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2021 AP US Government & Politics Exam Guide

11 min readfebruary 24, 2021


AP US Government 🏛️

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Your guide to the 2021 AP US Government & Politics Exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We have created a study plan that will help you crush your AP English Literature exam. We will continue to update this guide with more information about the 2021 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you score that 5. Create a Fiveable account and join our Discord to stay involved in all things AP exams! 😁

Resources:

Format of the 2021 AP US Gov Exam

This year, all AP exams will cover all units and essay types. The 2021 US Government and Politics  exam format will be:
Section I
  • Multiple Choice (accounts for 50% of your score) 📃
    • 55 questions
    • 80 minutes
Section II
  • Free Response (accounts for 50% of your score) ✍
    • 4 questions
      • #1—Concept Application 📝
      • #2—Quantitative Analysis 📈
      • #3—Supreme Court Case Comparison Essay ⚖
      • #4—Argumentative Essay 🗳
    • 100 minutes

Argument Essay Scoring Rubric for the 2021 AP US Gov exam

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Courtesy of College Board

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Courtesy of College Board

When is the 2021 AP Gov exam and how do I take it?

The 2021 exam schedule provides 3 testing dates for each subject between early May and mid-June. Paper or digital exams are offered, depending on the subject and exam date. The tests will be taken in person at your school unless your AP Coordinator has indicated otherwise. Here is what we know from College Board so far:
  • Administration 1 of the AP Gov exam is on May 3 at 8 am, your local time—this will be a paper test at your school.
  • Administration 2 of the AP Gov exam is on May 20 at 12 pm EDT—this will be digital, in school and at home.
  • Administration 3 of the AP Gov exam is on June 3 at 12 pm EDT—this will be digital, in school and at home.
You will have 3 hours to take the exam, regardless of which Administration you take or if it is in school or at home. We will have more updates from the College Board soon, but as of now, this is what we know! Bookmark this guide to stay up to date on the latest 2021 exam news. 

How should I prepare for the AP Gov exam?

  • First, you need to take stock of your progress in the course so far so that you can build your study plan according to your needs. Download a 1-page Cram Chart PDF for AP Gov so that you can see a map of the entire course and quickly spot your weak areas that you need to focus on.
  • Then, create your study plan by focusing on your learning styles and areas to improve. Which types of questions do you need to practice more? We’ve put together this plan to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam.
  • Importantly, don't only study by yourself. Social learning is highly effective and helps you solidify what you are studying. Join our Discord channel to talk to real students just like you studying for this exam! We have TAs in each subject channel to support students in Discord this Spring.
  • Finally, build your study schedule in advance! We highly suggest making your study schedule ahead of time so that you can easily join interactive study sessions such as live streams, voice chats, and study groups.

Pre-work: set up your study environment

Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means you’ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual. 
🖥 Create a study space.
Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space. 
📚 Organize your study materials.
Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!
📅 Plan designated times for studying.
The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.
🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.
How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!
🤝 Get support from your peers. 
There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join our Discord channel to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together!

AP US Government & Politics 2021 Study Plan

🏛️Unit 1: Foundations of American Democracy

Big takeaways:

Unit 1 introduces the concept of democracy and its various forms. The documents that first started the United States are analyzed by looking at the challenges and promises associated with each. The division of power within our government: individual rights vs government authority and state vs federal government powers are at the heart of this unit and discussed within each founding document. 

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📰 Check out these articles:
✍️ Practice:

Resources:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

Resources:

⚖️ Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government

Big takeaways:

Unit 2 dives into the separation of powers between our three branches of government. It looks at the specific powers of each branch as outlined in the Constitution and how each branch has grown in power through the years. The system of checks and balances and the role each branch plays in holding the other accountable is analyzed. 

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
  • Legislative and Judicial Branch Review: This stream provides a review of the legislative and judicial branches including their powers and role within the federal government.
  • Powers of the Presidency This stream provides a review of the executive branch including its powers and role within the federal government.
  • Separation of Powers/Checks and Balances: This video from Crash Course reviews the separation of powers between the three branches of government. It also looks at the ways each branch “checks” the other. 
📰 Check out these articles:
✍️ Practice:

Resources:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

Resources:

✊ Unit 3: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Big takeaways:

Unit 3 takes the principles of our government established in Units 1 and 2 to analyze maintaining those principles while balancing liberty and order. The role of the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment in guaranteeing civil rights and liberties for all citizens is at the heart of this unit.  

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
  • First and Second Amendments: This stream looks at what the first and second amendments say, how they have been interpreted and some of the major Supreme Court cases around them.
  • Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: This video from crash course provides a review of the civil liberties and civil rights guaranteed to US citizens. It also looks at the way the Bill of Rights has been interpreted since its inception in relation to liberties and rights.
  • The 14th Amendment: This stream breaks down the 14th amendment and many of the key terms associated with it: due process, equal protection, incorporation, citizenship, and privileges or immunities clause. 
  • Required Supreme Court Cases from 1st-10th Amendments: This stream reviews Supreme Court cases about the 1st-10th Amendments and how they protect civil liberties today!
📰 Check out these articles:
✍️ Practice:

Resources:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

Resources:

🐘Unit 4: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

Big takeaways:

Unit 4 focuses on political ideology - the idea that there are different and consistent patterns of beliefs about political values and the role of government within the context that we live in. This unit will discuss the different American ideologies and how major parties influence them.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📰 Check out these articles:
✍️ Practice:

Resources:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

Resources:

🗳Unit 5: Political Participation

Big takeaways:

This unit focuses on how we, citizens, can participate in politics as well as how the media, finance and other factors play a part in our government and policy-making. 

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
  • Voting and Voter Behavior: Who votes and why do they vote? This stream answers these questions and explains the process of voting in the US in this stream.
  • Campaign Finance: Campaign finance isn't as scary as you think! This stream looks at the Federal Elections Campaign Act, hard vs soft money, Buckley vs Valeo, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, Citizens United vs FEC, 501(c)s, and more!
  • Media Ownership and Bias:  This steam discusses the growing concentration of media companies and how bias in media affects both policy-making and public interest.
✍️ Practice:

Resources:

🧐Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)

Definitely do this:

📰 Check out these articles:

Resources:

🏛️AP US Government - Free Response Questions (FRQ)

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📰 Check out these articles:
✍️ Practice:
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Resources:

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Browse Study Guides By Unit
🏛Unit 1: Foundations of American Democracy
⚖️Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government
Unit 3: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
🐘Unit 4: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs
🗳Unit 5: Political Participation
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
🧐Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
✍️Free Response Questions (FRQ)
✍️Exam Skills (MC, FRQ)
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