AP Human Geography Exam Tips

The following strategies for answering the free-response questions will help you on exam day.

Plan your responses before you start writing.

Don’t start to write immediately; that can lead to a string of disconnected, poorly planned thoughts. Carefully analyze the question: think about what is being asked and identify the elements that must be addressed in the response. For example, some questions may require you to consider the similarities between people or events, and then to think of the ways they are different. Others may ask you to develop an argument with examples to support it. Be sure to answer exactly what is being asked in the question prompt!

Integrate evidence into your response.

After you have determined how to answer the question, consider what geographic themes you can incorporate into your response. If there is a map, chart, graph, or diagram with the question, study it carefully before beginning your answer. Think about the evidence you studied during the course that relates to the question and then decide how it fits into the analysis or explanation. Does it demonstrate a similarity or a difference? Does it argue for or against a point that is being addressed? Does it ask you to identify and explain a certain number of examples or reasons?

Elaborate on the evidence.

Don’t just paraphrase or summarize your evidence. Clearly state your intent, then use additional information or analysis to elaborate on how these pieces of evidence are similar or different. If there is evidence that refutes a statement, explain why. Your answer should show that you understand the subtleties of the question. Carefully answer each part of the question. Be sure to use appropriate geographic terms, and refer to models or theories when appropriate.


Answering free-response questions from previous AP Exams is a great way to practice: it allows you to compare your own responses with those that have already been evaluated and scored. Go to the Exam Questions and Scoring Information section of the  AP Human Gography Exam page on AP Central to review the latest released free-response questions and scoring guidelines. Older questions and scoring information are available on the  Past Exam Questions page. 

Task Verbs

Pay close attention to the task verbs used in the free-response questions. Each one directs you to complete a specific type of response. Here are the task verbs you’ll see on the exam:

  • Compare: Provide a description or explanation of similarities and/or differences.
  • Define: Provide a specific meaning for a word or concept.
  • Describe: Provide the relevant characteristics of a specified topic.
  • Explain: Provide information about how or why a relationship, process, pattern, position, or outcome occurs, using evidence and/or reasoning.
  • Identify: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.