

By the Numbers

AP Gov can be a bit of a conundrum. When it comes down to the numbers, the AP United States Government and Politics exam proves to be one of the most difficult exams offered by the College Board. It has one of the lowest percentages of test-takers that received either a 5 or a 4 on the exam and also has one of the lowest mean scores across the board. In other words, when compared to the other exams, AP Gov is quite hard.

Just take a look at these numbers:

















Those are the grade distributions for the years 2010 through 2015. As you can see, only 9.8 percent of people earned a 5 in the year 2015, while 26.9 percent of the APUSH test takers received a score of 1 on the exam for the same year. The mean score for all the years mentioned above comes to 2.63.

Those percentages are some of the lowest amongst all of the AP exams. However, these numbers don’t quite coincide with the opinions of students who have taken the AP Gov course alongside other AP courses offered by the College Board.

AP US Government rarely pops up any list of the most difficult AP courses. Students also rarely let out as many exhausted sighs at the mention of AP Gov as compared to other AP courses like AP Chemistry. On top of these, the AP Gov review process is often described as being straightforward, making AP US Government study guides comparatively easy to make and understand.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for this disconnect. Much of it has to do with the way that the AP Exam is structured alongside the types of questions that are asked. The content for the AP Gov course can be a little tricky as well.

Even though the AP Gov exam has proven to be a more difficult experience than many students often assume, that doesn’t mean acing the exam is totally out of your reach. With a solid understanding of how the exam is structured and what will be expected from you as an AP US Government student, anybody can score a 5 when it comes to exam day.

Exam Structure

Unlike many other AP exams, the structure of the AP US Government and Politics exam is not that complicated. There are only two major sections:

Section I Multiple Choice — 60 questions; 45 minutes

– Demonstrate understanding of major course concepts, policies, and institutions.

– Apply skills of comparison and interpretation in addition to factual recall.

Section II Free Response — 4 questions; 100 minutes

– Define concepts and explain or interpret content across all course topics.

– Analyze political relationships and evaluate policy changes using examples from the course to support the argument or response.

If you haven’t had the chance to do this already and are considering taking the AP Gov course and exam, we do recommend reading through the AP US Government and Politics Course Overview and the AP US Government and Politics Course and Exam Description. These two documents explain how and why the exam is structured the way it is in complete detail, so it’s always a good idea to give these a solid reading before considering any AP course or exam.

The multiple-choice section consists of 60 questions where you will be expected to provide an answer for a question that relates to a piece of legislation, the political process, the law creation process, etc.These can get a bit tricky since students will be expected to understand the definitions of numerous pieces of legislation and terms associated with the political process alongside being able to interpret and apply these same concepts to real-world scenarios. You will be given 45 minutes to complete this portion.

The last segment of the AP Gov exam centers on four Free-Response Questions. Students will have 100 minutes to provide hand-written answers to often multi-layered questions about the US political system. Unlike many of the other AP exams, students are not always asked to write out long-essay responses that contain a thesis and a paragraph structure. Instead, students will provide responses in the form of a paragraph, short-essay, list, brief explanation, etc.

Here is a sample Free-Response Question provided in the AP US Government and Politics Course Overview:

While interest groups and political parties each play a significant role in the United States political system, they differ in their fundamental goals.

a) Identify the fundamental goal of interest groups in the political process.
b) Identify the fundamental goal of major political parties in the political process.
c) Describe two different ways by which interest groups support the fundamental goal of political parties in the political process.
d) For one of the forms of support you described in (c), explains two different ways in which that form of support helps interest groups achieve their fundamental goal in the political process.

As you can see, the long-essay form is not required in this scenario. Still, you will have to be thoughtful, well-written, and logically coherent in your responses. In other words, just because an essay may not be required, that doesn’t make this portion of the exam any easier than other exams offered by the College Board.


Politics is messy. If you haven’t already heard this kind of a statement, you will by time you finish up with just about any AP Gov study guide. Our point is that the US government is a complicated thing, full of contradictions, frustrations, successes, and failures. All of this leaves a little bit of a mess when it comes to content.

Unlike AP European History, for example, there is no real start and end date when it comes down to the content for the course. So, where does AP Gov begin and end? Well, it can vary from classroom to classroom and from teacher to teacher.

The College Board does provide a backbone of expectations for everyone taking the course. This includes

– Constitutional Underpinnings of United States Government (Federalism, Separation of Powers, etc.)

– Political Beliefs and Behaviors (How Citizens Vote, Public Opinion, etc.)

– Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Mass Media (Elections, Political Action Committees, Impact of the Media on Politics, etc.,)

– Institutions of National Government: the Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, and the Federal Courts (the President’s Cabinet, House vs. Senate, etc.)

– Public Policy (Lawmaking, the Supreme Court, Policy Agendas)

– Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (the Fourteenth Amendment, Judicial Interpretation, ACLU, etc.)

It goes without saying that students have a lot to cover in the AP Gov review process. Everything from how judges make decisions on any given case, the reason the US is primarily a two-party system, and even how newspapers can and have changed voter outcomes are all going to be covered in the AP Gov test.

To make matters worse, the US government is chalk-full of contradiction and debate. Clear and easy to interpret answers are difficult to come by in this class. Much of what you learn will center on debate and interpretation. But that’s just the nature of American democracy.

It takes a student with an iron will and stalwart drive to navigate the maze that is American politics. This is a major reason that AP Gov scores are comparatively low. There is just so much information and quite a bit of it can be confusing and intentionally contradictory.

