What You Need to Know About the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam (page 3)
Background of the Advanced Placement Program
The Advanced Placement program was begun by the College Board in 1955 to construct standard achievement exams that would allow highly motivated high school students the opportunity to be awarded advanced placement as first-year students in colleges and universities in the United States. Today, there are 37 courses and exams with more than 1,000,000 students from every state in the nation, and from foreign countries, taking the annual exams in May.
The AP programs are designed for high school students who wish to take college-level courses. In our case, the AP U.S. Government and Politics course and exam are designed to involve high school students in college-level studies in political science.
Some Frequently Asked Questions About the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam
Some Frequently Asked Questions About the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam
AP U.S. Government and Politics
|Section||Number of Questions||Time Limit|
|I. Multiple-Choice Questions||60||Total Time: 45 Minutes|
|II. Free-Response Questions||4||Total Time: 100 Minutes|
Why Take the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam?
Most students take the exam because they are seeking college credit. The majority of colleges and universities will accept a 4 or 5 as acceptable credit for their introductory U.S. Government and Politics course. Some schools will accept a 3 on the exam. This means you are one course closer to graduation before you even attend your first class. Even if you do not score high enough to earn college credit, the fact that you elected to enroll in AP courses tells admission committees that you are a high achiever and serious about your education.
Who Writes the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam?
Development of each AP exam is a multi-year effort that involves many education and testing professionals and students. At the heart of the effort is the AP U.S. Government and Politics Test Development Committee, a group of college and high school government teachers who are typically asked to serve for three years. The committee creates a large pool of multiple-choice questions. With the help of the testing experts at Educational Testing Service (ETS), these questions are then pretested with college students enrolled in introductory U.S. Government and Politics classes for accuracy, appropriateness, clarity, and assurance that there is only one possible answer. The results of this pretesting allow these questions to be categorized as easy, average, or difficult. After more months of development and refinement, Section I of the exam is ready to be administered.
The free-response essay questions that make up Section II go through a similar process of creation, modification, pretesting, and final refinement so that the questions cover the necessary areas of material and are at an appropriate level of difficulty and clarity. The committee also makes a great effort to construct a free-response exam that will allow for clear and equitable grading by the AP readers.
At the conclusion of each AP reading and scoring of exams, the exam itself and the results are thoroughly evaluated by the committee and by ETS. In this way, the College Board can use the results to make suggestions for course development in high schools and to plan future exams.
What Is Going to Appear on the Exam?
Excellent question! The College Board, after consulting with teachers of U.S. Government and Politics, develops a curriculum that covers material that college professors expect to cover in their first-year classes. Based on this outline of topics, the multiple-choice exams are written such that those topics are covered in proportion to their importance to the expected government and politics understanding of the student. For example, if 10 percent of the curriculum in an AP U.S. Government and Politics class is devoted to the foundations of U.S. government, you can expect roughly 10 percent of the multiple-choice exam to address the foundations of U.S. government. Below is a general outline for the U.S. Government and Politics exam. Remember this is just a guide and each year the exam differs slightly in the percentages.
|I. Constitutional Foundations of United States Government||5-15%|
|II. Beliefs and Behaviors about Government||10-20%|
|III. Political Parties, Interest Groups, and the Mass Media||10-20%|
|IV. Institutions of National Government||35-45%|
|V. Public Policy||5-15%|
|Civil Rights and Civil Liberties||5-15%|
Who Grades My AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam?
Every June a group of government teachers gathers for a week to assign grades to your hard work. Each of these “faculty consultants” spends a day or so getting trained on one question. Because each reader becomes an expert on that question, and because each exam book is anonymous, this process provides a very consistent and unbiased scoring of that question. During a typical day of grading, a random sample of each reader’s scores is selected and crosschecked by other experienced “table leaders” to ensure that the consistency is maintained throughout the day and the week. Each reader’s scores on a given question are also analyzed statistically to make sure that they are not giving scores that are significantly higher or lower than the mean scores given by other readers of that question. All measures are taken to maintain consistency and fairness for your benefit.
Will My Exam Remain Anonymous?
Absolutely. Even if your high school teacher happens to randomly read your booklet, there is virtually no way he or she will know it is you. To the reader, each student is a number, and to the computer, each student is a bar code.
What About That Permission Box on the Back?
The College Board uses some exams to help train high school teachers so that they can help the next generation of government students to avoid common mistakes. If you check this box, you simply give permission to use your exam this way. Even if you give permission, your anonymity is still maintained.
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: www.collegeboard.com.
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.
- 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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