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Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics, also known as AP US Gov & Pol, AP USGP, AP US Gov, AP NSL, AP GOPO or AP Gov, is a college-level course and examination offered to high school students through the College Board's Advanced Placement Program. This course surveys the structure and function of American government and politics that begins with an analysis of the United States Constitution, the foundation of the American political system. Students study the three branches of government, administrative agencies that support each branch, the role of political behavior in the democratic process, rules governing elections, political culture, and the workings of political parties and interest groups.[1] The course was redesigned for the 2019-2020 school year.


Topic outlineEdit

The material in the course is composed of multiple subjects from the Constitutional roots of the United States to recent developments in civil rights and liberties. The AP United States Government examination covers roughly six subjects listed below in approximate percentage composition of the examination.[2]

Foundations of American Democracy (15-22%)Edit

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs (10–15%)Edit

Political Participation (20-27%)Edit

  • Political parties and elections
    • Functions
    • Organization
    • Development
    • Effects on the political process
    • Electoral laws and systems
  • Interest groups, including political action committees (PACs)
    • The range of interests represented
    • The activities of interest groups
    • The effects of interest groups on the political process
    • The unique characteristics and roles of PACs in the political process
  • The mass media
    • The functions and structures of the media
    • The impact of media on politics

Interactions Among Branches of Government (25-36%)Edit

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (13-18%)Edit

Public Policy (Part of the Units)Edit

Required Supreme Court Case and Foundation DocumentsEdit

Supreme Court CasesEdit

Starting from 2019 Administration of the Test, the College Board requires students to know 15 Supreme Court case.[3] These 15 Supreme Court case are listed below:

Supreme Court Case Year Significant Law Applied
McCulloch v. Maryland 1819 Established supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws over state laws U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 1, 18
United States v. Lopez 1995 Congress may not use the commerce clause to make possession of a gun in a school zone a federal crime U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3
Engel v. Vitale 1962 School sponsorship of religious activities violates the establishment clause U.S. Const. amend. I
Wisconsin v. Yoder 1972 Compelling Amish students to attend school past the eighth grade violates the free exercise clause U.S. Const. amend. I; Wis. Stat. § 118.15 (Wisconsin Compulsory School Attendance Law)
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District 1969 Public school students have the right to wear black armbands in school to protest the Vietnam War U.S. Const. amends. I, XIV; 42 U.S.C. § 1983
New York Times Co. v. United States 1971 Bolstered the freedom of the press, establishing a “heavy presumption against prior restraint” even in cases involving national security U.S. Const. amend. I
Schenck v. United States 1919 Speech creating a “clear and present danger” is not protected by the First Amendment U.S. Const. amend. I; 50 U.S.C. § 33
Gideon v. Wainwright 1963 Guaranteed the right to an attorney for the poor or indigent in a state felony case U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV
Roe v. Wade 1973 Extended the right of privacy to a woman’s decision to have an abortion U.S. Const. Amend. XIV;
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. arts. 1191–1194, 1196
McDonald v. Chicago 2010 The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is applicable to the states U.S. Const. amend. II, XIV
Brown v. Board of Education 1954 Race-based school segregation violates the equal protection clause U.S. Const. amend. XIV
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 2010 Political spending by corporations, associations, and labor unions is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment U.S. Const. amend. I, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
Baker v. Carr 1961 Opened the door to equal protection challenges to redistricting and the development of the “one person, one vote” doctrine by ruling that challenges to redistricting did not raise “political questions” that would keep federal courts from reviewing such challenges U.S. Const. amend. XIV; U.S. Const. art. III; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Tenn. Const. art. II
Shaw v. Reno 1993 Majority minority districts, created under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, may be constitutionally challenged by voters if race is the only factor used in creating the district N/A
Marbury v. Madison 1803 Established the principle of judicial review empowering the Supreme Court to nullify an act of the legislative or executive branch that violates the Constitution U.S. Const. arts. I, III; Judiciary Act of 1789 § 13

