What You Need to Know About the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

How Is My Multiple-Choice Exam Scored?

The multiple-choice section of each U.S. Government and Politics exam is 60 questions and is worth one-half of your final score. Your sheet of little bubbles is run through the computer, which adds up your correct responses. Effective with the 2011 AP exam, points are no longer deducted for incorrect answers. Your score is based solely on the number of questions answered correctly. No points are awarded (or deducted) for unanswered questions or for questions answered incorrectly.

How Is My Free-Response Exam Scored?

Your performance on the free-response section is worth one-half of your final score. The free-response section consists of four questions. All four questions are weighed equally in determining your score on this section of the test. Each essay is scored on a scale based on the rubric for that essay. Some free-response questions may be scored from 0 to 6, whereas others may be scored from 0 to 11. Every year, ETS, the U.S. Government and Politics Development Committee, and the chief faculty consultant reevaluate the weighting formulas.

How Is My Final Grade Determined and What Does It Mean?

The composite score for the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam is 120. The composite score is determined by adding the score from the multiple-choice section to the score from the essay section and rounding that sum to the nearest whole number.

Over the years there has been an observable trend indicating the number of points required to achieve a specific grade. Data released from previous AP U.S. Government and Politics exams, which show the approximate ranges for the five scores, are summarized in the following table:

U.S. Government and Politics


Composite Score Range AP Grade Interpretation
Mid 80s - 120 5 Extremely well qualified for college credit
Mid 70s - mid 80s 4 Well qualified
High 40s - mid 70s 3 Qualified
High 20s - high 40s 2 Possibly qualified
0 - high 20s 1 Not Qualified


(The ranges change from year to year—use this only as an approximate guideline.)

How Do I Register and How Much Does It Cost?

If you are enrolled in AP U.S. Government and Politics in your high school, your teacher is going to provide all of these details, but a quick summary will not hurt. After all, you do not have to enroll in the AP course to register for and complete the AP exam. When in doubt, the best source of information is the College Board’s Web site:

In 2009 the fee for taking the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam was $86. Students who demonstrate a financial need may receive a $22 refund to help offset the cost of testing. There are also several optional fees that must be paid if you want your scores rushed to you or if you wish to receive multiple grade reports.

The coordinator of the AP program at your school will inform you where and when you will take the exam. If you live in a small community, your exam may not be administered at your school, so be sure to get this information.

What Should I Bring to the Exam?

On exam day, you should bring the following items:

  • Several pencils and an eraser that does not leave smudges.
  • Black or blue colored pens for the free-response section.
  • A watch so that you can monitor your time. You never know if the exam room will, or will not, have a clock on the wall. Make sure you turn off the beep that goes off on the hour.
  • Your school code.
  • Your photo identification and social security number.
  • Tissues.
  • Your quiet confidence that you are prepared and ready.

What Should I NOT Bring to the Exam?

Leave the following items at home:

  • A cell phone, beeper, PDA, walkie-talkie, or calculator.
  • Books, a dictionary, study notes, flash cards, highlighting pens, correction fluid, a ruler, or any other office supplies.
  • Portable music of any kind. No CD players, MP3 players, or iPods are allowed.
  • Panic or fear. It is natural to be nervous, but you can comfort yourself that you have used this book and that there is no room for fear on your exam.


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