Overview of the FRQs
So, you’ve just spent an hour in deep concentration on Part 1 of the AP Human Geography (APHuG) exam made up of 60 multiple-choice questions. But don’t lose focus, the free-response questions (FRQs) are Part 2 of the exam, making up the second half of your score!
The APHuG FRQs are quite different than those found on the history exams since there are no essays to write! Yes, you read that right, there are no essays to write! Instead, each one of the 3 FRQs is made up of 7 related questions/prompts that are each equally weighted and independently scored. Each of these 21 questions must be addressed on its own and many can be answered in a single sentence.
Even more than the multiple-choice questions, the FRQs are where the APHuG exam separates those students who merely took the course from those who truly digested and comprehended the content. Why do I say that? Well, the FRQs require you to truly apply your understanding of the concepts and to combine thinking, ideas, and material from multiple units of the course. This can be challenging, but can also be very cool, especially as they can make you realize just how much you have learned through the course.
The FRQs will present geographic situations that may be totally new to you, but that a student having taken the course should be able to address. The College Board is very clear that these FRQs are designed to cover all the skill areas of the course and that each of the 3 FRQs will cover at least 2 units of the course. They also explain that at least 2 of the 3 FRQs will require a student to think and explain concepts across geographic scales. The ability to think across scales and the crossover between units of the course really is what makes APHuG such a special course. If you are truly prepared for the exam, the nature of the FRQ section should neither scare you nor present any real problems.
While the first FRQ will not include any visual stimulus, the second will include one visual stimulus, and the third one will include 2 stimuli. These stimuli might be maps, charts, tables, photographs, etc. and some of the questions you are asked will relate to them. Just like with any FRQ on any exam, be sure you are answering the question(s) being asked.
Scoring of the FRQs
Before going any further, let’s talk about “points” for a moment. In the end, your score will be determined by a formula to convert your score on both the multiple-choice section and the FRQs into a number. This number will determine your final exam score (1-5) though the scoring range that will earn you a 3, 4, 5, etc. is different every year depending on the performance of the group’s scores overall.
So, though it says above that each of the 21 questions is worth an equal point, not all points are exactly created equal. Huh? Let me explain. Because the exam is made up of two equally weighted sections, one with 60 questions and one with 21 questions, all points are not created equal. Put a slightly different way, you might think of each multiple-choice question worth .83 points and each one of the 21 questions that make up the three FRQs worth 2.38 points. The takeaway? You definitely want to get through all the FRQs and answer all 21 questions since they are so valuable in earning a high score!
Time and Pacing
Whereas you are given 60 minutes for the multiple-choice questions, you will have 75 minutes for the FRQs which is a very reasonable amount of time for most students. Mathematically, it gives you 25 minutes for each of the 3 FRQs (or about 3½ minutes for each of the 21 questions you have to answer). Again, don’t stress, stay focused, and don’t dawdle!
In general, each of the 21 questions in the FRQ section can be answered very briefly, often in a single sentence. Once you’ve answered it, move on. Remember, you are not being asked to write any essays, only to answer the questions. If asked to define something, simply give the definition. If asked to give a reason for something, simply give the reason. No essays needed!
While sometimes, you will need a moment for the wheels in your head to spin and remember something, you don’t need to spend any planning time here like you would when writing an essay. Any reflection time here is best spent quickly thinking that you know how to answer the question(s) being asked and understanding the stimuli included in the second and third FRQs. The key to making it through this section quickly (aside from knowing your stuff!) is to be sure you are explicitly answering each question being asked. Remember that AP stands for Address the Prompt!
Tips & Tricks
Keep it simple: If you are asked to define a multinational state, your answer can begin, “A multinational state is…” There is no need here to give an example of one or a reason one might exist. Stick to the question you are being asked and move on!
Sometimes, the question will explicitly refer to stimuli. In these cases, again be sure you are addressing the question precisely as it is being asked. If you are asked, for example, about an issue that is shown in the photograph, be sure the issue you choose is something that is actually shown in the photograph. If you are asked for something that possibly explains data, be sure that what you write could actually explain the data, not something that might be explained by the data. (Remember what AP stands for!)
Always read the captions and any text included to explain/understand the stimuli. If there is numerical data, be sure to take into account the units being used. (For example, it might tell you that numbers being shown are measured in thousands or millions and your answers should reflect your accurate understanding of the data.)
If the question asks you to identify or define something, that is all you need to do. No need for any tangents or examples in these cases.
If the question asks you to explain or describe something, then you can take a bit more time and words to do so.
If you are asked to compare two things, remember that this can mean similarities OR differences (or both).
There are no rubrics here, only possible correct answers. In a few cases, there may only be one correct answer, but usually there will be more than one way to receive the point for each of the 21 questions. (Of course, there are many wrong answers or ways to miss the point. Just be sure to answer the question being asked.)
If you reach the end and have time leftover, read your answers through again, going back first to the ones you were most unsure about. It might be that something has jogged your memory and now you are in a better position to answer it. This is where it can help to have some blank lines leftover.
Example FRQ (no stimulus)
A. Describe a historical event or development that quickly led to a faster population-doubling time in the world or in a particular country/region.
B. Explain one reason that population tends to grow more rapidly in developing countries than developed countries.
C. Describe how rapid population growth could be beneficial for a country’s economic development.
D. Explain why population growth still occurs in many developed countries that have a zero or negative rate of natural increase.
E. Identify an example of a population policy designed to increase the rate of natural increase.
F. Identify an example of a population policy designed to decrease the rate of natural increase.
G. Explain how technology could have an impact on the population growth rate in the future either in the world or a particular country/region.
Tourists in Venice, Italy
Streetcar in Old City of Lisbon, Portugal
A. Explain one way that tourism can be an effective economic development strategy for a country.
B. Explain one way that tourism can be an ineffective economic development strategy for a country.
C. Based on the images above, explain an issue of environmental sustainability that tourism could create for a place like Lisbon or Venice.
D. Based on the images above, explain a cultural issue that tourism could create for a place like Lisbon or Venice.
E. Give an example of a possible government response to the issues created by tourism as illustrated in one or both of the images above.
F. Explain a policy used to attract more tourism to a specific country or place in a country.
G. Describe a specific example of tourism contributing to cultural identity or revitalization in a country or place in a country.