FRQ: Conceptual Analysis

4 min readjune 11, 2020

fatima

Fatima Raja


It’s very likely that you’re coming into AP United States Government and Politics or AP Comparative Government and Politics with some idea of how to write an FRQ (it stands for Free Response Question, by the way). Maybe you did it in WHAP or APUSH, but the AP GOPO FRQ 1 is a bit different. 
It’s focused more on analyzing a situation and less on explaining what happened at some point in history. It’ll make more sense when you see it broken down, so let’s get to it!

Timing

You have an hour and 40 minutes to finish the entire Free-Response Question section. It’s important to use your time effectively because the FRQ section is worth half of your score.
Because of that, you should spend around 20 minutes (maybe a bit less or more) on the first Free-Response Question. 

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I honestly don’t even think that’s possible.
The best way to cut down the time it takes you on these questions is to make sure you know how to apply the concepts you’ve learned in class to whatever situation you’re given and to do practice FRQs.
That way, you can get these skills down to muscle-memory and not be too stressed when you get to test day!

Structure

You’re going to be given a situation, and, yeah, that’s kinda vague. Keep reading, though.
It means that the situation you’re given is kind of a problem. The situation is going to be a political one, whether it be process or institution. It’s going to be realistic, so don’t worry about needing to figure out some completely out-of-the-blue scenario. 
There’s three parts to the first FRQ. 
In the three parts, you could be asked to describe a few different things, including but not limited to how a political institution could act to solve a problem, what a group and/or institution could say to advocate for their position, what potential obstacles could be encountered, and/or what implications a choice could have on people.
To sum it up, you’ll be asked to break down a situation in a few different ways and take into account the various perspectives that the situation could be viewed from. 
Now that you know what to expect, let’s figure out how to tackle the concept FRQ!

An Effective Approach

Here’s what you need to do to tackle this FRQ quickly and thoroughly:
Start by skimming the questions that you’re presented with. You may have been told that you should never skim anything that you need to understand. That isn’t true all the time, though. In cases where you don’t have all the time in the world, like on an exam, skimming is fine if you make sure that you’re still understanding what you read.
Underline key-words! This doesn’t mean that you underline the entire passage. Instead, focus on references to laws, countries, political systems, constitutional amendments, or well-known interest groups, as they will probably guide you towards how you should answer the prompts.
Write out ideas for how to answer each part of the question as you read the situation you’re given. This way, when you get to writing out your response, you already know exactly what you’re going to say, and you can elaborate or change the answer as needed. Remember, nothing written in your prompt book counts, though!
Get to writing! One way to ensure that the graders know that you’re fully answering the prompt is to use the prompt as the stem to the first sentence that you write answering it. That way, it’s impossible to miss. 
Answer the prompt fully. This is critical to ensuring you get full points. So, if the prompt asks which branch of government would resolve a constitutional question, don’t just say that lawyers would present arguments about it to a court. Make your answer explicit: the judicial branch would decide how to interpret the issue!
Or, if you’re in CompGov, don’t just vaguely refer to countries with democracies or countries with authoritarian governments. Name them and explain which governance structure they have. Then, tie it all back to the prompt!

Some Last Tips!

Practice! Practice! Oh, and practice! You may not be able to practice writing FRQs every single night, but try to get at least one in over the weekend. This will help you get familiar with the structure. 
Breathe! Don’t freak out. You may be feeling the pressure, but you’ve been prepping for this all year (or all semester). You put in the work, and you’ll be fine! Keeping a cool head will help you get the best score you can.

Practice Prompts!

Here are some prompts to get you started on practicing:

AP GOPO

Since the recent resignation of two Federal Election Commission members, the lack of quorum has prevented the Commission from being able to create rules needed to protect elections. The president has nominated an extremely conservative talk-show radio-host to be on the Commission, breaking with the tradition of nominating one Democrat and one Republican to maintain neutrality in election rule-making. The Senate is refusing to confirm the President’s nominee.
  1. Describe how the president could utilize their bully pulpit to speed up the confirmation process.
  2. Explain why it is important for independent agencies to be immune to partisanship when carrying out their duties.
  3. Explain how partisan divisions could prevent the president from successfully pressuring the Senate as described in Part A.

AP CompGov

Countries around the world allow different degrees of freedom for the press:
  1. Describe two functions that the press serves in the context of a government.
  2. Identify one way journalists ensure that sources continue to communicate with them. Explain how this helps the press expose corruption. 
  3. Explain how citizen-journalism can contribute to serving as a check on the government.

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