AP Comparative Government and Politics

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The AP course in Comparative Government and Politics introduces students to fundamental concepts such as sovereignty, authority, power, institutions, political/economic change, cleavages and public policy formation used by political scientists to compare nation states. Students explore political cultures, governance and institutional alternatives, as well as a variety of data used to analyze global political and economic trends. According to surveys of comparable curricula at four-year colleges and universities, it is equivalent to a one-semester introductory college course.

To provide context for the major concepts that are used to organize and interpret what we know about political phenomena and relationships, the course focuses on specific countries and their governments. Six countries form the core of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course: China, Great Britain, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia. By using these six countries, the course can move the discussion of concepts from abstract definition to concrete example, noting that the conceptual approach promotes deep understanding of skills and factual data in all country settings.

Topics covered on the exam include:

Introduction to Comparative Politics (5%)

  • Purpose and methods of comparison and classification
  • Concepts (state, nation, regime, government)
  • Process and policy

Sovereignty, Authority and Power (20%)

  • Political culture, communication and socialization
  • Nations and states
  • Supranational governance (e.g., European Union)
  • Sources of power
  • Constitutions (forms, purposes, application)
  • Regime types
  • Types of economic systems
  • State building, legitimacy and stability
  • Belief systems as sources of legitimacy
  • Governance and accountability

Political Institutions (35%)

  • Levels of government
  • Executives (head of state, head of government, cabinets)
  • Legislatures
  • Parliamentary and presidential systems
  • Elections
  • Electoral systems
  • Political parties
  • Party systems
  • Leadership and elite recruitment
  • Interest groups and interest group systems
  • Bureaucracies
  • Military and other coercive institutions
  • Judiciaries

Citizens, Society and the State (15%)

  • Cleavages and politics (ethnic, racial, class, gender, religious, regional)
  • Civil society and social capital
  • Media roles
  • Political participation (forms/modes/trends) including political violence
  • Social movements
  • Citizenship and representation

Political and Economic Change (15%)

  • Revolution, coups and war
  • Trends and types of political change (including democratization)
  • Trends and types of economic change (including privatization)
  • Relationship between political and economic change
  • Globalization and fragmentation
  • Approaches to development

Public Policy (10%)

  • Common policy issues
  • Factors influencing public policymaking and implementation

Read the full course description and exam information with sample questions.

AP Comparative Government and Politics Development Committee

Committee Co-Chairs

  • Andrew M. Conneen, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois
  • Raul L. Madrid, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

Committee Members

  • Carrie L. Currier-Flores, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Mohsin Hashim, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth Heckman, Westminster School, Simsbury, Connecticut
  • Lauren MacLean, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

College Board Advisor

  • Sarah A. Fisher, Central Kitsap High School, Silverdale, Washington

Chief Reader

  • Jennifer Horan, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina