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Format of the New Exam

This year, the AP Environmental Science exam will look different than you were expecting. As we’re all on quarantine 😷 due to COVID-19, the College Board has decided to update the format and content of the test to fit an online testing format.

You’ll have 45-minutes to take the exam online and it will only cover units 1-7. It is good to learn the information from units 8 and 9 but they will not be assessed this year. Some of the information from the last two units overlap into the earlier units. It’s all worth knowing. For this year’s exam, focus on units 1-7

These units are on the exam. Click the unit to see the study guide! 

1 - 🏜 The Living World: Ecosystems

2 - 🐠 The Living World: Biodiversity

3 - 👩‍👩‍👧‍👦 Populations

4 - 🌍 Earth Systems and Resources

5 - 🏝 Land and Water Use

6 - ⚡️Energy Resources and Consumption

7 - 💨 Atmospheric Pollution

These units will not be on the exam:

8 - ♻️  Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution 9 - 🔥  Global Change

What will be on the test?

  • Two Long FRQs
    • Q1 = 25 minutes and will be 60% of your score
      • Design an investigation (FRQ 1)
    • Q2 = 15 mins and will be 40% of your score
      • Analyze an Environmental Problem and Propose a Solution (FRQ 2)

When is the exam and how do I take it?

May 18 @ 4p Eastern! Wherever you are in the world, this is the time you’ll take the test. Unless you have been approved for the make-up date in June, but only your school can request that. You’ll take the test online. There will be a practice simulation posted by College Board within the next few weeks.

How do I prepare for the exam?

With so many school closures and the stress of a global pandemic, this review season will be different than usual. If this is your first AP exam, welcome! Don’t worry, it’s not usually this chaotic. 

We’ve put together this plan for you to follow between now and May. This will cover all of the units and leave you time to practice questions before test day. Some classes may have done units out of chronological order throughout the year, which is ok. The units don’t have to be taught in order. If you are learning new material on your own and need some help, use the chat bubble on http://fiveable.me. We’ll answer any questions you may have. 

What resources does this study plan use?

All of the required resources are free. You’ll need to create a free Fiveable account to jump in. We’ve also linked a few other websites, articles, and YouTube videos that you can access for free. Some of the suggested resources include paid products. There are some documentaries that you can find on streaming sites with a paid membership and we’ll also list streams and practice questions that require a paid cram pass on Fiveable. We don't love the phrase "cheat sheet," but we know that many students are searching for a simple, 1-page AP Environmental Science cheat sheet, so we've made these free cram chart PDFs for download.


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. Print out any APES cheat sheets you plan to use. Get your self 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!


🏜 Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 1 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

The first unit sets up the rest of the course. It is a refresher of ecology topics learned in biology. If you have not taken biology yet, no worries. Here you will learn how species interactions are affected by various ecosystem resources, the global distribution of biomes, biogeochemical cycles, and energy transfers within food webs and chains.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


🐠 Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 2 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

This unit investigates the different forms of diversity and how that diversity to essential for ecosystems. Then it presents the impacts of ecosystems from both human and natural disturbances. The unit concludes by looking at organisms’ adaptations for survival due to the disturbances.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


👩‍👩‍👧‍👦 Unit 3: Populations

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 3 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

This unit discusses the different population dynamics within an ecosystem. First is a look at the species being a generalist vs. specialist and K- vs. r-. This is followed by how resource availability affects population grow and how that looks graphically. This units finishes with human population dynamics and the four demographic transitions.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


🌍 Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 4 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

This unit discusses the abiotic factors that influence life. Earth’s massive plates and their movements show that our planet is still changing. Soils also influence the type of life in an area from the topsoil to the bedrock. Atmospheric movements influence weather patterns and ocean currents. 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


🏝 Unit 5: Land and Water Use

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 5 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

This unit looks at how humans use the land and waters. This entails the harvesting of crops, meat, and fish along with the effects of harvesting on the land and water. The effects of overfishing, mining, and urbanization are also discussed. Lastly, this unit looks into your ecological footprint and sustainable practices.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


⚡️ Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 6 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Energy is either renewable or nonrenewable. Both types have impacts on the land, water, or air. Different areas of the world have different energy needs and availability. Conserving energy and finding efficient alternatives will extend the supply of our nonrenewables.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


💨 Unit 7: Atmospheric Pollution

🌶️ Join the live cram stream: 🎥 Unit 7 Review with Joshua Nielsen. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Atmospheric pollution has both natural and anthropogenic sources. Air pollution affects the health of an ecosystem and may harm humans. Many businesses are required by law to remove certain chemicals before releasing wastes into the atmosphere.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

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