AP United States Government and Politics
This article relies excessively on references to primary sources. (December 2022)
Advanced Placement (AP) United States Government and Politics (often shortened to AP Gov and sometimes referred to as AP American Government or simply AP Government) is a college-level course and examination offered to high school students through the College Board's Advanced Placement Program. This course surveys the structure and function of American government and politics that begins with an analysis of the United States Constitution, the foundation of the American political system. Students study the three branches of government, administrative agencies that support each branch, the role of political behavior in the democratic process, rules governing elections, political culture, and the workings of political parties and interest groups.
The material in the course is composed of multiple subjects from the Constitutional roots of the United States to recent developments in civil rights and liberties. The AP United States Government examination covers roughly six subjects listed below in approximate percentage composition of the examination.
Foundations of American Democracy (15-22%)
- Considerations that influenced the formulation and adoption of the Constitution
- Separation of powers
- Theories of democratic government
Interactions Among Branches of Government (25-36%)
- The major formal and informal institutional arrangements of power; the Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, and the Federal Courts
Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (13-18%)
- The development of civil liberties and civil rights by judicial interpretation
- Knowledge of substantive rights and liberties
- The impact of the Fourteenth Amendment on the constitutional development of rights and liberties
American Political Ideologies and Beliefs (10–15%)
- Beliefs that citizens hold about their government and its leaders
- Processes by which citizens learn about politics
- The nature, sources, and consequences of public opinion
- The ways in which citizens vote and otherwise participate in political life
- Factors that influence citizens to differ from one another in terms of political beliefs and behaviors
Political Participation (20-27%)
- Political parties and elections
- Effects on the political process
- Electoral laws and systems
- Interest groups, including political action committees (PACs)
- The range of interests represented
- The activities of interest groups
- The effects of interest groups on the political process
- The unique characteristics and roles of PACs in the political process
- The mass media
- The functions and structures of the media
- The impact of media on politics
Public Policy (Part of the Units, embedded within all 5 units)
- Public policy making in a federal system
- The formation of policy agendas
- The role of institutions in the enactment of policy
- The role of the bureaucracy and the courts in policy implementation and interpretation
- Linkages between policy processes and the following:
- Political institutions and federalism
- Political parties
- Interest groups
- Public opinion
- Policy networks
Required Supreme Court cases and Foundation Documents
Supreme Court cases
Starting from 2019 Administration of the Test, the College Board requires students to know 15 Supreme Court cases. After the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Roe v. Wade was removed from the required case list. The 14 required Supreme Court cases are listed below:
|Supreme Court case||Year||Significance||Law Applied|
|Marbury v. Madison||1803||Established the principle of judicial review empowering the Supreme Court to nullify an act of the legislative or executive branch that violates the Constitution||U.S. Const. art. I; U.S. Const. art. III, § 2; Judiciary Act of 1789 § 13|
|McCulloch v. Maryland||1819||Established supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws over state laws||U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 1, 18|
|United States v. Lopez||1995||Congress may not use the commerce clause to make possession of a gun in a school zone a federal crime||U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3|
|Engel v. Vitale||1962||School sponsorship of religious activities violates the establishment clause||U.S. Const. amend. I|
|Wisconsin v. Yoder||1972||Compelling Amish students to attend school past the eighth grade violates the free exercise clause||U.S. Const. amend. I; Wis. Stat. § 118.15 (Wisconsin Compulsory School Attendance Law)|
|Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District||1969||Public school students have the right to wear black armbands in school to protest the Vietnam War||U.S. Const. amends. I, XIV; 42 U.S.C. § 1983|
|New York Times Co. v. United States||1971||Bolstered the freedom of the press, establishing a “heavy presumption against prior restraint” even in cases involving national security||U.S. Const. amend. I|
|Schenck v. United States||1919||Speech creating a “clear and present danger” is not protected by the First Amendment||U.S. Const. amend. I; 50 U.S.C. § 33|
|Gideon v. Wainwright||1963||Guaranteed the right to an attorney for the poor or indigent in a state felony case||U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV|
|McDonald v. Chicago||2010||The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is applicable to the states||U.S. Const. amend. II, XIV|
|Brown v. Board of Education||1954||Race-based school segregation violates the equal protection clause||U.S. Const. amend. XIV|
|Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission||2010||Political spending by corporations, associations, and labor unions is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment||U.S. Const. amend. I, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act|
|Baker v. Carr||1961||Opened the door to equal protection challenges to redistricting and the development of the “one person, one vote” doctrine by ruling that challenges to redistricting did not raise “political questions” that would keep federal courts from reviewing such challenges||U.S. Const. amend. XIV; U.S. Const. art. III; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Tenn. Const. art. II|
|Shaw v. Reno||1993||Majority-minority districts, created under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, may be constitutionally challenged by voters if race is the only factor used in creating the district||U.S. Const. amends. XIV|
College Board requires students to memorize foundational documents. The nine documents are listed below:
|Federalist No. 10||1787|
|Brutus No. 1|
|The Declaration of Independence||1776|
|The Articles of Confederation||1781|
|The Constitution of the United States||1789|
|Federalist No. 51||1788|
|Federalist No. 70|
|Federalist No. 78|
|Letter from Birmingham Jail||1963|
The Multiple-Choice section is analytical and the Free-Response questions are fairly consistent.
