The following strategies for answering the free-response questions were developed by faculty consultants to help you on exam day:

  • Answering essay questions generally requires a good deal of training and practice. Students too often begin to write immediately, creating a string of disconnected, poorly planned thoughts. You need to learn to attack questions methodically and to plan your answers before putting pencil to paper.
  • Carefully analyze the question, thinking through what is being asked, and identifying the elements that must be addressed in the response. Each AP Exam asks different types of questions. Be sure to carefully read the question to determine what is being asked and then plan your essay accordingly.
  • After you have determined what is involved in answering the question, consider what geographic themes you can incorporate into your response. If there is a map, chart, graph, or diagram with the question, study it carefully before beginning your answer. Review the evidence you learned during the course that relates to the question and then decide how it fits into the analysis or explanation. Does it demonstrate a similarity or a difference? Does it argue for or against a generalization that is being addressed? Does it ask you to identify and explain a certain number of examples or reasons? For example, if it asks for two reasons, then be sure to identify and explain two reasons in your answer.
  • Whenever you offer evidence to illustrate contrast or similarity, clearly state your intent. Then, with additional information or analysis, elaborate on the ways in which these pieces of evidence are similar or different. If there is evidence that refutes a statement, explain why it argues against the statement. Your answer should reflect an understanding of the subtleties of the questions.
  • Be sure to develop your answer to show that you have an understanding of the concept and how it relates to the answer. Use appropriate geographic terms, and reference to models or themes, when appropriate.
  • Thinking critically is important to show your understanding by adding information to explain concepts that may often come from more than one unit of the course.
  • You are encouraged to carefully answer each part of the question, labeling you response as it is labeled in the question (while using sentences and paragraphs). You should also give examples, use appropriate terminology, and apply relevant information in the development of your answer.
  • While essay writing in general is a valuable exercise, you may wish to work specifically on free-response questions from previous AP Examinations. This will allow you to compare your own responses with those that have already been scored and evaluated. Free-response questions are available through the Advanced Placement Program® in numerous formats. One of the easiest ways to find sample essays is to click on the Exam Practice link at the top of the page to find past years' free response questions and scoring guidelines for AP Human Geography.