AP Exam Survival Guide: AP Environmental Science



The Course

AP Environmental Science (APES) is often considered to be one of the easiest AP science courses. Regardless, it is still an AP course, and with every AP course comes a rigorous workload. Success in the APES course relies largely on students’ ability to develop memorization skills, analyzing skills, and contextualization skills. The course mainly consists of various ideologies and concepts regarding the interrelationships of the world around us and how these relationships negatively impact our environment. The 8-9 months that students spend in the APES course prior to the exam should be spent focusing on understanding all of the provided concepts and applying those concepts to real life and current situations. If you are learning about the over-consumption of aquatic resources, for example, you should also be aware of any important bodies of water that are known to be depleting as a result of human use, such as the Colorado River.  Understanding each concept thoroughly and completely, including knowing multiple examples of each in the real world, should be your priority. It will give you a better understanding of how the different aspects of the planet interact with one another, which will not only help you succeed in the course, but on the exam as well. After all, the greater purpose of this course is to inform students of the dangers that the environment faces so that they can apply this information to their own lives and the world around them.

The Exam (The Multiple-Choice Section)

The APES exam is divided into two sections: a multiple-choice section, which consists of 100 questions, and a free-response section, consisting of four questions. Students are given one hour and 30 minutes to complete the multiple-choice section, which accounts for 60% of the total exam score. This section is fairly simple, as it mainly test students on vocabulary and the different concepts they have learned. Some questions may provide visuals such as charts, graphs, or maps in which students will need to analyze in order to answer the corresponding questions. Fortunately, there are rarely any instances of a multiple-choice section in which students are asked to read a long passage to answer a set of questions. Because of the simplicity of the multiple-choice section and the long amount of time that is given to complete it, this area of the test will not be difficult for most students to complete, especially if they are well-prepared and know all of the course content.

The Exam (The Free-Response Section)

The tougher portion of the test is given after the multiple-choice section. Students are given one hour and 30 minutes to complete the free-response section, which accounts for the other 40% of the total exam score. There are four free-response questions, however, each “question” is actually a set of 4-5 questions that relate to the same topic. So, when you are answering question number 2, you’ll actually be answering questions 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, etc. So in reality, you’ll be answering 16-20 questions. Each set of questions is accompanied by a passage, visual, or both. Students are asked to answer the corresponding questions in the space provided. For questions that ask for mathematic calculations, students must show work in order to receive full credit. For the other questions, students should simply write in complete sentences and be as clear as possible. The passages/visuals provided will usually be about specific examples of the course concepts. For example, one question may revolve specifically around the Colorado River. This may seem intimidating at first as you may feel required to know everything about each specific, but trust me, it’s much simpler than it looks. The questions will usually ask you to relate a specific example to the general concept that it connects to, which isn’t too difficult considering you are already provided with information in the passage/visual. As long as you are able to analyze the information provided in the question and apply it to the course content, you’ll do perfectly fine with this section.


Study Tips

The best way to study for any AP exam is to keep up with your AP courses during the 8-9 months prior to the exam. However, there are plenty of other ways to prepare for the APES exam. Using preparation books will almost always help you as they often provide summaries of the concepts that you need to know as well as practice exams. It is always beneficial for students to buy multiple prep books for one exam since each brand takes a slightly different approach to the exam. My personal favorites are Princeton Review and Crash Course. Students can also study for the exam by making flashcards of important vocabulary. This especially helpful for APES students since there is such a large range of ideas to memorize and understand for the exam.