AP United States Government and Politics

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As part of its ongoing process to make AP course and exam materials more effective for teachers and their students, the College Board released to educators a redesigned AP U.S. Government and Politics Curriculum Framework. The redesigned course and exam will launch in the 2018-19 school year. Get more information.

About the Current Course and Exam

AP United States Government and Politics aims to give students an analytical perspective on government and politics in the United States. This course includes both the study of general concepts used to interpret U.S. government and politics and the analysis of specific examples. It requires familiarity with the various institutions and their interactions, political participation and socialization, policy formation and the beliefs and ideas that constitute U.S. government and politics. According to surveys of comparable curricula at four-year colleges and universities, it is equivalent to a one-semester introductory college course.

Students successfully completing this course will:

  • explain important facts, concepts and theories pertaining to U.S. government and politics
  • analyze typical patterns of political processes and behavior and their consequences (including the components of political behavior, the principles used to explain or justify various government structures and procedures, and the political effects of these structures and procedures)
  • interpret basic data relevant to U.S. government and politics (including data presented in charts, tables and other formats)
  • analyze and evaluate relevant theories and concepts, apply them appropriately, and develop their connections across the curriculum

Topics covered on the exam include:

Constitutional Underpinnings of United States Government (5–15%)

  • Considerations that influenced the formulation and adoption of the Constitution
  • Separation of powers
  • Checks and balances
  • Federalism
  • Theories of democratic government

Political Beliefs and Behaviors (10–20%)

  • Beliefs that citizens hold about their government and its leaders
  • Processes by which citizens learn about politics
  • The nature, sources and consequences of public opinion
  • The ways in which citizens vote and otherwise participate in political life
  • Factors that influence citizens to differ from one another in terms of political beliefs and behaviors

Political Parties, Interest Groups and Mass Media (10–20%)

  • Political parties and elections
  • Interest groups, including political action committees (PACs)
  • The mass media

Institutions of National Government: The Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy and the Federal Courts (35–45%)

  • The major formal and informal institutional arrangements of power
  • Relationships among these four institutions and varying balances of power
  • Linkages between institutions and the following: public opinion and voters, interest groups, political parties, the media, state and local governments

Public Policy (5–15%)

  • Policymaking in a federal system
  • The formation of policy agendas
  • The role of institutions in the enactment of policy
  • The role of the bureaucracy and the courts in policy implementation and interpretation
  • Linkages between policy processes and the following: political institutions and federalism, political parties, interest groups, public opinion, elections, policy networks

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (5–15%)

  • The development of civil liberties and civil rights by judicial interpretation
  • Knowledge of substantive rights and liberties
  • The impact of the Fourteenth Amendment on the constitutional development of rights and liberties

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

AP United States Government and Politics Development Committee

Committee Co-Chairs

  • Stella Rouse, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
  • Benwari Singh, Cherry Creek High School, Greenwood Village, Colorado

Committee Members

  • Jason Casellas, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
  • Tray Hemphill, Wamego High School, Wamego, Kansas
  • Mark Rom, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
  • Erica Salmeri, Cypress Bay High School, Weston, Florida

Chief Reader

  • Stephen Meinhold, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina