AP® Human Geography Exam Format

Every year, thousands of students take the AP® Human Geography (AP HUG) exam.1 If you have chosen AP HUG and are about to begin studying, it is important to familiarize yourself with the exam format. Understanding the exam structure can help you create a comprehensive and efficient study plan to reach your AP HUG goals. It can also reduce test-day nerves and surprises. This article answers questions that students frequently ask prior to exam day and provides all the necessary information about the AP Human Geography exam format and structure.

What Is the Format of the AP Human Geography Exam?

The AP HUG exam tests students' knowledge of course skills and objectives. It is two hours and fifteen minutes long and consists of two sections: multiple-choice (MCQ) and free-response (FRQ) questions. Each section makes up 50% of the total exam grade. The following is a breakdown of the AP Human Geography exam format by the number of questions in each section, their duration, and exam weight.

Section Question Type Time Allocated Weight
Section I 60 MCQs 60 minutes 50%
Section II 3 FRQs 75 minutes 50%

Section I: Multiple Choice

Section I is worth 50% of your overall score. There are 60 multiple-choice questions in this section, allowing for just one minute per question. It includes both individual and set-based questions (five to eight groups of two to three questions each). The MCQs cover the following areas:

  • Analyses of maps and spatial information
  • Demonstration of spatial awareness of the world
  • Interpretation of various patterns and processes
  • Regionalization
  • Examination of changing location interactions

Section II: Free-Response

Section II accounts for 50% of your overall score and comprises three FRQs that must be finished within 75 minutes, allotting 25 minutes per question. The FRQ section involves making connections between subjects as well as analyzing and evaluating geographical concepts. Question prompts may include verbal descriptions, maps, graphs, photos, and diagrams. Your essays need careful analysis and organization, with points awarded for individual sub-parts rather than the overall answer.

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Types of Questions in the AP Human Geography Exam

As mentioned earlier, the AP Human Geography exam has two question types that assess student proficiency in the three “Big Ideas.” However, simply possessing knowledge about the Big Ideas won't guarantee a high score. It’s critical to grasp how to respond to these questions effectively. The following is a list of the seven AP HUG units with their respective weights that you should focus on for your exam.

Units Tested Exam Weight
Unit 1 Thinking Geographically 8–10%
Unit 2 Population and Migration Patterns and Processes 12–17%
Unit 3 Cultural Patterns and Processes 12–17%
Unit 4 Political Patterns and Processes 12–17%
Unit 5 Agriculture and Rural Land-Use Patterns and Processes 12–17%
Unit 6 Cities and Urban Land-Use Patterns and Processes 12–17%
Unit 7 Industrial and Economic Development Patterns and Processes 12–17%

Section I: Multiple Choice

30-40% of the multiple-choice questions on the AP HUG exam will be based on stimulus material, such as map data, tables, graphs, charts, infographics, images, and/or landscapes. They will involve both quantitative and qualitative references, with each accounting for approximately equal proportions. AP HUG’s multiple-choice question categories in are weighted as follows:

Skill Category Exam Weight
1 Concepts and Processes 25-36%
2 Spatial Relationships 16–25%
3 Data Analysis 13–20%
4 Visual Analysis 13–20%
5 Scale Analysis 13–20%

Section II: Free-Response

Each FRQ presents students with an exact geographical situation or context to assess their ability to articulate, explain, and apply geographical concepts, processes, or models.

  • Question 1: has no stimuli
  • Question 2: has one (data, image, or map)
  • Question 3: has two (data, images, and/or maps).

At least two of the three free-response questions test students' spatial analysis skills. In this section, all five AP HUG skill categories are evaluated with the following weights:

Skill Category Exam Weight
1 Concepts and Processes 23–29%
2 Spatial Relationships 33–43%
3 Data Analysis 10–19%
4 Visual Analysis 10–19%
5 Scale Analysis 10–14%

The table above illustrates that both the multiple-choice and free-response sections carry equal weight on the exam. Consequently, earning a high score on both sections has an equal impact on your overall AP HUG exam score. It’s advisable to keep this in mind as you prepare for your exam and take enough AP Human Geography practice exams so that nothing catches you by surprise on the exam day.

AP Human Geography Exam-Paper or Digital Mode

The AP Human Geography Exam can be taken on either paper or in digital mode. There is no difference between the two formats. Both exams are 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and the course content for both exams is the same. If you are taking the AP Human Geography digital exam, take note of the following points. Firstly, you need to type your answers to the free-response questions. Secondly, neither handwritten nor photographed responses are permitted (unlike in the year 2020, when the College Board® made a concession).

Understanding the format is the first step toward success on the AP HUG exam. Now that you understand the AP Human Geography exam structure and what to expect on each section, you are ready to create an effective study plan.

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  1. 1(2021, July 14). AP Human Geography Exam: 2021 Results. College Board All Access. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from
  2. (2023). AP Human Geography. College Board. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from
  3. (2020, Fall). AP® Human Geography COURSE AND EXAM DESCRIPTION. College Board. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from

Read More About the AP Human Geography Exam

Need a summary of the AP HUG course? Save time by reading UWorld’s AP Human Geography curriculum guide—providing clear information on the units, topics, and key concepts of your course.
A complete scoring guide is here! This article will teach you everything about how the AP HUG exam is scored, score distribution, and the average score required for college credit.
Do you want to know the most effective strategies and resources for getting the best AP Human Geography score possible? We’ve compiled everything here for you—UWorld’s AP HUG study guide.
Want to find out if AP Human Geography suits you? Check out our all-in-one AP HUG exam guide to learn everything about the exam prerequisites, difficulties, and benefits of studying.
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