AP® U.S. Government & Politics Score Guide

To get the score you want on the AP® U.S. Government & Politics exam, planning is key. Planning your study schedule is the first step to good exam preparation. An effective way to create a study plan is to understand the exam's scoring structure. This enables you to know your strengths and concentrate on the exam sections you find tricky or difficult.

If you plan on taking the AP U.S. Government & Politics exam and wonder how scoring works for it, look no further! In this article, we will explore everything related to AP U.S. Government scores. We will also answer a few commonly-asked questions from test-takers.

How Is the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam Scored?

The AP U.S. Gov exam format is made up of two sections. As you may already know, Section I contains multiple-choice questions (MCQs), and Section II consists of free-response questions (FRQs). The MCQ section includes 55 questions, and the FRQ section has four questions. One of the four FRQs is an argument essay. As of 2023, the total composite score for the AP U.S. Gov exam is 120, with each section carrying 50% of the total exam weight. The table below explains the number of questions and the composite score for each section:

Section No. of Questions Raw Score
Section I 55 MCQs 60
Section II 4 FRQs 60
Subtotal 120

Section I: Multiple-Choice Section (MCQ)

The total Section I raw score for the 2023 AP U.S. Gov exam was 60 points, with each correct answer carrying roughly 1.09 points. Your total score, therefore, is calculated by multiplying the number of correct answers by 1.09.

Are you penalized for guessing on the AP U.S. Government & Politics exam? No!

Because you are not penalized for wrong answers, attempt to answer every question, even if you have to guess. That will give you at least a 25% chance of answering a question correctly and add more points to your composite score.

Section II: Free-response section (FRQ)

In Section II, the scoring of the FRQ questions is a bit more complex. Each question is graded separately according to the criteria on the College Board®'s scoring rubric. Once all the FRQs are graded with the rubric, the scores are added together, resulting in a total score out of 60 possible points for Section II.

The scores from Section I and Section II are then combined to get your overall score out of 120 points. Finally, this composite score is converted to a number on the AP scale, which ranges from 1 to 5.

As of 2019, the College Board has discontinued releasing the AP Government scoring worksheet. The table and calculations may or may not apply to the upcoming AP U.S. Gov exam scoring criteria.

AP U.S. Gov raw score conversion

The College Board keeps the raw score conversion process confidential, and you can only see the scaled AP exam score (1-5) on your AP report. However, the table below is an approximation to help you understand how the score conversion range might work:

Composite Score Range AP Score
99 - 120 5
91 - 98 4
73 - 90 3
53 - 72 2
0 - 52 1
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AP U.S. Government and Politics Scoring Guidelines and Rubrics

Remember the scoring guidelines and rubrics we discussed earlier? Well, every year, the College Board publishes a document that helps students and teachers understand how points are allotted to each FRQ answer.

These scoring guidelines and rubrics can help you learn what kinds of answers can earn you points and what skills you need to focus on while addressing the FRQs.

You will earn points if your answer fulfills any or all of the following criteria, depending on the question's intent:

  1. Identify a clause, fact, excerpt, evidence, or context of the prompt.
  2. Describe and/or explain relevant facts and information pertaining to the question.
  3. State a claim in response to the prompt and support it based on evidence, documentation, data, and facts.
  4. Explain why a piece of evidence supports the claim or thesis.

The table below shows the number of points per FRQ for the 2021 and 2022 AP Gov exams. You can use the rubric to get a rough idea of how the FRQs are graded and apply it while practicing for your exam:

