AP GoPo Free Response Questions (FRQ) – Past Prompts

12 min readdecember 29, 2020

Dalia Savy

Fatima Raja


Overview

We’ve compiled a sortable list of a bunch of the AP US Government & Politics (GoPo) past prompts! The AP GOPO essays (or all written portions) are 50% of the exam including short-answer questions (SAQs) and an Argument Essay. It’s important that you understand the rubrics and question styles going into the exam. Use this list to practice!
By practicing with previously released free response questions (FRQs), you’ll build critical-thinking and analytical skills that will prepare you for the exam. These past prompts have been designed to help you connect concepts and ideas to each other while applying your knowledge to real-life scenarios.
The GOPO curriculum was updated in 2018 to focus more on primary documents and have more specific course content outlines, but the past prompts are still a good resource to practice with!
If you need more support with AP GOPO, join us live for reviews, concept explanations, practice FRQs, and more!
All credit to College Board.

2019 FRQs

Qualitative Analysis

Interactions Among Branches of Government (Congress, Policy-making, interest groups)

Since 2008 the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian interest group, has promoted an annual event known as Pulpit Freedom Sunday. On this occasion, pastors are encouraged to challenge a provision of the tax law known as the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits political activity by certain nonprofit organizations, including religious organizations. While the Johnson Amendment does not restrict religious leaders from speaking out regarding social issues, it does prohibit them from contributing money to political campaigns or speaking out in favor or against candidates running for political office.
On Pulpit Freedom Sunday, as an act of civil disobedience, pastors and religious leaders preach openly about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking office.
  1. Describe an action Congress could take to address the concerns of the interest group in the scenario.
  2. In the context of the scenario, explain how partisan divisions could prevent the action described in part A.
  3. Explain why the Alliance Defending Freedom might argue that their constitutional rights are threatened by the Johnson Amendment.

What are they actually asking?

To carefully read the provided passage and then use the information provided to describe responses that Congress could take, potential partisan obstacles, and how an interest group could argue their rights are being threatened by the scenario.
Mean Score: 1.84/5

Quantitative Analysis

American Political Ideologies and Belief (political parties, polls)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-RIn9FcApjJlq.JPG?alt=media&token=3e575476-a066-4412-b39a-3da05ff3196f
  1. Identify the political affiliation of people who are most likely to believe elected officials should compromise.
  2. Describe the difference between Democrats and Republicans on their attitudes of whether government officials should stick to their principles, based on the data in the bar graph.
  3. Explain how the data in the bar graph could influence how a Republican candidate would shift his or her campaign positions after securing the Republican nomination for president.
  4. Explain how the data in the bar graph could affect policy making interactions between the president and Congress.

What are they actually asking?

Using the graphic provided and your knowledge of the AP GoPo course, analyze the data provided and apply it to the situations provided.
Mean Score: 2.3/5

Supreme Court Case

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (civil rights, Fourteenth Amendment)

In the 1950s, Pete Hernandez, a Mexican American agricultural worker, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison by an all-white jury in Jackson County, Texas. Hernandez’s defense claimed that people of Mexican ancestry had been discriminated against in Jackson County. They pointed to the fact that no person of Mexican ancestry had served on a jury in 25 years and that the Jackson County Courthouse itself practiced segregation in its facilities. The five jury commissioners, who selected the members of the grand jury, testified under oath that they selected jurors based only on their qualifications and did not consider race or national origin in their decisions.
In the ensuing case, Hernandez v. Texas (1954), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Hernandez, deciding that evidence of discrimination against Mexican Americans existed in Jackson County and that the Constitution prohibits such discrimination.
  1. Identify the clause in the Fourteenth Amendment that was used as the basis for the decision in both Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Hernandez v. Texas (1954).
  2. Explain how the facts in both Brown v. Board of Education and Hernandez v. Texas led to a similar decision in both cases.
  3. Explain how an interest group could use the decision in Hernandez v. Texas to advance its agenda.

What are they actually asking?

