The purpose of the AP course in Human Geography is to introduce students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth's surface. Students employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human social organization and its environmental consequences. They also learn about the methods and tools geographers use in their science and practice.

The particular topics studied in an AP Human Geography course should be judged in light of the following five college-level goals that build on the National Geography Standards developed in 1994 and revised in 2012. On successful completion of the course, the student should be able to:

1.     Interpret maps and analyze geospatial data.

Geography is concerned with the ways in which patterns on Earth’s surface reflect and influence physical and human processes. As such, maps and geographic information systems (GIS) are fundamental to the discipline, and learning to use and think about them is critical to geographical literacy. The goal is achieved when students learn to use maps and geospatial data to pose and solve problems, and when they learn to think critically about what is revealed and what is hidden in different maps and GIS applications.

2.     Understand and explain the implications of associations and networks among phenomena in places.

Geography looks at the world from a spatial perspective, seeking to understand the changing spatial organization and material character of Earth’s surface. One of the critical advantages of a spatial perspective is the attention it focuses on how phenomena are related to one another in particular places. Students should thus learn not just to recognize and interpret patterns but to assess the nature and significance of the relationships among phenomena that occur in the same place, and to understand how cultural values, political regulations, and economic constraints work together to create particular landscapes.

3.     Recognize and interpret the relationships among patterns and processes at different scales of analysis. 

Geographical analysis requires a sensitivity to scale, not just as a spatial category but as a framework for understanding how events and processes at different scales influence one another. Thus students should understand that  the phenomena they are studying at one scale (e.g., local) may well be influenced by processes and developments at other scales (e.g., global, regional, national, state or provincial). They should then look at processes operating at multiple scales when seeking explanations of geographic patterns and arrangements.

4.     Define regions and evaluate the regionalization process. 

Geography is concerned not simply with describing patterns but with analyzing how they came about and what they mean. Students should see regions as objects of analysis and exploration and move beyond simply locating and describing regions to considering how and why they come into being and what they reveal about the changing character of the world in which we live.

5.     Characterize and analyze changing interconnections among places.

At the heart of a geographical perspective is a concern with the ways in which events and processes operating in one place can influence those operating at other places. Thus students should view places and patterns not in isolation but in terms of their spatial and functional relationship with other places and patterns. Moreover they should strive to be aware that those relationships are constantly changing, and they should understand how and why change occurs.

This course covers the following topics:

  1. Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives (5%–10%)
    1. Geography as a field of inquiry
    2. Major geographical concepts underlying the geographical perspective: location, space, place, scale, pattern, nature and society, regionalization, globalization, and gender issues
    3. Key geographical skills
    4. Use of geospatial technologies, such as GIS, remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), and online maps
    5. Sources of geographical information and ideas: the field, census data, online data, aerial photography, and satellite imagery
    6. Identification of major world regions
  1. Population (13%–17%)
    1. Geographical analysis of population
    2. Population growth and decline over time and space
    3. Migration
  1. Cultural Patterns and Processes (13%–17%)
    1. Concepts of culture
    2. Cultural differences and regional patterns
    3. Cultural landscapes and cultural identity
  1. Political Organization of Space (13%–17%)
    1. Territorial dimensions of politics
    2. Evolution of the contemporary political pattern
    3. Challenges to inherited political-territorial arrangements
  2. Agricultural and Rural Land Use (13%–17%)
    1. Development and diffusion of agriculture
    2. Major agricultural production regions
    3. Rural land use and settlement patterns
    4. Issues in contemporary commercial agriculture
  3. Industrialization and Economic Development (13%–17%)
    1. Growth and diffusion of industrialization
    2. Social and economic measures of development
    3. Contemporary patterns and impacts of industrialization and development
  4. Cities and Urban Land Use (13%–17%)
    1. Development and characters of cities
    2. Models of urban hierarchies: reasons for the distribution and size of cities
    3. Models of internal city structure and urban development: strengths and limitations of models
    4. Built environment and social space
    5. Contemporary urban issues

For more detail on the course topics covered in Human Geography, 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