About AP® Human Geography Exam

In AP® Human Geography (AP HUG), students study the factors and processes that have influenced the use of spatial theories and landscape analysis to look into social and economic structures and how they affect the environment. In essence, AP HUG delves into the fascinating connections between people and the places they live, along with the methods and technologies used by geographers to discover these connections.

Our AP Human Geography exam guide will help you understand the course, the exam, and its format. By the end of this post, you’ll know whether AP Human Geo is the right fit for your college and career plans. Let’s get started!

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What Is AP Human Geography Equivalent to & Who Can Take It?

AP Human Geography is equivalent to an introductory college-level course in human geography or cultural geography. In most colleges, HUG is classified as a social science class.

AP HUG is typically taken by 9th or 10th grade students, and requires no prerequisites. However, students enrolling in the course should be comfortable reading college-level textbooks and writing well-structured sentences.

What Is on the AP Human Geography Exam?

The AP HUG exam assesses students on two aspects: their knowledge of the subject and the units covered during the course, and the skills they’ve acquired while studying these units. Each unit is further divided into multiple topics, which you can learn about in our AP Human Geography course description guide.

AP Human Geography consists of themes based on the National Geography Standards, published in 1994 and updated in 2012. The AP Human Geography curriculum focuses on five college-level skills. Listed below is an outline of the five skill categories and associated skills that AP Human Geography students must master. These skills serve as the foundation for AP exam tasks, and successful completion of the course ensures an understanding of:

The exam also tests a student’s knowledge of the three “Big Ideas” of the course themes. The big ideas are the course's foundation, helping students make authentic learning connections. These big ideas are often abstract concepts or course themes. The AP HUG “Big Ideas” are as follows:

  1. Patterns and Spatial Organization (PSO):

    Human society's spatial patterns and organization are based on political, historical, cultural, and economic factors.

  2. Impacts and Interactions (IMP):

    People, their environments, and historical and contemporary behavioral patterns have complex cause-and-effect relationships.

  3. Spatial Process and Societal Change (SPS):

    A spatial perspective examines how phenomena are related in specific places to examine human organization and their relationship to the environment.

The course material is organized into seven units of AP Human Geography, each with its respective weight on the AP 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 %

AP Human Geography Exam Format for 2024

The AP HUG exam tests students' understanding of course skills and objectives. It is two hours and fifteen minutes long and is divided into two parts: multiple-choice (MCQ) and free-response (FRQ) questions. Each section accounts for 50% of the overall exam grade.

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

Let us explore each of these question types.

Section I: Multiple-choice (MCQ)

MCQs have five answer choices and two types: Individual and set-based questions (5 to 8 sets of two to three questions each). You will be expected to do the following in this section:

  • Interpret maps and spatial data.
  • Demonstrate a solid understanding of how the world appears from a spatial standpoint.
  • Analyze patterns and processes at various scales.
  • Recognize various regions
  • Characterize and examine changing interactions between locations.

Section II: Free-response (FRQ)

The free-response part of the AP Human Geography test has three questions, each of which tests at least two units. It requires you to make connections between different subject areas and to analyze and evaluate geographical ideas. Verbal descriptions, maps, graphs, photos, and diagrams may be used as question prompts. Your essays must show analytical and organizational skills. Answer each question as it is structured; points are given for sub-parts, not the overall answer.

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Why take AP Human Geography?

Taking AP Human Geography can prepare you for college-level coursework, boost your college readiness, potentially save on tuition costs, and provide a strong academic foundation for your future studies. According to the College Board®, AP Human Geography is the most popular course taken by students in their 9th and 10th grades. 53% of the 221,815 students who took the AP HUG exam in 2022 earned a score of 3 or higher.

Let’s explore how taking AP Human Geography can benefit you:

Should I Take AP Human Geography?

Taking AP Human Geography is a good option for students who wish to develop critical thinking, analytical, and research skills, while also deepening their understanding of the world and fostering their interest in geography and global affairs. AP HUG provides insights into the interconnectedness of the world, helping students understand how human societies, cultures, and economies interact on a global scale. This knowledge is increasingly important in an interconnected and globalized world. The course also emphasizes the analysis of patterns and processes at different scales, helping you develop strong analytical skills that can be applied in various contexts.