Using your knowledge of the 14th Amendment and Brown v. Board of Education, explain the decision and explain how you would apply it to Hernandez v. Texas.
Mean Score: 1.74/5

Argument Essay

Foundations of American Democracy (federalism)

The United States Constitution establishes a federal system of government. Under federalism, policy making is shared between national and state governments. Over time, the powers of the national government have increased relative to those of the state governments.
Develop an argument about whether the expanded powers of the national government benefits or hinders policy making.
Use at least one piece of evidence from one of the following foundational documents:
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • Brutus 1
  • The Federalist 10

What are they actually asking?

Using one of the documents listed and additional outside evidence, argue whether or not the expanded powers of the federal government is good or bad for policy-making.
Mean Score: 3.34/5

2018 FRQs

Qualitative Analysis

Political Participation (political parties, third-parties)

Political parties seek to win elections to control government
  1. Identify two activities that political parties do to win elections.
  2. Describe one way third parties can affect elections.
  3. Explain how single-member districts make it difficult for third parties to win elections.
  4. Explain how electoral competition is affected by gerrymandering.

What are they actually asking for?

Demonstrate your understanding of how electoral competition affects third-parties and is affected by gerrymandering.
Mean Score: 2.84/5

Qualitative Analysis

Political Participation (polls)

Public opinion polls are commonly used by politicians and the media.
  1. Identify two characteristics of a reliable scientific public opinion poll.
  2. Describe two ways polling results are used by politicians.
  3. Explain how frequent public opinion polls impact media coverage of political campaigns.

What are they actually asking for?

Demonstrate your understanding of polling by explaining what makes a poll reliable and how they are used.
Mean Score: 3.22/5

Quantitative Reasoning

Interactions Between Branches (vetos)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-Tie7r1Wbb8W8.JPG?alt=media&token=f9f273f4-b950-4319-8619-434623e2f2ae
The United States Constitution gave Congress and the president specific legislative powers. As a result, the interactions between the two are dynamic and complex.
  1. Describe the constitutional principle of checks and balances.
  2. Describe EACH of the following presidential powers in the legislative process:
    1. Veto
    2. State of the Union address
  3. Using the data in the chart, describe the relationship between the number of presidential vetoes and the number of congressional overrides.
  4. Explain how Congress can reduce the likelihood of a presidential veto.

What are they actually asking for?

Demonstrate your understanding of checks and balances by explaining the relationships between vetos, the State of the Union Address, and congressional overrides.
Mean Score: 3.21/5

Argument Essay

Interactions Between Branches (republicanism)

In a democracy, what the majority wants should influence public policy. The opinion of the majority is sometimes, but not always, reflected in policy change.
  1. Explain how interest groups reduce the influence of public opinion on policy.
  2. Explain how EACH of the following increases the likelihood of policy change.
    1. Newly elected president
    2. National crisis
  3. Describe the role of EACH of the following institutions in the policy process.
    1. The courts
    2. The media

What are they actually asking for?

Demonstrate your understanding of the policy-making process by explaining the influence of interest groups, the media, and public opinion and explain how different situations can affect it.
Mean Score: 2.42/5

2017 FRQs

Qualitative Analysis

Foundations of Democracy (Supreme Court)

The framers of the Constitution intended the Supreme Court to be politically insulated. Despite this intent, the Supreme Court is not completely insulated from political influences.
  1. Describe one constitutional provision that seeks to insulate the Supreme Court from public opinion.
  2. Identify a power exercised by the Supreme Court that acts as a check on another branch of the federal government.
  3. Explain how each of the following can limit the independence of the Supreme Court.
    1. Congress
    2. President
  4. Explain how the Supreme Court protects its political independence.

What are they actually asking for?

Explain how the Supreme Court maintains its independence from public opinion and how Congress and the President can limit it.
Mean Score: 1.78/5

Qualitative Analysis

Political Participation (Interest Groups)

Interest groups play an important role in the political process.
  1. Identify the primary goal of interest groups.
  2. Describe EACH of the following strategies used by interest groups.
    1. Lobbying
    2. Amicus curiae
  3. Explain how EACH of the following hinders the success of interest groups in obtaining their primary goal.
    1. Separation of powers
    2. Bureaucratic discretion

What are they actually asking for?

