How To Answer the AP® United States Government And Politics
Free Response Questions (FRQs)

The AP® U.S. Government and Politics exam consists of two sections: Section I: multiple-choice questions (MCQs), and Section II: free-response questions (FRQs). In this guide, we will look at the FRQ section of the exam.

We will start by examining the format of the writing section of the AP U.S. Gov exam, giving you tips to score well on the FRQs. In the following sections, we have also included a few examples of AP U.S. Gov FRQ writing prompts that have been used on past exams. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to confidently prepare for the FRQ portion of the AP U.S. Gov exam.

Format of the AP U.S. Government FRQ section

Section II consists of four FRQs you need to answer in 100 minutes (1 hour and 40 minutes) and is worth 50% of your overall exam score (1 FRQ is worth 12.5%). Each FRQ in this section tests you on specific practices and skills you’re expected to master by the end of AP U.S. Gov.

Remember to plan your time wisely when practicing for the FRQ section. You’ll need time to read and understand what the question is asking, analyze the information given, then provide your answer with evidence, as-needed. It's important to create a plan for each FRQ that allows for enough time to read the question, plan your response, write it down, and then review it.

The table below describes each type of FRQ and what is required in each response. To make time management easier for you, we’ve also included the approximate time you should allot for planning, writing, and reviewing each FRQ.

FRQ Type Description Recommended time per FRQ
Concept Application
(3 points)
Explain the effects of a political/government institution, behavior, or process. Apply your understanding of course concepts in the context of an authentic scenario. 15 mins planning and writing
5 mins reviewing/rewriting
Quantitative Analysis
(4 points)
Describe the relevant data provided to you, along with a conclusion you have drawn from an identifiable pattern or trend in the data. Then apply your interpretation of the data in the context of a political concept. 15 mins planning and writing
5 mins reviewing/rewriting
SCOTUS Comparison
(4 points)
Describe and then compare or contrast case facts and holdings of a provided non-required case with those of a specified required case. Apply the non-required case’s holding in the context of a course concept. 15 mins planning and writing
5 mins reviewing/rewriting
Argument Essay
(6 points)
Make and defend a claim in response to a prompt, citing evidence from at least one foundational document and your course knowledge. Establish reasoning to support your claim and to refute/rebut an alternate claim. 30 mins planning and writing
10 mins reviewing/rewriting
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Illustration of the enumerated vs implied powers of Congress.

How to Answer AP U.S. Government and Politics Free-Response Questions

Here are some general tips for how to answer AP Gov FRQs:

  1. Start with the prompt that seems easiest

    Starting with the easiest question can boost your confidence on the exam. Quantitative Analysis is the easiest for some students because it does not require them to read documents to answer the question. The Concept Application is easier for other students because it is less complex. Many students choose to answer the Argument FRQ last because it is the only one that requires an essay format.

  2. Use evidence from the stimulus to support your interpretation

    To score well on the FRQs, ensure you include paraphrased references to evidence from the stimulus materials. Focus on specific words and details that support what you have to say. For the Concept Application and SCOTUS comparison FRQs, refer to details from the provided scenario and Supreme Court case, respectively. For the Quantitative Analysis, identify specific data points and/or trends. Lastly, incorporate specific evidence from a foundational document and your course knowledge for the argument essay. For each FRQ, explain how the evidence supports your response

  3. You do not need to earn every point to score well

    Each FRQ is worth multiple points. Simpler tasks, like identifying, earn points, just as more complex tasks, like refuting opposing claims, earn points. Even if you have difficulty completing a FRQ, you can score well by completing as many parts as possible.

  4. Don’t worry too much about making spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes

    The scorers understand that you are writing under a time limit and that your FRQ is more like a rough draft. If you make a mistake or change your mind, simply draw a line through the mistake and keep going.

AP United States Government and Politics FRQ examples

Here are some examples of AP U.S. Gov FRQs from past exams to give you an idea of the kinds of questions you’ll see on the test. These questions come directly from the College Board Course site, an excellent source of course materials. Each tab explains one type of FRQ with an example and discusses the key points you need to consider while approaching them.

How can I practice AP United States Government and Politics free-response questions?

Practicing AP U.S. Gov FRQs is important before the exam, which is usually scheduled on the first day of every AP testing cycle. The more you practice, the more you understand the expectations required to perform well on the FRQs. The College Board site has past-released exams that you can use for AP U.S. Gov FRQ practice with scoring guidelines, student samples, and scoring distributions. Students who understand how to score according to the scoring guidelines tend to perform better on the FRQ portion of the AP exam. To understand how to use the scoring guidelines with your own work, try using them to score a pre-graded student sample, then see if your score matches the one it was actually given. If your score does not match, ask your teacher for support with understanding the scoring guidelines better.

Using an online prep that tests your content knowledge is also a great way to increase your understanding of content and perform better on both sections of the AP Gov exam. UWorld’s AP U.S. Gov question bank can help you learn and review materials effortlessly, so you retain more of what you learn! For each question, there is a mini-lesson that provides content you are expected to understand for the AP exam. Each question has explanations for the correct answer choice, rationales for the wrong answer choice, and a summary of the most important content you need to remember for the exam.

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Illustration of voter turnout in midterm elections.

Frequently Asked Questions

Section II is graded by high school AP U.S. Gov teachers and college professors who teach intro-level government and politics courses. The College Board provides rubrics that tell scorers what a response must contain in order to earn a point. FRQs are graded on the quality of their ideas and not on the accuracy of grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Handwriting is not factored into the score, and there are specially designated readers available to help read and score essays with challenging handwriting.

The exam contains four FRQs that you must complete within 100 minutes (1 hour and 40 minutes). Generally, you should budget the most time to complete FRQ 4 (the Argument essay).


  1. (2023). AP United States Government and Politics. College Board. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from
  2. (2023, Fall). AP United States Government and Politics Course and Exam Description. College Board. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Read More About the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam

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