Skills Required

According to the AP US Government and Politics Course Overview, all you need to take this class is to be “able to read a college level textbook and write grammatically correct, complete sentences.” As far as requirements go, that isn’t too bad.

But in order to successfully pass the AP Gov course and ace the exam, you will have to have a solid grasp on a few skillsets. The College Board describes the course’s goals and objectives as

– Describe and compare important facts, concepts, and theories pertaining to US government and politics.

– Explain typical patterns of political processes and behavior and their consequences (including the components of political behavior, the principles used to explain or justify carious government structures and procedures, and the political effects of these structures and procedures.)

– Interpret basic data relevant to US government and politics (including data presented in charts, tables, and other formats).

– Critically analyze relevant theories and concepts, apply them appropriately, and develop their connections across the curriculum.

According to these goals and objectives, the expectations are still high. Students need to be able to memorize quite a bit of detail for this course. You will not need to know every piece of legislation that has ever been passed by Congress, but you will need to be familiar with the process that it takes laws to be made.

On top of that, students need to be able to understand complex political theories, critically analyze them, and apply them to real-world situations. If you are not a news junky, now would be a good time to start if you’re considering taking the AP Gov course.

Finally, expect to draw information from a diverse cross-section of information. That means, you should be able to read graphs and charts on top of being able to apply statistical information to the political process. You don’t need to be a mathematician to fully understand the information for the course, but you should at least feel comfortable with these types of data sets.

It matters little whether or not students start off the AP Gov course with these skills highly developed. They can be polished and shined as you go through your AP Gov study guides. Gathering these skill sets is an achievable goal by time exam time comes around.

Is AP US Gov Worth It?

Taking the AP US Government and Politics course and exam is totally worth it. AP Gov actually offers you some unique benefits that other AP exams cannot. Students will develop key skills and experiences that will become hugely beneficial during their college years.

First, AP Gov encourages students to work on their essay-writing and critical-thinking skills. In order to successfully pass the AP Gov exams, students will have to get their writing and thinking skills up to the college level. Fortunately, working on these scholarly attributes will pay off in nearly every class you will ever take in the future. Whether you are taking Biology or Anthropology, you will be expected to think critically about the information presented to you. You will also most likely have to write about this information as well. AP Gov will better prepare you for these scenarios.

Also, by studying past and present forms of political debate, you inevitably will come across pieces of American history during your AP Gov review process. Taking AP US History alongside AP Gov is an excellent option since the two complement each other exceptionally well. If you opt not to go down this road, learning about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc. will serve you well in any history class that you will be taking in the future.

Simply put, taking AP Gov can save you money in the long run as well. As you are probably aware of at this point in your academic career, college is crazy expensive. And it’s not getting any cheaper. Earning a passing score on the AP US Government exam will help you shave off your college expenses by completing the coursework early.

Last, but not least, AP Gov will make you become a more informed citizen. One that you will definitely learn in this course is that policy and law are the cornerstones of politics, but these are often the most confusing and difficult to understand aspects of our current political system. By taking the AP US Government and Politics course, you will better understand how laws are made and the political process it takes for an initiative to become law.

Having a deeper understanding of these political dynamics means that you will become a more conscientious voter and political participant. True, there are many reasons to take any AP course offered by the College Board, but how many can make a claim like this?

Next Steps

Once you’ve decided that you want to take the exam, the best thing to do is ask your school about taking the AP US Gov course. Make sure that you’ve met all of the requirements that your school has set into place. Every school’s requirements are different so don’t assume that you automatically qualify to take the course.

It’s also important to remember that every AP US Government class is going to be different. Like we mentioned above, the AP Gov course can change depending on who is teaching it. Ask around about how the course is at your school. Who’s teaching it? How are they teaching it? Are they effective? These are great starting-off questions to getting a grasp on what will be expected of you as an AP Gov student.

Or you could do all of the legwork on your own and take the AP Gov exam after doing your own studying and APUS Gov review sessions.If you choose this route, work with an excellent AP US Government study guide likeAlbert.io and stick to a solid study schedule.

If you go this route, it would also be a good idea to pick up one or more AP US Government and Politics review books that are out there at most bookstores. You can check out this list of the best AP Gov review books and make the decision for yourself or ask a fellow student or teach at school which ones work best.

The typical AP US Government experience can be full of twists and turns, often resulting in difficult testing experiences, but that doesn’t mean acing the exam is impossible. If you work on understanding the political process, contradictions and all, you’re bound to score a 5 on the exam. Plus, you’ll work towards becoming a more active and well-informed citizen.

What do you think, is AP US Gov difficult? Let us know about your experiences with the whole AP US Government and Politics review process and what has worked and not worked out for you.

Looking for AP US Government practice?

Kickstart your AP US Government prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

You can use the resources below as you prepare for the AP Exam.

Click here for details about the 2018 exam format.

Sample Questions

You’ll find sample multiple-choice and free-response questions in the 2017-18 AP United States Government and Politics Course Description(.pdf/1.22MB).

Sample Responses

Student responses to past exam free-response questions are available on AP Central®.

Exam Practice Tips

Check out our Exam Practice Tips.

Practice with a Released Exam

The 1999 Released Exam is available for you to use as you prepare for the exam.

Free Response Questions and Scoring Guidelines


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.

Free Response Questions and Scoring Guidelines: login

The following resources contain the remaining available Free Response Questions and Scoring Guidelines for the AP United States Government and Politics Exam. To access the files below, you need to log into your College Board account. If you do not have a College Board account, you can create one by selecting ‘Sign In’ in the header and following the prompts to Sign-Up.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.


All documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated.

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