To describe the functions and goals of interest groups in policy-making.
Mean Score: 2.49/5

Quantitative Analysis

Interactions Among Branches of Government (Federal Spending)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-UzXOmnW4iqSY.JPG?alt=media&token=3d920b96-3905-4a69-9784-75bc1ab41c40
Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are all mandatory spending programs, also known as entitlement programs.
  1. Identify a change in federal spending between 1970 and 2023 (projected) based on the chart above.
  2. Describe the difference between entitlement programs and discretionary programs.
  3. Describe one demographic trend that has contributed to changes in entitlement spending.
  4. Explain why changes in entitlement spending make balancing the federal budget difficult.
  5. Explain how deficit spending affects the projected trend in net interest.

What are they actually asking for?

To describe how federal spending, including entitlement and discretionary programs, functions and is affected by different factors.
Mean Score: 2.27/5

Argument Essay

Interactions Between Branches of Government (federalism)

The balance of power between the United States national government and state governments is shaped by the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings.
  1. Describe EACH of the following constitutional provisions.
    1. Supremacy clause
    2. Tenth Amendment
  2. Explain how ONE of the following court rulings changed the balance of power between the national government and state governments.
    1. United States v. Lopez
    2. Obergefell v. Hodges
  3. Describe TWO advantages of federalism for the creation of public policy in the United States.

What are they actually asking for?

To explain how the relationship between the state and federal governments is shaped by constitutional clauses and has changed over the years.
Mean Score: 1.86/5

2016 FRQs

Qualitative Analysis

Political Participation (linkage institutions)

Linkage Institutions - such as political parties, the media, and interest groups - connect citizens to the government and play significant roles in the electoral process.
  1. Describe one important function of political parties as a linkage institution in elections.
  2. Describe the influence of the media on the electoral process in each of the following roles.
    1. Gatekeeping/agenda setting
    2. Scorekeeping/horse race journalism
  3. Describe two strategies interest groups use to influence the electoral process.
  4. Explain how, according to critics, interest groups may limit representative democracy.

What are they actually asking for?

Describe the relationships between interest groups, political parties, and the media as linkage institutions and the federal government and how they affect elections and policy-making.
Mean Score: 3.28/6

Quantitative Analysis

Political Participation (Demographics and Elections)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-SfblxpbKmbRM.JPG?alt=media&token=51f7a2cd-e71a-4b01-9d7f-ad4a811d039e
The United States is experiencing a dramatic change in the makeup of its population. These changes have political consequences for political institutions.
  1. Identify a trend depicted in the chart.
  2. Assuming that recent voting patterns continue, explain how the trend identified in (a) is likely to affect the electoral success of either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.
  3. Explain how the demographic changes shown in the chart above are likely to affect the way in which parties operate in Congress.
  4. Describe two specific actions that presidents can take to respond to the demographic changes in the chart above.

What are they actually asking for?

Describe how demographic changes will affect political parties and the electoral process.
Mean Score: 1.77/5

Qualitative Analysis

Interactions Between Branches of Government (policy-making)

The public policy process involves interactions between Congress and the bureaucracy.
  1. Identify the primary role of Congress in the policy process.
  2. Explain how divided party control of Congress can make the policy process difficult.
  3. Identify the primary role of the bureaucracy in the policy process.
  4. Explain how one of the following increases the power of the bureaucracy in the policy process.
    1. Rule making
    2. Bureaucratic discretion
  5. Explain how each of the following enables Congress to limit the power of the bureaucracy.
    1. Oversight hearings
    2. Power of the purse

What are they actually asking for?

Describe the policy-making process, its challenges, the bureaucracy's role within it, and how Congress conducts oversight over the bureaucracy.
Mean Score: 2.47/6

Qualitative Analysis

Interactions Between Branches, Political Participation (federalism, voting)

The Constitution limited the power of the national government and restricted popular control; however, citizen participation has changed over time.
  1. Explain how each of the following constitutional features protects against the concentration of power in the national government.
    1. Checks and balances
    2. Federalism
  2. Explain how one of the following features of the Constitution limited the people’s ability to influence the national government.
    1. Electoral college
    2. Selection of senators before the Seventeenth Amendment
  3. Describe a constitutional amendment that increased suffrage.
  4. Describe the effect of one of the following laws on citizen participation in elections.
    1. Voting Rights Act of 1965
    2. National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Motor Voter Act)

What are they actually asking for?

