AP Environmental Science

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About the Course

Explore and investigate the interrelationships of the natural world and analyze environmental problems, both natural and human-made. You’ll take part in laboratory investigations and field work.

Note: Save your lab notebooks and reports; colleges may ask to see them before granting you credit.

Skills You'll Learn

  • Explaining environmental concepts and processes

  • Analyzing data, visual representations, and writings

  • Applying quantitative methods in solving problems

  • Proposing a solution for an environmental problem and supporting your idea with evidence

  • Analyzing a research study to identify a hypothesis

Equivalency and Prerequisites

College Course Equivalent

A one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science

Recommended Prerequisites

Two years of high school laboratory science, including life science and physical science, along with at least one year of algebra

Exam Date

Thu, May 9, 2024

8 AM Local

AP Environmental Science Exam

This is the regularly scheduled date for the AP Environmental Science Exam.

About the Units

The course content outlined below is organized into commonly taught units of study that provide one possible sequence for the course. Your teacher may choose to organize the course content differently based on local priorities and preferences.

Course Content

Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems

You’ll begin to explore a view of planet Earth as one system made up of regional ecosystems composed of interdependent environmental features, processes, and relationships between species.

Topics may include:

  • Introduction to ecosystems
  • Terrestrial and aquatic biomes
  • Primary productivity
  • Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and water cycles
  • Trophic levels
  • The flow of energy in an ecosystem and the 10% rule
  • Food chains and food webs

On The Exam

6%–8% of exam score

Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity

You’ll learn about the importance of biodiversity within ecosystems and the impact of outside factors on the evolution of organisms.

Topics may include:

  • Introduction to biodiversity 
  • Ecosystem services
  • Island biogeography
  • Ecological tolerance
  • Natural disruptions to ecosystems
  • Ecological succession

On The Exam

6%–8% of exam score

Unit 3: Populations

You’ll examine how populations within ecosystems change over time, and the factors that affect population growth.

Topics may include:

  • Generalist and specialist species
  • Survivorship curves
  • Population growth and resource availability
  • Age structure diagrams
  • Human population dynamics

On The Exam

10%–15% of exam score

Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources

You’ll study the natural components that make up the environment, from geologic features to the atmosphere and climate.

Topics may include:

  • Tectonic plates
  • Soil formation and erosion
  • Earth's atmosphere
  • Global wind patterns
  • Earth's geography and climate
  • El Niño and La Niña

On The Exam

10%–15% of exam score

Unit 5: Land and Water Use

You’ll examine how humans use and consume natural resources, and the ways in which we disrupt ecosystems, both positively and negatively.

Topics may include:

  • The tragedy of the commons
  • The Green Revolution
  • Types and effects of irrigation
  • Pest-control methods
  • Meat production methods and overfishing
  • The impacts of mining
  • Urbanization and ecological footprints
  • Introduction to sustainable practices including crop rotation and aquaculture

On The Exam

10%–15% of exam score

Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption

You’ll learn about renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy, where they’re used, and their impact on the environment.

Topics may include:

  • Energy sources and fuel types, including fossil fuels, ethanol, and nuclear power
  • Global energy consumption and distribution of natural resources
  • Natural sources of energy, including solar power, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power
  • Energy conservation methods

On The Exam

10%–15% of exam score

Unit 7: Atmospheric Pollution

You’ll learn more about air pollution, including how human actions can cause it, and you’ll analyze legislation intended to regulate emissions and improve air quality.

Topics may include:

  • Introduction to air pollution
  • Photochemical smog
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Methods to reduce air pollutants
  • Acid rain
  • Noise pollution

On The Exam

7%–10% of exam score

Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution

You’ll examine the impact of pollution on ecosystems and learn how to determine its source.

Topics may include:

  • Sources of pollution
  • Human impact on ecosystems
  • Thermal pollution
  • Solid waste disposal and waste reduction methods
  • Pollution and human health
  • Pathogens and infectious diseases

On The Exam

7%–10% of exam score

Unit 9: Global Change

You’ll come to understand the global impact of local and regional human activities and evaluate and propose solutions.

Topics may include:

  • Ozone depletion 
  • Global climate change 
  • Ocean warming and acidification
  • Invasive species
  • Human impacts on diversity

On The Exam

15%–20% of exam score

Credit and Placement

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Course Resources


AP Environmental Science Lab and Field Investigations

In AP Environmental Science, you’ll do hands-on work in the laboratory and make observations and explore problems in real-world settings.

See Where AP Can Take You

AP Environmental Science can lead to a wide range of careers and college majors

Career Areas 87
Majors 36