Mastering the AP Government Free Response

Overview: The Free-response portion of the national exam consists of 4 questions.  The allotted time is 100 minutes.

"Free response questions on the AP  Government and Politics Exam are a more appropriate tool for evaluating s student's ability to use analytical and organizational skills."


Take no more than 5 minutes to brainstorm, organize, and complete a brief list or outline.  This will help to focus on the essentials of the question.

  • Read the question carefully and underline/highlight the directives. Directives are statements that identify what the candidate must do in addressing the topic provided. Hints of directives and the tasks to be performed will most likely contain these words:

  • Identify

  • Explain (how & why)

  • Identify & Explain

  • Describe/discuss

  • Give two specific explanation (or some other number)

  • Focus on the words/language that follows the directives.  This will be the specific tasks that the candidate will be assessed on..  This is what the candidate to to write about.  One may be asked to write about trends, patterns, relationships, demographics, institutions, obstacle, caracter4istics, impact, and/or significant.  A candidate may also be asked to provide or support their explanations with specific examples.


Essay Guidelines and Grading

  These guidelines should be replaced by the new AP Free Response guidlines to be replace this summer (2011)

General Rules

1.Essays should consist of five paragraphs

            (1 introduction, 3 body, & 1 conclusion)

2.          General length should be two to three typed pages.

 Steps in Writing an Essay

1.          Analyze the Question

A)        Without a clear understanding of the questions you cannot write an adequate answer.

B)         Understand key terms: assess, explain and define.

 2.          Develop a Thesis

A)        Thesis: your perspective on the given topic.

B)         Thesis must be in the opening paragraph.  The reader must immediately know your position on the question.

 3. Writing the Introduction

A)        Restate question: do not recopy the question word for word.

B)         State your thesis.

C)         Indicate major points to be discussed in body paragraphs

 4. Writing the Body Paragraphs

A)        Provide factual information to prove your thesis.

B)         Facts should be organized in logical sequence.

C)         Each set of facts should be in a separate paragraph.

D)         Refute arguments contrary to your thesis.

E)          Illustrate your essay with substantive examples where appropriate.

 5. Writing the Conclusion

A)        Conclusion should bring the reader back to your thesis and the question.

B)         Do not introduce new evidence

 (source: Conforti, Daniel A. Advanced Placement American Government: A Practical  Curriculum Guide for Teachers. Yorba Linda, California: DAC Educational Publications, 1989.)

Essay Grading Guidelines

A          Strong analytical focus.  Exhaustive breadth, responds to all elements asked for in the question.  Marshalls in a convincing way evidence to support a thesis.  In some cases, shows signs of original thinking and creativity.

 B.        Presents a thesis.  Marshalls evidence in an organized fashion to support the thesis.  Adequate in breadth responding to most of the important issues raised in the question.

 C+        States rudiments of a thesis or argument.  Cites facts appropriate to the development of the thesis but does not clearly link these to the thesis.   Discusses some of the major issues.  Incorrect factual illustrations and/or faulty or incomplete logic may be encountered.  Argument appears incomplete

 C-             Demonstrates comprehension of pertinent concepts and facts.  Presents descriptive narrative with little or no reference to an organizing principle.  Responds to some of the issues raised in the essay question.  May contain some factual errors.

 D+        Weak or implausible thesis.  Breadth of coverage and depth of information may be adequate but contains factual errors.  Information may not fit the thesis.

 D-         Weak thesis that is unsustained in discussion.  Offers few, it any, factual illustrations to support the thesis.  Includes irrelevant information.

 F.             Attempts to respond to the question.  However, fails to provide detail and breadth of coverage.    (Or) No attempt to answer the question in any meaningful way.

0             Assignment not submitted

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