AP US Government & Politics Exam

Can you discuss the strengths of the Constitution? Do you understand the role of PACs in our political process? The AP® U.S. Government & Politics exam tests the topics and skills discussed in your AP Gov course. If you score high enough, your AP score could earn you college credit!

Check out our AP U.S. Government Guide for what you need to know about the exam:

AP Government Exam Overview

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in his or her AP U.S. Government & Politics course. You should be familiar with the following topics:

  • Foundations of American Democracy: Ideals of Democracy; Types of Democracy; Government Power and Individual Rights; Challenges of the Articles of Confederation; Ratification of the U.S. Constitution; Principles of American Government; Relationship Between the States and Federal Government; Constitutional Interpretations of Federalism; Federalism in Action

  • Interactions Among Branches of Government: Congress: The Senate and the House of Representatives; Structures, Powers, and Functions of Congress; Congressional Behavior; Roles and Powers of the President; Checks on the Presidency; Expansion of Presidential Power; Presidential Communication; The Judicial Branch; Legitimacy of the Judicial Branch; The Court in Action; Checks on the Judicial Branch; The Bureaucracy; Discretionary and Rule-Making Authority; Holding the Bureaucracy Accountable; Policy and the Branches of Government

  • Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: The Bill of Rights; First Amendment: Freedom of Religion; First Amendment: Freedom of Speech; First Amendment: Freedom of the Press; Second Amendment: Right to Bear Arms; Amendments: Balancing Individual Freedom with Public Order and Safety; Selective Incorporation; Amendments: Due Process and the Rights of the Accused; Amendments: Due Process and the Right to Privacy; Social Movements and Equal Protection; Government Responses to Social Movements; Balancing Minority and Majority Rights; Affirmative Action

  • American Political Ideologies and Beliefs: American Attitudes About Government and Politics; Political Socialization; Changes in Ideology; Influence of Political Events on Ideology; Measuring Public Opinion; Evaluating Public Opinion Data; Ideologies of Political Parties; Ideology and Policy Making; Ideology and Economic Policy; Ideology and Social Party

  • Political Participation: Voting Rights and Models of Voting Behavior; Voter Turnout; Political Parties; How and Why Political Parties Change and Adapt; Third-Party Politics; Interest Groups Influencing Policy Making; Groups Influencing Policy Outcomes; Electing a President; Congressional Elections; Modern Campaigns; Campaign Finance; The Media; Changing Media

For a comprehensive content review, check out our book, AP U.S. Government & Politics Prep

AP U.S. Government & Politics Required Supreme Court Cases

For information regarding required Supreme Court cases to know for the course and potentially the exam, refer to the AP U.S. Government & Politics Course and Exam Description, Effective Fall 2020.

AP U.S. Government & Politics Sections & Question Types

The AP U.S. Government and Politics exam is 3 hours long and has two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free response section.


Number of Questions

% of Exam Score

Section 1

80 minutes

55 multiple-choice questions


Section 2

100 minutes

4 free-response questions


Multiple-Choice Questions

The AP U.S. Government & Politics multiple-choice questions test the following skills:

  • Application of political concepts and processes in hypothetical and authentic contexts
  • Application of SCOTUS decisions in authentic contexts
  • Analysis and interpretation of quantitative data
  • Analysis and interpretation of sources

AP Gov Free Response Questions (FRQ)

For success on the AP U.S. Government & Politics FRQs, you'll need to:

  • Compare: provide a description/explanation of similarities and/or differences
  • Define: provide a specific meaning of a word or concept
  • Describe: provide the relevant characteristics of a specified topic
  • Develop an argument: articulate a claim and support it with evidence
  • Draw a conclusion: use available information to formulate an accurate statement that demonstrates understanding based on evidence
  • Explain: provide info about how/why a relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome occurs using evidence or reasoning.
  • Identify: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.

Interpreting AP U.S. Government & Politics Scores

AP scores on the are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP U.S. Gov & Politics exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. Here’s how students scored on the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exams in May 2020:



Percentage of Test Takers


Extremely qualified



Well qualified






Possibly qualified



No recommendation


Source: College Board

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP U.S. Government & Politics content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.

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