How to Ace the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam?

October 24, 2020
By AdmissionSight

How to Ace the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

If you’re a high school student who is interested in challenging yourself academically while also learning about any different types of political and governmental systems that have helped to shape the world, then the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam is perfect for you!

Here at AdmissionSight, we know that when it comes to succeeding in high school and beyond, preparation is the name of the game. For that reason, we have made it a priority to continue breaking down AP courses that high school students all over the United States take each school year.

Before we start breaking down the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam in detail, let’s quickly go over why AP courses, in general, are such valuable resources to take advantage of for high school students who are looking to get ahead.

Why take AP courses in high school?

There are a lot of great reasons to take AP courses in high school, and here are some of the best.

  • They look great to college admissions officers: For students who are hoping to get into one of the best colleges or universities in the United States, enrolling in multiple AP courses throughout the course of four-year high school education should almost be considered a necessity. The reason why is because college admissions officers at prestigious universities are specifically looking out for students who are both able to challenge themselves academically as well as rise to meet those challenges. Taking an AP course proves that a student is willing to push themselves to learn. Scoring a perfect 5 out 5 on an AP exam shows admissions officers that you are ready for the large course load of many college classes.
  • You can earn college credits: When it comes to jumpstarting your college education, earning high scores on AP exams can actually earn high school students high school credits and placement. With that being said, for students who are interested in attending a specific school to earn their undergraduate degree, they should do some research to find out what that school’s policy is regarding college credit and placement from AP exams.
  • They allow students to dive deeply into the subjects they love: While students in high school are of course given the chance to learn about all sorts of subjects during their four-year education, those who are specifically interested in certain topics may feel as though their high school curriculum only allows them to scratch the surface. When it comes to AP courses and exams, students are able to take advantage of the heavy course load and advanced learning style to learn even more about subjects they love. For students who are interested in history, politics, and more the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam is a fantastic way to learn more about a subject that they are deeply excited about!

About the AP Comparative Government and Politics Course

When it comes to the AP Comparative Government and Politics course, it is broken up into five unique units that will help students master the information that they will be tested on. The five units, as well as what weight each unit gets on the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam, is below:

 AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam subject units

With the course overall (as well as the exam), students will examine six core countries to understand the basics of comparative politics. The core six countries include China, Great Britain, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia. Overall, the exam is meant to measure a student’s ability to compare and contrast political regimes, electoral systems, federal structures, civil rights, and state responses to economic, social, and religious challenges over time.

Throughout the entirety of the course, students will learn five important skills that are aimed at helping students think and behave like a comparative political scientist. These disciplinary practices as they are called by the College Board are essential for students who are looking to score a perfect 5 out 5 on the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam. The five disciplinary practices are as follows:

  • Concept Application: Applying political concepts and processes to real-life situations.
  • Country Comparison: Compare political concepts and processes to the course’s six core countries.
  • Data Analysis: Analyze and interpret quantitative data represented in a variety of mediums—such as tables, charts, graphs, maps, and infographics.
  • Source Analysis: Read, analyze, and interpret text-based sources.
  • Argumentation: Develop and defend an argument in the form of an essay.

On top of these disciplinary practices, students will explore the big ideas of this course. These big ideas serve as the very foundation of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course. They will allow students to make connections between the units and disciplinary practices that will allow students to approach the information they learn from a critical and analytical standpoint.

  • Power and Authority: The political systems and regimes governing societies, who are given power and authority, how they use it, and how it produces different policy outcomes.
  • Legitimacy and Stability: The degree a government’s right to rule is accepted by the citizenry and how the legitimacy of a government translates to its ability to enact, implement, and enforce its policies.
  • Democratization: The process of adopting free and fair elections, extending civil liberties, and establishing the rule of law. How that process generally increases government transparency, improves citizen access, and influences policymaking.
  • Internal/External Forces: How internal and external forces challenge and reinforce regimes.
  • Methods of Political Analysis: Collecting and using data to identify and describe patterns and trends in political behavior, along with using data and ideas from other disciplines when drawing conclusions.

Now that you understand the units and lessons that you will learn in the course, it is time for us to shift our focus over to the exam itself.

About the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

Before we start breaking down the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam section by section, it is probably a good idea to go over what your chances of success are. Here at AdmissionSight, we consider a student’s success to be based on what their personal goals are. Everyone’s own education is their own journey! With that being said, when it comes to AP courses, students must score at least a 3 out of 5 in order to earn a passing grade and a chance at college credits and placement.

When it comes to the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam, a very large percentage of students earn passing grades. In fact, it’s a majority!

Here is the statistical breakdown of scores that students earned in last year’s exam.

statistical breakdown of scores that students earned in last year’s exam

When it comes to the format of the exam itself, students who have taken AP courses in the past will be wholly unsurprised to learn that the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam is made up of two different sections. The first section is a series of 55 multiple-choice questions that students will get one hour to complete.

After that, students will tackle a free-response section that they will get one hour and 30 minutes to complete.

In all, the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam are one of the shorter AP exams that students can take, clocking in at just two hours and 30 minutes total. Let’s break down both sections together so that you know exactly what to expect when it comes to the day of the actual exam.