Explain how the power of the federal government is limited, how people's influence on the federal government was limited, how suffrage increased, and how the passage of certain legislation affected voter participation.
Mean Score: 2.93/5

2015 FRQs

Qualitative Analysis

Interactions Among Branches of Government (presidential roles)

American politics has often been called an "invitation to struggle." Although in recent years the president has been thought to have an advantage in policy making, there are still constraints on the power of the president.
  1. Describe a power of the president in each of the following roles.
    1. Chief legislator
    2. Chief bureaucrat or chief administrator
  2. Explain how each of the following limits the president’s influence in policy making.
    1. Civil service employees
    2. The Supreme Court
  3. Describe the influence of divided government on the policy-making process.

What are they actually asking for?

Explain how the president can influence policy-making as well as the limits that the Supreme Court, civil service, and a divided government could place on. them.
Mean Score: 2.5/5

Qualitative Analysis

Foundations of American Democracy (federalism)

The framers of the Constitution devised a federal system of government that affected the relationship between the national and state governments.
  1. Compare state sovereignty under the Articles of Confederation and under the Constitution.
  2. Explain how each of the following has been used to expand the power of the federal government over the states.
    1. Commerce clause
    2. Mandates
  3. Explain how each of the following has played a role in the devolution of power from the national government to the states.
    1. Block grants
    2. Supreme Court decisions

What are they actually asking for?

Describe how the relationship between the federal and state governments has changed and how different branches have played a role in that change.
Mean Score: 1.84/5

Qualitative/Visual Analysis

Political Participation (electoral college)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-OPJr6yPkdtMS.JPG?alt=media&token=471f1327-8da5-4dec-8b61-dee00cedf57e
The framers created the electoral college to elect the president of the United States. This system influences the campaign strategies of presidential candidates.
  1. Describe one reason that the framers chose to use the electoral college as the method to elect the president.
  2. Describe the message the cartoon above conveys about presidential elections.
  3. Explain why California, Texas, and New York do not appear prominently in the cartoon above.
  4. Describe two campaign tactics presidential candidates use to win the key states identified in the cartoon above.

What are they actually asking for?

Explain the electoral college, how it functions, and how it affects presidential campaigns.
Mean Score: 2.37/5

Qualitative Analysis

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (civil rights and liberties)

The Fourteenth Amendment protects civil rights and civil liberties.
  1. Describe the difference between civil rights and civil liberties.
  2. Identify the primary clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that is used to extend civil rights.
  3. Describe a specific legislative action that extended civil rights to each of the following.
    1. Women
    2. Persons with disabilities
  4. Identify the primary clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that is used to extend civil liberties.
  5. Explain how civil liberties were incorporated by the Supreme Court in two of the following cases.
    1. Gideon v. Wainwright
    2. Mapp v. Ohio
    3. Miranda v. Arizona

What are they actually asking for?

Demonstrate your understanding of civil rights and liberties, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Supreme Court cases affected by it.
Mean Score: 2.41/7

Was this guide helpful?

💪🏽 Are you ready for the US Gov exam?
Take this quiz for a progress check on what you’ve learned this year and get a personalized study plan to grab that 5!
START QUIZ
Hours Logo
Studying with Hours = the ultimate focus mode
Start a free study session
FREE AP gov Survival Pack + Cram Chart PDF
Sign up now for instant access to 2 amazing downloads to help you get a 5
Browse Study Guides By Unit
✏️
Blogs
✍️
Exam Skills (MC, FRQ)
🧐
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
🏛
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
Join us on Discord
Thousands of students are studying with us for the AP US Government exam.
join now
📱 Stressed or struggling and need to talk to someone?
Talk to a trained counselor for free. It's 100% anonymous.
Text FIVEABLE to 741741 to get started.
© 2021 Fiveable, Inc.