Section II Task Verbs Points Total Points
FRQ 1
Concept Application
Part A : Describe a concept, event or action 1
3
Part B : Explain (how or why) an idea/event in that specific concept 1
Part C : Explain (how or why) an idea/event in that specific concept 1
FRQ 2
Quantitative Analysis
Part A : Identify a characteristic or pattern in an event or an action 1 4
Part B : Describe the characteristic or pattern in the event or action 1
Part C : Explain why or how that specific event or action occurred 1
Part D : Explain the validity or impact of the data provided 1
FRQ 3
SCOTUS Comparison
Part A : Identify a specific clause or amendment established by the SCOTUS 1 4
Part B : Describe relevant fact(s) from the case(s) in the prompt
ORCompare the cases and explain the similarities/differences in reasoning of the decision(s)
1
OR
2
Part C : Explain how that decision can impact other case(s) 1
FRQ 4
Argument Essay
Row A : State and explain a defensible claim or thesis in response to the prompt 1 6
Row B : Use pieces of evidence to support the claim 3
Row C : Explain how or why the evidence supports the claim or thesis 1
Row D : Describe an alternate perspective and refute, concede, or rebut that perspective 1

Usually, a question has multiple parts, with each part containing a specific prompt. Typically, one prompt earns one point. However, in cases where you need to present various pieces of evidence or facts to support your claim, more than one point may be awarded depending on the number of examples or evidence you cite. This is most commonly the case with Part (b) of the SCOTUS FRQ, where you receive one point for identifying or describing a relevant detail about a ruling/opinion from a required case and then another point for using that detail to compare or contrast the required case with the non-required case. To learn more about these criteria, check out our How to Approach U.S. Gov FRQs page.

Now that we have reviewed the AP Gov grading criteria, it is time to examine how your AP scores affect your college applications. Let’s determine which AP scores can earn you placement, recommendations, and college credits!

AP U.S. Government and Politics Scoring Table

Your AP U.S. Government exam results are forwarded to the universities you have chosen for admission after being recorded on the AP grading system. Check out our page on AP Exam Scores if you want to learn how to send your AP scores directly to your college.

While each college may have its own requirements for admission based on AP scores, most colleges use a standard method to translate your AP U.S. Gov score into the corresponding college grade. The AP score table below shows the conversion of AP scores into equivalent college grades for the AP Gov exam:

AP Exam Score College Grade Equivalent Qualification
5 A+ or Extremely well qualified
4 A-, B+, or B Very well qualified
3 B-, C+, or C Qualified
2 Possibly Qualified
1 No recommendation

As you can see, colleges do not consider scores below 3 during admissions. The rule of thumb is to achieve a score of 3 or higher if your goal is to earn college credit for your AP Gov exam score. Make it a point, however, to still check the minimum AP course credit requirements for each of your potential colleges.

AP U.S. Government and Politics Score Distributions

AP Gov is among the most popular AP exams students take each year. This is because U.S. Gov is one of those versatile subjects that students like to pair with other similar AP courses like U.S. History, World History, and Comparative Government and Politics. In addition to complementing these subjects, scoring well in U.S. Gov can potentially earn college credits and fulfill graduation criteria. Another benefit of taking the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam is that it can amp up your career game.

Did you know? Of around 300,000 students globally, just 17 scored a perfect 5 on the 2022 AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam.

If you are preparing for the exam, it is recommended that you look at past years' AP U.S. Government score distributions to get an idea of how rigorous this course can be. This can also help you see if you are ready to add this heavy-weight course to your schedule, especially if you have already signed up for other AP courses. Let’s crunch some numbers below to get an idea of how students performed on the AP U.S. Gov exam during the last four years:

AP Score % of Students 2023 % of Students 2022 % of Students 2021 % of Students 2020 4-Year Avg.
5 13 % 12.1 % 12.0 % 15.5 % 13.1 %
4 11 % 10.9 % 11.6 % 16.5 % 12.5 %
3 25 % 25.9 % 26.9 % 25.5 % 25.8 %
2 24 % 25.7 % 25.8 % 22 % 24.3 %
1 27 % 25.4 % 23.8 % 20.5 % 24.1 %
3 or Above 49 % 48.9 % 50.5 % 57.5 % 51.4 %

As you can see from the table, scoring well on the U.S. Gov exam has become difficult over the past three years, with nearly 2% fewer students scoring a 3 or above in 2022 compared to students in 2021. In 2023, almost 332,000 students took this exam, with only about 49% scoring a 3 or higher. AP Gov is a challenging exam, but with the right study tools, course instruction, and dedication, you can be a 5-pointer student, too!

