The AP course in Comparative Government and Politics introduces students to fundamental concepts used by political scientists to study the processes and outcomes of politics in a variety of country settings. The course aims to illustrate the rich diversity of political life, to show available institutional alternatives, to explain differences in processes and policy outcomes, and to communicate to students the importance of global political and economic changes. Comparison assists both in identifying problems and in analyzing policymaking. For example, we only know that a country has a high population growth rate or serious corruption when we compare it to other countries. Careful comparison of political systems produces useful knowledge about the policies countries have effectively initiated to address problems, or, indeed, what they have done to make things worse. We can compare the effectiveness of policy approaches to poverty or overpopulation by examining how different countries solve similar problems. Furthermore, by comparing the political institutions and practices of wealthy and poor countries, we can begin to understand the political consequences of economic wellbeing. Finally, comparison assists explanation. Why are some countries stable democracies and not others? Why do many democracies have prime ministers instead of presidents?

In addition to covering the major concepts that are used to organize and interpret what we know about political phenomena and relationships, the course should cover specific countries and their governments. Six countries form the core of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course. China, Great Britain, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia are all regularly covered in college-level introductory comparative politics courses. The inclusion of Iran adds a political system from a very important region of the world and one that is subject to distinctive political and cultural dynamics. By using these six core countries, the course can move the discussion of concepts from abstract definition to concrete example, noting that not all concepts will be equally useful in all country settings.

This course covers the following topics:

  1. Introduction to Comparative Politics (5%)
    1. Purpose and methods of comparison and classification
    2. Concepts (state, nation, regime, government)
    3. Process and policy (what is politics; purpose of government; what is political science/comparative; common policy challenges)
  1. Sovereignty, Authority, and Power (20%)
    1. Political culture, communication, and socialization
    2. Nations and states
    3. Supranational governance (e.g., European Union)
    4. Sources of power
    5. Constitutions (forms, purposes, application)
    6. Regime types
    7. Types of economic systems
    8. State building, legitimacy, and stability
    9. Belief systems as sources of legitimacy
    10. Governance and accountability
  1. Political Institutions (35%)
    1. Levels of government
    2. Executives (head of state, head of government, cabinets)
    3. Legislatures
    4. Parliamentary and presidential systems
    5. Elections
    6. Electoral systems
    7. Political parties (organization, membership, institutionalization, ideological position)
    8. Party systems
    9. Leadership and elite recruitment
    10. Interest groups and interest group systems
    11. Bureaucracies
    12. Military and other coercive institutions
    13. Judiciaries
  1. Citizens, Society, and the State (15%)
    1. Cleavages and politics (ethnic, racial, class, gender, religious, regional)
    2. Civil society
    3. Media roles
    4. Political participation (forms/modes/trends) including political violence
    5. Social movements
    6. Citizenship and social representation
  1. Political and Economic Change (15%)
    1. Revolution, coups, and war
    2. Trends and types of political change (including democratization)
    3. Trends and types of economic change (including privatization)
    4. Relationship between political and economic change
    5. Globalization and fragmentation: interlinked economies, global culture, reactions against globalization, regionalism
  1. Public Policy (10%)
    1. Common policy issues
    2. Factors influencing public policymaking and implementation

For more detail on the course topics covered in Comparative Government & Politics, see the Course and Exam Description.

Links to More AP Pages

Did you just take the PSAT/NMSQT?

If you did, it can help you find the courses that are the best fit for you.

Visit Student Score Reports (Opens in new window)
Course not offered at your school?

Talk to your counselor about taking the course online through an approved provider.

Learn how to get started