How Can I Get a 5 in AP US Government?

4 min readseptember 30, 2021

Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan

Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan

AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

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The Capitol Building in Washington DC, where our lawmakers argue . . . a lot! Image from Pixabay.


In this guide, we'll give you some tips so you can ace that AP® exam in May! A lot of these tips just involve knowing the exam and its contents, and we'll walk you through them. Remember to stay optimistic! You've got this 💪🏽

1. Know what your test is going to look like 🔎

To get a 5 on the exam, you need to be comfortable with the format of the exam! Here is some general information about the questions on the AP US Gov exam:
  • Multiple Choice (accounts for 50% of your score) 📃
    • 55 questions
    • 80 minutes
  • Free Response (accounts for 50% of your score) ✍
    • 4 questions
      • #1—Concept Application 📝
      • #2—Quantitative Analysis 📈
      • #3—Supreme Court Case Comparison Essay ⚖
      • #4—Argumentative Essay 🗳
    • 100 minutes

2. Use the content breakdown to guide your studying 📅

The AP Gov curriculum has 5 main units that you studied throughout the year! These appear in different percentages on the exam, so focus on the units with the highest percentage of exam content, especially if you struggle with them.

AP US Gov Content Breakdown

Unit Name% on the ExamUnit Summary
Unit 1—Foundations of American Democracy15-22%goes over beginnings of the country, principles of the Constitution, "history stuff"
Unit 2—Interactions Among Branches of Government25-36%all 3 branches of government, checks and balances, bureaucracy/iron triangles
Unit 3—Civil Liberties and Civil Rights13-18%political ideologies, public opinion and polling, political socialization
Unit 4—American Political Ideologies and Beliefs10-15%political ideologies, public opinion and polling, political socialization
Unit 5—Political Participation20-27%voting rights, linkage institutions (political parties, interest groups), campaigns/elections, media


A look from the outside of the Supreme Court, where judges make decisions! Image from Pixabay.

3. Know your Supreme Court cases ⚖

Supreme Court cases became a huge part of the AP exam starting in 2019 when the curriculum included 15 required SCOTUS cases! It's super important that you spend some time going through the details of these cases because they'll be helpful for your comparison essay ✍
The multiple-choice section may also test other SCOTUS cases. They might also help you in real life; these are some of the most famous cases to be heard before the Supreme Court 🔍
Here they are:
  • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
  • Schenck v. the United States (1919)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Engel v. Vitale (1962)
  • Baker v. Carr (1962)
  • Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
  • Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)
  • New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)
  • Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
  • Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • Shaw v. Reno (1993)
  • United States v. Lopez (1995)
  • McDonald v. Chicago (2010)
  • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)
For each case, I'd recommend knowing a summary of the case, the constitutional issues surrounding it, as well as the holding, constitutional principle applied, and majority opinion issued 💬
Sound overwhelming? Don't worry, we're here to help! Check out this guide to review all 15 cases!
We also have a guide and stream 🎥 breaking down the SCOTUS comparison essay ✍

4. Know your Foundational Documents 📄

Now that we've got the case comparison out of the way, let's move to FRQ 4—the argumentative essay! This one requires you to know a set of documents that were key in shaping America 🇺🇸 It's super important that you review those because you will need to pull evidence from them for the argumentative essay.
Just like the Supreme Court cases, they might also show up on the multiple-choice portion of the AP exam.
Here they are:
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Federalist 10
  • Federalist 51
  • Brutus 1
  • Federalist 70
  • Federalist 78
  • Constitution + Bill of Rights and other amendments
  • Letter from Birmingham Jail
Here's our guide that'll help you master the foundational documents!
We also have a guide that'll walk you through writing the argumentative essay!

5. Practice your writing skills and make a study plan ✍

As you start your AP gov class, you'll notice that writing is a huge part of the course. As you move on, try to find where your weaknesses are, and make conscious efforts to get better in those areas!
If you find out a unit is a struggle for you, try to block out some times where you can review the content. A great way to study AP Gov content is through mind maps and graphic organizers! These will work as a quick study tool before your AP exam as well 🏫
Finally, space out your study sessions! Don't start the week before May 😉Instead, work in some times before then where you can study your foundational documents, court cases, and other course content.

In Closing

We know you'll ace this exam! Good luck studying, and always know we'll have your backs. If you need to find any of our content, it's always accessible here!
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🏛Unit 1 – Foundations of American Democracy
⚖️Unit 2 – Branches of Government
✊🏽Unit 3 – Civil Liberties & Civil Rights
🐘Unit 4 – American Political Ideologies & Beliefs
🗳Unit 5 – Political Participation
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
🧐Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
✍️Free Response Questions (FRQ)
✍️Exam Skills (MC, FRQ)

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