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 Advanced Placement® 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 AP Government and Politics exam is 2 hours and 25 minutes long and has two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free response section.


Number of Questions

% of Exam Score

Section 1*

45 minutes

60 multiple-choice questions


Section 2**

100 minutes

4 free-response questions


*Changes for the May 2019 exam: The multiple-choice section will include 55 questions with 4 possible answers. Students will have 80 minutes to complete this section.

**In May 2019 there will also be 4 free-response questions, and students will have 100 minutes to complete this section.

AP Gov Question Types

Multiple Choice Questions

The AP Gov muliple choice questions test the following skills:

  • Understanding of major course concepts, policies, and institutions
  • Comparison and interpretation in addition to factual recall

AP Gov Free Response Questions (FRQ)

For success on the AP Gov FRQs, you'll need to:

  • 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

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

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:

  • Constitutional underpinnings: the political and economic circumstances at the time of the framing of the Constitution; the motivations of the framers; the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation; the strengths of the Constitution; separation of powers; the nature and political impact of federalism; principles of democratic government; system of checks and balances
  • Political beliefs and behavior: the ideological beliefs people maintain regarding their government; political socialization; public opinion and its impact on policy; how and why citizens vote as they do; the methods of political participation; the reasons citizens disagree over political beliefs and behavior
  • Political parties, interest groups, and mass media: what parties do and how they operate; how parties are organized; how parties link citizens to government; how parties help make and use the rules of elections; what interest groups do and what makes them effective; the role of PACs and their impact on the political process; the types of mass media; the purpose of the media; the impact of the media on the political agenda
  • The institutions of government: Congress, president, judiciary, and bureaucracy: the structure and function of the legislature, executive branch, judiciary, and bureaucracy; the structural and political interrelationships of the institutions of government; the connections between the national government, citizens, political parties, public opinion, elections, interest groups, and the states
  • Public policy : the process of making public policy; citizen participation in policy making; the interactions between Congress, the courts, and the bureaucracy on policy making; the impact of elections in policy making; the participants in domestic and economic policy making; the limitations of domestic and economic policy making
  • Civil rights and civil liberties: substantive and procedural rights and liberties; the impact of the Fourteenth Amendment on rights and liberties; the consequences of judicial interpretation on rights and liberties
Most questions deal with the institutions of government, but the questions are nearly evenly divided among the four institutions. The questions tend to deal with the dynamics of how government operates within a political environment. For a comprehensive content review, check our our line of AP books.

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 Appendix B in the AP U.S. Government & Politics 2018-2019 Curriculum Framework.

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 exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. Here’s how students scored on the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exams in May 2017:



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 Government content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.