Multiple Choice

The multiple-choice section of the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam has changed just slightly compared to previous years, as students now will have an extra 15 minutes to answer the same number of questions. On top of that, the number of possible answers will be shrinking from five possibilities to just for. Those are all the changes, however, the subject matter that students will have to master to ace this section of the exam will remain the same.

Overall, there are three different types of multiple-choice questions that students will encounter on the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam. Those three options include stand-alone questions, quantitative questions, and text-based analysis questions.

When it comes to how these questions will be broken down, 40 to 44 of the total questions in this section will be stand-alone questions with no stimulus needed or provided. From there, there will be three sets of two to three questions that will test a student’s analysis ability. In this section, students will use information that they gather from something like a graph, chart, table, map, or some other kind of infographic and analyze the quantitative stimulus in order to come to the correct answers. Finally, students will face two sets of two to three questions that are based on the text-based analysis in which they will take a look at text-based secondary sources.

Here is a breakdown of the questions so you understand it as clearly as possible:

Breakdown of the questions in the exam

Samples of possible questions that students may face on the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam are below:

Possible questions that students may face on the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

Sample questions for the exam

Free Response

When it comes to the structure of the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam free-response section, there are actually four different kinds of questions. Previously, there were eight. On top of that, the new exam tests clearly defined skills, rather than those skills varying from year to year. Overall, students will be tested for their conceptual analysis, quantitative analysis, as well as comparative analysis. Finally, students will have to write an essay that defends an argument the student makes.

Conceptual analysis: Students will have to define political systems and explain and compare political systems, principles, institutions, processes, policies, and behavior.

Quantitative analysis: Students will have to identify trends and patterns or draw conclusions from the quantitative data and explain how it relates to political systems, principles, institutions, processes, policies, and behaviours.

Comparative analysis: Students will have to compare political concepts, institutions, or policies that are covered in the course while learning about the six countries of focus.

Argument essay: Students will have to write an argument-based essay supported by evidence, based on concepts from the countries that students cover and learn about in the course.

A breakdown of the weight that each essay is given in the final score of the exam is below:

Breakdown of the weight that each essay in the exam is given

Here are some samples of short answer questions that students may face on the exam:

Sample questions for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

Sample questions for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

Sample questions for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

How to Prepare for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam

When it comes to preparing for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam, or really any AP exam for that matter, it is important that students remember that studying the format of the exam is nearly as important as studying the material that you will be tested for on the exam.

In that sense, AP exams are not so different from major standardized tests such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. For that reason, there are some very important studying techniques that we at AdmissionSight know will help lead to the greatest chance of your success. So, with that being said, let’s go over the best way to prepare for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam.

Test yourself and assess your knowledge and ability

The first step to preparing for the exam is to take it. No, seriously! Sit down and take a full practice exam. Either a practice exam that is offered by one of the many great study guides, or a past exam is a great way to get familiar with the format and structure of the exam. While the format of the exam has indeed changed, the ways in which questions are posed are still quite similar, so past exams are useful here.

Once you have completed that exam – and you can time yourself or not, the choice is yours – you must remember to cross-check the answers that you came up with compared to the answers that are provided in the key. That way, you will be able to learn the correct answer to questions you may have gotten wrong, but most importantly, identify any major problem areas that you can pay extra close attention to as you continue studying.

Master the theory

Once you have identified which areas you need to most focus on as you continue to prepare for the exam, make sure that you have mastered your understanding of the core theories that make up this course.

Some of the best ways to do that include:

  • Dive deeply into your coursework and study guide. Learning at home is a great way to expand your knowledge and gain great control over the theories and information that you will have to have a solid grasp on in order to answer all of the questions you will face during the exam.
  • Work with your teacher. While working with a book on your own is great, working with your high school teacher who actually taught the course maybe even better. You can try to set up a time for you two to meet so that you may go over practice problems together, have your teacher answer any questions you may have, and continue working on those specific subjects that you continue to have any issues with.
  • Form a study group with your friends. If you are in the AP Comparative Government and Politics course with some of your friends, you may want to consider starting up an after-school study group so that you can all prepare together. Here, you can test each other, grade each other’s work, challenge one another with fun questions, and more. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of starting a study group with your peers is that it keeps all of you on task and accountable as the exam draws near.

Practice the multiple-choice and free-response sections

Once you feel as though you have mastered the material that you will face on the exam, it is time to start mastering each and every question format that you may come across. The truth is that the more practice you get with the different kinds of questions you may face, the more likely you are to know exactly what answer to look for. While some AP exams are incredibly hard to score a 5 out of 5 on, it is actually quite possible to score a perfect 5 on the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam. Make sure to take advantage of that opportunity and study as many multiple-choice questions and free-response questions as possible.

Of course, you will want to make sure that you are checking your answers and understanding the correct answer if the answer you put was incorrect.

Take full practice exams

The final step to preparing for the AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam is to take as many full practise exams as possible. This time make sure that you are giving yourself the same amount of time to complete each section that you will get on the actual exam. That way, you will not only be prepared for the type of questions you will be asked on the day of the actual exam but also prepared to answer all those questions in the time that will be allotted to you.

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