Did you know?

Only 43 students scored a perfect 5 on the 2023 AP U.S. Gov exam.

At Uworld, we believe that reviewing the course material regularly and taking frequent practice tests will help you form a solid foundation of core concepts. If you need help, check out our AP U.S. Gov practice exams with detailed answer explanations, quick notes, and flashcards to retain concepts efficiently.

Scoring pattern for the 2023 and 2022 AP U.S. Government and Politics exams

While knowing score distributions for an AP exam can give you an idea of your probability of success on it, try to be aware of the test’s scoring pattern, too. A scoring pattern tells you how students have historically performed in various sections of the exam, meaning it can help you gauge which sections are the most difficult and which sections are the easiest.

On the 2023 AP Gov exam, students demonstrated their impressive aptitude for knowledge in the MCQ section, especially with regard to SCOTUS cases. About 36% of students earned all the possible points in this section–impressive!

Students also excelled in their understanding of course content, with 24% answering all Unit 3: Civil Liberties & Civil Rights questions correctly–a remarkable achievement.

The highest overall FRQ performance was on Q2 - Quantitative Analysis. Students seemed to excel in this particular question across all exam versions.

On the 2022 AP U.S. Gov exam, students scored especially high on Unit 1: Political Systems, Regimes, & Governments and Unit 3: Political Culture & Participation.

The Argument Essay section is arguably the most challenging part of the AP U.S. Gov exam because it requires you to apply all three of your faculties – argumentative reasoning, memorizing, and good writing skills. Not only do you need to establish your point of view logically, but you also need to substantiate your answer with a thorough knowledge of foundational documents to prove its viability. You will also need to have excellent narrative skills in order to present your argument succinctly. This section is a tricky one to ace. Hence, understanding how students performed in this section on the 2022 AP Gov exam will help focus on the most difficult concepts that could be tested.

The table below lists the skills tested and the corresponding percentage of test-takers who received points for each competency. Let's take a look:

Type of Point Percentage of Students Who Earned It
Thesis / Claim 60%
Evidence 30% earned 3 points
21% earned 2 points
36% earned 1 point
13% earned 0 points
Reasoning 32%
Recognizing and Responding to Another Perspective 27%
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AP U.S. Government and Politics Minimum Score Requirement for College Credits

As you may already know, most colleges across the U.S. recognize AP exam scores to grant credit and advanced placement to their students. A score of 3 or higher usually qualifies you for college credits, allowing you to finish college sooner.

Depending on your college, a score of 3 or higher can allow you to skip a U.S. Government and Politics course in the first semester and move on to advanced courses. In some colleges, you get general credit for your AP score, which counts towards graduation credits. However, some colleges offer both advanced placement and college course credits, which means you can earn graduation credits and can skip a course!

On the other hand, some colleges accept an AP score of 3, while others demand a 5. Some colleges do not offer any graduation credit but do grant you a placement for your AP score. So, while preparing for your AP U.S. Gov exam, it’s helpful to know your desired college’s entrance requirements for this course.

To help you with this, we have created a list of colleges and the AP scores they accept. The list also indicates which classes you can skip based on your AP score and whether or not passing the AP Gov exam will result in college course credit. Let's have a look:

Institution AP Score AP Recognition Credit/Placement type Credits
Boston University 4, 5 Credit PO 111 4
Columbia University 5 Credit
+
Placement
POLS UN1201 3
Cornell University No credit
Duke University 4 / 5 Credit POLSCI 20
Placement 200-400 level courses
New York University 4, 5 Credit No course equivalency 4
Princeton University N/A N/A N/A N/A
Stanford University N/A N/A N/A N/A
University of California, Berkeley 3 / 4 / 5 Credit
University of California, San Diego 3/4/5 Credit American History and Institutions 4
5 Credit
+
Placement
POLI 10
University of Chicago 5 Credit 100 units general elective credit
University of Minnesota 3,4,5 Credit Political Science 1001:
American Democracy in Changing World
4
University of Pennsylvania - College of Arts & Sciences N/A N/A N/A N/A