Foundation DocumentsEdit

Same as Supreme Court Case, the College Board requires students to know 9 Foundation Documents.[4] The 9 Documents are listed below:

Foundation Document Year
Federalist No. 10 1787
Brutus No. 1
The Declaration of Independence 1776
The Articles of Confederation 1781
The Constitution of the United States 1789
Federalist No. 51 1788
Federalist No. 70
Federalist No. 78
Letter from a Birmingham Jail 1963


The Multiple-Choice section is analytical and the Free-Response questions is fairly consistent.[5]

  • Section I: Multiple-Choice (80 minutes, 55 questions, 50% of Total Exam Scores)
  • Section II: Free-response (100 minutes, 4 questions, 50% of Total Exam Scores)
Question # 1 2 3 4
Question Type Concept Application Quantitative Analysis Supreme Court Case(s) Comparison Argument Essay
Time Suggested 20 minutes 20 minutes 20 minutes 40 minutes
Percentage of Total Exam Score 12.5%

Grade distributionEdit

In the 2007 administration, 160,978 students took the exam from 6,306 schools.[6] In the 2008 administration, 177,522 students took the exam.[7] In the 2009 administration, 189,998 students took the exam.[8] In the 2010 administration, 211,681 students took the exam.[9] In the 2011 administration, 225,837 students took the exam.[10][11] In the 2018 administration, 326,392 students took the exam.[12] The grade distributions since 2007 were:

Final Score Percent (2007) Percent (2008) Percent (2009) Percent (2010) Percent (2011) Percent (2012) Percent (2013) Percent (2014) Percent (2015) Percent (2016) Percent (2017) Percent (2018)[13] 2019[14]
5 6.0% 12.2% 13.1% 12.5% 12.6% 12.5% 11.3% 11.9% 9.8% 12.4% 11.2% 13.4% 12.9%
4 18.9% 13.1% 17.0% 13.3% 13.9% 14.9% 14.3% 12.5% 13.6% 13.5% 12.5% 13.3% 12.4%
3 26.9% 25.2% 25.4% 25.4% 25.1% 24.8% 26.1% 26.4% 24.7% 25% 25.8% 26.5% 29.9%
2 32.1% 25.8% 24.2% 24.0% 24.3% 24.6% 24.8% 24.7% 25% 24% 24.7% 24.5% 24.8%
1 16.1% 23.7% 20.2% 24.7% 24.1% 23.2% 23.5% 24.6% 26.9% 25.1% 25.8% 22.3% 20.0%
Mean Score 2.6 2.64 2.78 2.65 2.67 2.69 2.65 2.62 2.54 2.64 2.59 2.70 2.73


  1. ^ "Government and Politics United States Comparative Course Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 9–13. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  2. ^ "Government and Politics United States Comparative Course Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 14–15. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  3. ^ "AP® U.S. Government and Politics Course And Exam Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 48–49. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  4. ^ "AP® U.S. Government and Politics Course And Exam Description" (PDF). The College Board. pp. 46–47. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  5. ^ "AP® U.S. Government and Politics Course And Exam Description" (PDF). The College Board. p. 80. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  6. ^ "U.S. Government & Politics Grade Distribution"., Inc. Archived from the original on 8 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  7. ^ "2008 U.S. Government & Politics Grade Distribution" (PDF)., Inc. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
  8. ^ "2009 U.S. Government & Politics Grade Distribution" (PDF)., Inc. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2011-09-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2012-05-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Packer, Trevor. "2012 AP Exam Score Distributions". Total Registration. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Student Score Distributions 2018" (PDF). The College Board. 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  13. ^ Total Registration (2018-06-20). "@AP_Trevor: "The 2018 AP US Government & Politics scores: 5: 13.4%; 4: 13.3%; 3: 26.5%; 2: 24.5%; 1: 22.3%. Kudos to these students and their teachers, as these are the highest scores in many years. (By way of comparison, just a few years ago, the percentage of 5s was 9.8%.)"".
  14. ^ Total Registration (June 28, 2019). "2019 AP Exam Score Distributions". Retrieved 2019-06-28.

External linksEdit