- Section I: Multiple-Choice (80 minutes, 55 questions, 50% of Total Exam Scores)
- Section II: Free-response (100 minutes, 4 questions, 50% of Total Exam Scores)
|Question Type||Concept Application||Quantitative Analysis||Supreme Court Case(s) Comparison||Argument Essay|
|Time Suggested||20 minutes||20 minutes||20 minutes||40 minutes|
|Percentage of Total Exam Score||Each free response question counts as 12.5% of the exam score.|
The grade distributions since 2007 were:
|% of Scores 3 or Higher||51.8%||50.5%||55.5%||51.2%||51.6%||52.2%||51.7%||50.8%||48.1%||50.9%||49.5%||53.2%||55.2%||57.5%||49%||48.6%|
|Number of Students||160,978||177,522||189,998||211,681||225,837||239,513||255,758||271,043||282,571||296,108||319,612||326,392||314,825||293,196||260,941||298,118|
- ^ "Government and Politics United States Comparative Course Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 9–13. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 23, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2008.
- ^ "Government and Politics United States Comparative Course Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 14–15. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 23, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2008.
- ^ "AP® U.S. Government and Politics Course And Exam Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 48–49. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
- ^ Schwartz, Sarah (August 4, 2022). "'Roe v. Wade' Won't Be on Next Year's AP Government Test". Education Week. ISSN 0277-4232. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
- ^ "AP® U.S. Government and Politics Course And Exam Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 46–47. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
- ^ "AP® U.S. Government and Politics Course And Exam Description" (PDF). The College Board. p. 80. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
- ^ "U.S. Government & Politics Grade Distribution". collegeboard.com, Inc. Archived from the original on May 8, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2008.
- ^ "2008 U.S. Government & Politics Grade Distribution" (PDF). collegeboard.com, Inc. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2009.
- ^ "2009 U.S. Government & Politics Grade Distribution" (PDF). collegeboard.com, Inc. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2009.
- ^ "2010 Student Score Distributions" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 28, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
- ^ "2011 Student Score Distributions" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
- ^ Packer, Trevor. "2012 AP Exam Score Distributions". Total Registration. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
- ^ Total Registration (June 20, 2018). "@AP_Trevor: "The 2018 AP US Government & Politics scores: 5: 13.4%; 4: 13.3%; 3: 26.5%; 2: 24.5%; 1: 22.3%. Kudos to these students and their teachers, as these are the highest scores in many years. (By way of comparison, just a few years ago, the percentage of 5s was 9.8%.)"". twitter.com.
- ^ "Student Score Distributions, AP Exams - May 2018" (PDF). The College Board. Retrieved December 24, 2022.
- ^ Total Registration (June 28, 2019). "2019 AP Exam Score Distributions". www.totalregistration.net. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- ^ "STUDENT SCORE DISTRIBUTIONS" (PDF). Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ "2021 Student AP Exam Score Distributions" (PDF). Retrieved July 6, 2022.
- ^ Total Registration (June 29, 2022). "2022 AP Exam Score Distributions". www.totalregistration.net. Retrieved June 29, 2022.