FRQ Strategies

AP Human Geography Exam Essay Strategy

Writing Style for the AP Human Geography Exam:

There is no required writing style on the AP Human Geography Exam! This differs significantly from the AP history tests where students are required to use a specific style that includes things such as thesis statements and so on. On the AP Human Geography Exam, unless the question specifically requires an introduction, you should NOT write an introductory paragraph, and you should NOT write a thesis statement for your essay. The rubric does NOT give points for it, so you don’t need it. Same goes for concluding paragraphs as well.

The Readers of your exam do not want to read introductions nor conclusions…..the JUST THE FACTS, Ma’am! Not having to write a formal essay is one of the “easier” aspects of the AP Human Geography Exam. But there is a strategy to become successful and things you should NOT do!

Rules for Effective Essay Writing

  1. Don’t leave anything Blank!!!!

Don’t ever answer two essays and not answer the third one. If you are stumped on a question, you need to write a least a paragraph on what you know about the material or anything you think might be related. If you have a blank then the reader will give you a “-“ if you write a paragraph the reader can give you a “0” and a 0 is better then a “-“ because the “-“ is like a disqualification. Mathematically you will not be able to score a 4 or 5 on the AP Exam if you DO NOT answer one of the essays.

  1. No Bullet Points. Write in complete sentences.
  2. No Artwork, Please. Don’t draw diagrams or pictures. If you are trying to describe something it is ok to draw it out but you need to explain it in written format.
  3. Edit your work!

Time Management:

It is important you pace yourself on the exam. You will be given three essay questions and 75 minutes to answer the questions.

If you are doing a good job you should be spending time doing:

  1. Essay 1: 5 minutes to outline 20 minutes to write
  2. Essay 2: 5 minutes to outline 20 minutes to write
  3. Essay 3: 5 minutes to outline 20 minutes to write

If you spend time outlining what you are going to say your answer is going to flow easily and you will not need so much time to edit. These are target times and remember you might need to be flexible with your time allotment.

A Few Other AP Essay-Writing Facts and Guidelines:

  • You may write the essays in any order in the answer booklet. You can start with Essay 3, then Essay 1, and finish with Essay 2. Don’t forget to write the number of the essay you are writing in the box at the top of each page.
  • When you begin the next essay, start on a fresh page.
  • With average-sized handwriting, most high-scoring essays use two to three pages of the answer booklet.
  • There’s no need to give your essay a title. Focus on getting the points
  • You may double-space your essays.
  • Very small and poor handwriting will harm your score. If a reader can’t decipher your writing, then they can’t give you points. Write carefully and legibly. Readers do not grade for spelling or grammar. You don’t get extra points for spelling Zimbabwe correctly, nor can a reader deduct point for your attempt to spell the place of Verseye when you meant “Versailles” They still have to give you credit. Yes they understand you are under pressure.

What to Do? Operator Terms

You need to consider what the question is asking you to do. Each question will direct you with an operator term that specifies what you are expected to do with the topic material. To help guide your writing put the operator term at the top of each section. Here is what the operator terms are and what they are asking you to do.

Describe: Write out the details or component parts of the concept or issue that the question addresses. Emphasize the most important elements and say why these are significant. The author wants you to illustrate in your writing (but don’t draw a picture)

Discuss: Write about both sides of an issue or concept. State the positive and negative aspects. Explain who benefits and who loses in the process or situation. Or, explain the impacts of the issue or concept

Analyze:Write about the relationship between factors and their impacts. Look for cause and effect relationships. State why the process you describe is a problem or a benefit in the real world.

Define: Write out the definition of a term or process. Say why the concept is significant to geographic thinking or why it matters in the real world. Some definitions are simple and other can be complex.

Example: Write about a real-world place, process, or situation that captures the essence of the concept that the question addresses. Make sure that the example you give is the most topical. Don’t just use one that you like. Some questions will give you the example and you will have to describe how and why that place fits the concept.

Explain: Write about a process that is implied in the question. In conceptual terms: A happens, resulting in B, which then leads to C. Say why these things occur. State why the process you describe is a problem or a benefit in the real world.

Compare: Take two or more concepts or examples and state their similarities (give more than one) If there are differences, list these as well. State why the similarities or differences are significant and say what impact they have.

Contrast: Specifically describe the differences between two or more concepts or examples. Make sure to find at least two differences (unless the question says to give only one or the primary difference)

Assess: Write about the importance, impact, or effectiveness of a concept or issue. You will need to determine the positives and negatives of the conceptual or real-world situation. It is OK if you stat that positives and negatives balance out, or if the good outweighs the bad.

To what extent (or degree):Not all concepts or examples have the impact or effect they were supposed to. Sometimes intervening factors limit these impacts or effects they were supposed to. Sometime intervening factors limit these impacts or effects. Your job is to illustrate these processes in your writing.

The limitations of:In addition to intervening factors, conflicts and controversies can emerge that dampen the expected result of a concept or process.