References

  1. AP® United States Government and Politics Scoring Guidelines. (2019). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved July 2022, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap19-sg-us-go-po_1.pdf 
  2. AP® United States Government and Politics Scoring Guidelines Set 1. (2021). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved July 2022, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap21-sg-us-go-po-set-1_1.pdf 
  3. AP® United States Government and Politics Scoring Guidelines Set 1. (2022). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved July 2022, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap22-sg-us-go-po-set-1.pdf 
  4. Packer. (2023, June 28). The 2023 AP US Government and Politics scores. twitter.com. Retrieved August 17, 2023, from https://twitter.com/AP_Trevor/status/1674092685378846730 
  5. Student Score- Distributions: AP Exams - May 2021. (2021). secure-media.collegeboard.org. Retrieved July 2022, from https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/pdf/research/2021/2021-ap-student-score-distributions.pdf 
  6. Student Score- Distributions: AP Exams - May 2020. (2020). secure-media.collegeboard.org. Retrieved July 2022, from https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/pdf/research/2020/Student-Score-Distributions-2020.pdf 
  7. Boston University Advanced Credit Guide (2023-2024). (2023). www.bu.edu. Retrieved July 17, 2023, from https://www.bu.edu/admissions/files/2018/06/Advanced-Credit-Guide.pdf 
  8. Advanced Placement. (n.d.). Undergraduate Academic Advising. https://advising.princeton.edu/placement/advanced-placement 
  9. Academic Policies - NYU Stern. (n.d.). https://www.stern.nyu.edu/portal-partners/current-students/undergraduate/academics/academic-policies#Advanced%20Standing 
  10. Advanced Placement & Advanced Standing - Cornell University - Acalog ACMSTM. (n.d.). https://courses.cornell.edu/content.php?catoid=52&navoid=21317 
  11. Credit: AP and IPC and PMC | Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. (n.d.). https://trinity.duke.edu/undergraduate/academic-policies/credit-AP-IPC-PMC 
  12. The University of California. (2023). Advanced Placement Credit: Application to College and Major Requirements, 2023–24. catalog.ucsd.edu. Retrieved August 17, 2023, from https://catalog.ucsd.edu/_files/advanced-placement-credit-chart.pdf?_ga=2.233836062.1880069425.1657100352-208683771.1657100352 
  13. Placement & AP Tests. (n.d.). The College | the University of Chicago | the University of Chicago. https://college.uchicago.edu/new-student-advising/placement-ap-tests 
  14. Advanced Placement Equivalence | College of Arts & Sciences - University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). https://www.college.upenn.edu/ap-equivalence 
  15. Advanced Placement Course Awards - 2022 | Office of Admissions. (n.d.). https://admissions.tc.umn.edu/advanced-placement-course-awards-2022

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

AP U.S. Gov scores are released in July every year for the exams administered in May.

The best AP U.S. Government & Politics exam score is a 5. However, you can typically qualify for placement and college credits with a score of 3 or higher.

The secret to getting a 5 on your AP U.S. Government & Politics test is to review the topics and constantly take practice exams. If you need help, we are here. Visit UWorld’s AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam Prep for detailed lessons, practice tests, and revisions to achieve your AP dream!

Since the AP scores for the U.S. Gov exam are curved yearly to maintain consistency, it is safe to assume that getting at least 61% of the answers correct can amount to an AP score of 3.

Yes, getting a 4 on the AP U.S. Government & Politics is a good score.

Scoring at least 83% on the AP Gov exam can get you a 5.

The highest score possible on the AP Gov exam is a 5.

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

Are you interested in learning about the AP U.S. Gov Exam Format? Here is some information on the AP U.S. Government Exam structure that you should be aware of before beginning your prep.
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Trying to get into the best colleges by getting good grades on AP exams? With the help of our AP U.S. Government study guide, tips, and materials, you’ll be on your way in no time.
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