AP® Human Geography Free Response Questions (FRQs)
The AP® Human Geography exam is divided into two major sections: multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and free-response questions (FRQs). In this guide, we will look at the exam’s FRQ section.
We will start by looking at the format of the AP Human Geography writing section and giving you tips to score well on the FRQs. In the sections that follow, we have also included a few examples of AP Human Geography exam FRQ writing prompts that have been used on the exam. By the end of this article, you will understand how to prepare for the AP Human Geography essay portion of the exam.
Format of AP Human Geography FRQ section
A frequently asked question is, "How many FRQs are on the AP Human Geography exam?" On the AP Human Geography exam, there are three FRQs: question 1 has no stimuli, question 2 has one stimulus, and question 3 has two stimuli. The stimuli can be a set of data, maps, and/or images. You have 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete all three questions, which is 25 minutes per question, though you may spend more or less time on each.
Each essay is graded on a scale of 0 to 7. The FRQ section accounts for 50% of the exam score, with each question weighted equally.
How to Answer AP Human Geography Free Response Questions
Here are some general tips for approaching the FRQ section of the AP Human Geography exam:
Before you get started, look over all the questions and begin with the one that seems easiest.
Starting with the easiest question can boost your confidence that you will pass this exam. Look for a topic you have covered in class and feel confident discussing it. This will also help bring other theories to mind, which will help with subsequent questions.
Address all parts of the question (A-G).
Read each part of the question and make sure you are responding directly to it. For example, if the task verb used in the question is “describe,” you only need to provide the relevant information. However, if the task verb is “explain,” you must provide the relevant information and explain why it is relevant to the question.
Use evidence from the stimuli to support your response.
To score well on the FRQs, refer to the stimulus material in questions two and three (there is no stimulus material for question one). Focus on specific data and details that support what you are saying. Be sure to explain how the evidence supports your idea.
Don’t worry about making spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes.
The graders understand that you are writing under time constraints and that your response is more like a rough draft. If you make a mistake or change your mind, simply draw a line through it and continue.
How can I practice AP Human Geography free-response questions?
The best way to prepare for the AP Human Geography FRQs is to use previously released questions from the College Board®’s exams.
Here are examples of AP Human Geography FRQs from past exams to illustrate the questions you will see on the exam. These questions come directly from the College Board Course Description Guide and are an excellent resource to practice with.
AP Human Geography FRQ Example
Women’s working conditions in formal and informal economies vary throughout the world.
- Define the concept of the informal economy.
- Describe ONE way that cultural attitudes or social norms may act as a barrier to women obtaining employment in the formal economy.
- Describe ONE limitation of using the gross national income (GNI) per capita to analyze women’s contributions to economic productivity in less developed countries.
- Explain ONE relationship between women’s economic empowerment and a decrease in the rate of natural increase in a more developed country.
- Explain the likely outcome on rural to urban migration as women gain greater access to education.
- Explain ONE likely obstacle for highly educated women who are employed in the formal economy.
- Explain the degree to which granting microloans to individual women in less developed countries may be an effective strategy for economic development.
Let’s look at these sample questions to see how you should approach them.
Part A is a straightforward definition. You should give the definition of “informal economy” in your own words. You might write that an informal economy exists alongside the typical productive sector of a country but it is not regulated by the government and is therefore difficult to measure, and is also not included in official measurements of economic activity, such as GNI per capita.
Note that there is no need to provide any examples, although you may include them if you are struggling to make your thoughts clear.
Part G requires you to argue for or against a certain position. You need to state whether microloans to women are a useful way to create economic development or not. To justify your position, you need to explain what makes the statement valid by providing evidence for (or against) the use of microloans to promote economic development.
Note that you shouldn’t argue both sides of the issue.
Source: College Board
Frequently Asked Questions
The AP Human Geography exam includes three FRQs: one with no stimuli, one with one stimulus, and one with two stimuli.
The FRQs are graded by high school AP Human Geography teachers and college professors who teach college freshman-level geography courses. The College Board provides rubrics that tell graders what to look for in successful essays. Essays are graded primarily on the quality of their ideas rather than their grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Handwriting is not considered while scoring; specially designated readers are available to assist in reading and scoring essays with unusually poor handwriting.
Students have one hour and fifteen minutes to complete the FRQ section of the exam. They may use the time in whatever manner they choose.
You can find released questions from past exams on the AP Central website