Overall, AP Human Geography can offer you a broader perspective on the world, equip you with valuable skills, and nurture a deeper curiosity about the complexities of human geography and the global landscape.

What kind of student succeeds in AP HUG?

  • They ask "why" things happen or work.
  • They enjoy reading.
  • They link seemingly unrelated things.
  • They enjoy social studies courses and topics.
  • They use time well.
  • They understand cause and effect.

Is AP Human Geography Hard?

AP Human Geography is often regarded as one of the more approachable AP classes, though it does require extensive preparation. In high school, you must choose whether or not to take AP classes every year. Some high school students aim to complete as many AP courses as possible to earn college credits, while others opt for just a few.

Compared to other AP courses, AP Human Geography is generally considered less challenging. The AP HUG exam’s pass rate of 54% also demonstrates a healthy success rate, especially since it's often the first AP exam students take. However, it's worth noting that AP HUG is on par with a college-level course and can be demanding without a consistent study plan and regular practice.

The following is the AP Human Geography exam’s score distribution information:

AP Score 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019
5 16 % 14.9 % 15 % 11.6 % 11 %
4 20 % 18.7 % 20 % 22.1 % 18 %
3 18 % 19.6 % 19 % 24.5 % 20 %
2 14 % 15.0 % 16 % 10.9 % 17 %
1 32 % 31.8 % 31 % 30.9 % 34 %

Did you know?

In 2023, only 16% of students scored a 5.

AP Human Geography Review Tips

Make sure to incorporate the following strategies during your AP exam prep:

You will improve your GPA and ace your exam if you prepare with UWorld, take an AP Human Geography practice test, apply your course content knowledge and skills in the classroom, and follow a well-thought-out AP HUG study plan.

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Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

You may bring the following items with you to the exam:

  • Two No. 2 pencils with erasers
  • Two black or dark blue ink pens
  • The AP Student Pack
  • Government or school-issued ID

Please refer to the AP Exam policies and accommodations to learn more about the do’s and don’ts on your AP exam day.

Past AP Human Geography exams can be found on the College Board website.

The AP Human Geography 2024 exam will be conducted on Tuesday, May 7, at 8 a.m. local time.

Failing the AP Human Geography exam does not have a direct impact on your high school grade point average (GPA). Your academic year’s curriculum will determine your GPA. Your AP exam score has no bearing on your overall course grade.

AP Human Geography is usually taken in the 9th or 10th grade. Students are encouraged to take the course in 9th grade because it is a foundational course.

Exams cost $97 in the United States, U.S. territories, Canada, and DoDEA schools. If you’re taking the test from outside these locations, it will cost you $127 per exam. Exams administered at College Board-authorized testing centers outside the United States incur varying fees.


  1. (2023). Most Popular AP® Courses. College Board. Retrieved November 15, 2023, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/start-expand-ap-program/build/most-popular-ap-courses
  2. Packer, T. (2023, June 29). 2023 AP Human Geography scores. Twitter. Retrieved November 15, 2023, from https://twitter.com/AP_Trevor/status/1674524783189295104?lang=en
  3. (2020, Fall). AP® Human Geography Course and Exam Description. College Board. Retrieved November 15, 2023, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-human-geography-course-and-exam-description.pdf

Read More About the AP Human Geography Exam

If you understand the exam format, you will have an advantage over the competition. Therefore, we have compiled an easy-to-read article discussing the exam format, question types, and more.
It can be difficult to go through all of the pages of the College Board CED pdf. Click here for a quick summary of all the units, topics, and key course skills covered in AP Human Geo.
Wondering how to predict your AP test scores? Here is a detailed article on the AP Human Geography scoring system, along with a score calculator to help you estimate scores easily.
Take advantage of our simple-to-understand AP Human Geography Study Guide and the most effective resources created by experts to gain prestigious school admissions with ease.
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