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Exam Skills

Free Response Help - FRQ/LEQ

4 min readโ€ขnovember 18, 2020

Fatima Raja


The free-response section of the CompGov exam makes up 50% of your exam score. So, yeah, that means it's a good idea to do well on the FRQ section if you want to score well. Which, like, why wouldn't you? ๐Ÿค”
Keep reading to learn how to ace the FRQ section!

FRQ Section Structure

You might be wondering what the FRQ section looks like, especially because every AP exam is slightly different. ๐Ÿคฎ
The FRQ section of the CompGov exam has 4 questions, and each one of them is a different style of question. Here are the types of questions:
  • 1 conceptual analysis question: In this question, you'll describe or explain a political concept in one of the six course countries.
  • 1 quantitative analysis question: In this question, you'll address some kind of visual stimulus that you'll have to analyze to explain a trend or pattern that you can connect to the course concepts.
  • 1 comparative analysis question: You'll compare and contrast political concepts/institutions/policies in different course countries.
  • 1 argument essay: a new question type where you'll write an argument-based essay (P.S. you can get a general idea of what this may look like by looking at the US Government past exam questions ๐Ÿ‘€)
Each question may have a few different parts, and the structure of past CompGov questions look like that.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-OO6Ofx9mPYSN.png?alt=media&token=f397f4a0-5a53-492b-80a0-4382d7bc0c7b

The vibes in this picture are immaculate ... Image from Pixabay

Look at High-Scoring Examples

A good way to score well on the FRQ section is to know what the exam graders want from you.
What makes a good FRQ response? What will get you/lose you a point? ๐Ÿค” You can figure all of that out by looking at past student responses. Doing this will help you learn how pretty much game the system.

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-J3p06MOoS3CN.png?alt=media&token=1783af1b-f464-4ff0-a51d-7328af962d07

This is what every AP student looks like when they're wrapped up like a burrito and studying Image from Pixabay

CollegeBoard actually releases the scoring guidelines for past FRQs, student samples, and how they scored, and the average scores for each FRQ. You can find all of that here.

Practice!

If you've played a sport ๐Ÿ„๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ or ever had any kind of hobby, you know that you may not have all the skills to do well at first, but you get better at it with practice. FRQs work pretty much the same way: you need to practice writing them to get good at writing them.
The good thing is that you can access past exam FRQs until 1999. That said, you should start practicing with the most recent prompts because they'll be the most similar to what will show up on your test.

Writing Games

I'll admit that practicing FRQs isn't my first choice of a fun activity to do. So, here are a couple of writing games you can do to make practicing slightly less boring.

Popsicle Stick Essays

Get a bunch of popsicle sticks or slips of paper and put a bunch of different political concepts/institutions, important vocab words, and the required countries. Make sure that you separate these things by color (ex. make the countries blue, the vocab words purple...) so you can tell them apart.
Draw a country, an important vocab term, and a concept out of the jar. Then, write about them. Explain how that term exists in the country you drew and what it means.
๐Ÿšจ This exercise will help you know what gaps you have in your CompGov knowledge and allow you to practice writing about the concepts you're learning.

Snowball FRQs

Have a few friends or classmates make up their CompGov FRQ prompts. This will work better if they're also taking the class or have taken it in the past (because they'll hopefully know what they're talking about ๐Ÿ˜‚).
Try this one when there isn't a pandemic happening.
Then, ball up your piece of paper and throw your snowball across the room (or at a friend ๐Ÿ˜‰). Everyone should pick up a snowball for themselves and reply to the prompt they picked up.
If you want, you can have another mini snowball fight and have different people grade the responses. Make sure everyone writes their name on their response, so they can feedback on what they wrote.

Past Prompts

If you decide that you don't want to practice FRQs from 1999 because they're outdated and you run out of prompts to practice with, you can change up how they're structured.
Just choose a prompt, and draw a different country out of a hat ๐ŸŽฉ. Then, respond to the prompt as if it's about the country you drew.

Closing Thoughts

Half of your CompGov score consists of the FRQs you write, so knowing how to do well in this section will help you ace the exam. Connecting the course content to the short answers you have to write may be a bit difficult at first, but you'll get the hang of it with some practice.

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