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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 AP U.S. Government and Politics course and exam have been redesigned for the 2018-19 school year. Learn more about the redesign.

About the Course and Exam (2018-19 and beyond)

The AP U.S. Government and Politics course is an introduction to the discipline of political science. It provides a college-level, nonpartisan introduction to key political concepts, ideas, institutions, policies, interactions, roles, and behaviors that characterize the constitutional system and political culture of the United States. Students will study U.S. foundational documents, Supreme Court decisions, and other texts and visuals to gain an understanding of the relationships and interactions among political institutions, processes, and behavior. Students will also engage in disciplinary practices that require you to read and interpret data, make comparisons and applications, and develop evidence-based arguments. In addition, students will complete a political science research or applied civics project.

According to surveys of comparable curricula at four-year colleges and universities, it is equivalent to a one-semester introductory college course.


The AP U.S. Government and Politics course is organized around five units, which focus on major topics in U.S. government and politics:

  • Foundations of American Democracy
  • Interaction Among Branches of Government
  • Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
  • American Political Ideologies and Beliefs; and
  • Political Participation


Foundational documents and Supreme Court cases are an integral part of the course and necessary for students to understand the philosophical underpinnings, significant legal precedents, and political values of the U.S. political system and may serve as the focus of AP Exam questions. The course requires study of:

  • 9 foundational documents, including the U.S. Constitution
  • 15 landmark Supreme Court cases


The required project adds a civic component to the course. Through this project, students will explore how they can affect and are affected by, government and politics throughout their lives. The project might have students collect data on a teacher-approved political science topic, participate in a community service activity, or observe and report on the policymaking process of a governing body. Students should plan a presentation that relates their experiences or findings to what students are learning in the course.


  • Practice 1: Apply political concepts and processes to scenarios in context
  • Practice 2: Apply Supreme Court decisions
  • Practice 3: Analyze and interpret quantitative data represented in tables, charts, graphs, maps, and infographics
  • Practice 4: Read, analyze, and interpret foundational documents and other text-based and visual sources
  • Practice 5: Develop an argument in essay format

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