AP US Gov FRQ (SCOTUS Application)

4 min readnovember 18, 2021

Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan

Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan

AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

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An Overview: FRQs on the AP US Gov Exam

  • On your AP Government exam in May, you will be asked to write 4 FRQs. You will have 100 minutes to write your responses for all four of the questions. 
  • Each of the free response questions (FRQs) are worth 12.5% of your total exam score - making the entire FRQ section worth 50%.
    • #1: Concept Application (20 minutes - suggested) 
    • #2: Quantitative Analysis (20 minutes - suggested) 
    • #3: SCOTUS Comparison (20 minutes - suggested) 
    • #4: Argumentative Essay (40 minutes - suggested)
  • It is important that you manage your time! You will have to budget your time wisely so you know when to move on to each part of the exam.
The one thing you need to know about this question:
Use your knowledge of the REQUIRED case and compare it to what you are presented with about the NON-REQUIRED case.

What is the SCOTUS Comparison Case Question about?

  • This question tests how well you know the 15 required Supreme Court cases from the course. 
    • Marbury v. Madison, 1803
    • Mcculloch v. Maryland, 1819
    • Schenck v. United States, 1919
    • Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
    • Baker v. Carr, 1961
    • Engel v. Vitale, 1962
    • Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963
    • Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 1969
    • New York Times Company v. U.S., 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 (FEC), 2010
  • You will be asked to compare and contrast the information you already know about one of the required Supreme Court Cases with a non-required case for which sufficient information will be presented on the AP Exam.

How to Earn the Points

Key Term
Things to know...
(A) Identify (0-1 point)
Identify a similarity or difference between the two Supreme Court cases (as specified in the question).
Make sure to BRIEFLY identify the similarity or difference - it must be the one they ask for in the question!
(B1) Identify (0-1 point)
Provide prompted information from the specified required Supreme Court case.
This is the FIRST PART of part b) of the question. You MUST present facts to show you understand the required case.
(B2) Explain (0-1 point)
Explain how or why that information is relevant to the second source provided in the question (Explain the relationship of that information as directed.)
This is where College Board tests your COMPARE & CONTRAST abilities. You must create a relationship between the information from the required case and the nonrequired case.
C) Describe or Explain
(0-1 point)
Describe or explain an interaction between the holding in the non-required Supreme Court Case and a relevant political institution, behavior, or process.
Here, you connect what you know about the 2 SCOTUS cases with a broader overview of what you have learned in AP Gov.
*Taken from The College Board CED for AP US Government & Politics

How Can I Practice and Improve?

  • Start around 16 weeks before your AP exam (this would be around the beginning of the second semester for many students). 
    • Each week, focus on ONE Supreme Court case. Make ALL the notes you can about it - on index cards, Quizlet, anything works!
    • Make sure you include: the year, the decision, rationale behind the decision, and the constitutional principle that goes with the case. It would also be helpful to include related court cases!
    • Make sure you review these flashcards week to week, and by AP exam time, you’ll be perfect!
  • Each week, you might also want to create your OWN free response questions. Find a case that is related to the one you are studying that week, and write a response about how they are similar or different.
  • Review the differences between “identify,” “describe,” and “explain,” in terms of key words that will be used in the question. 
    • If you “identify” on a question that asks to “explain,” you will NOT receive the point. Make sure you provide a degree of detail based on the term used in the question.

Sample Question

You can access the 2019 AP Exam FRQ, and the FRQ that is on this year’s Course and Exam Description on The College Board’s website. To get you started, here’s a practice question you can use.
Prior to their high school football games, the students of a high school in Texas would choose a fellow classmate to address the crowd through a loudspeaker. This address almost always involved a prayer - students were not required to attend, but many of those present were students. This prayer was described by many as “overtly Christian.” Several students and their parents sued the school board, stating that  the practice violated the Constitution. In the resulting case, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that the policy that allowed for student-led prayer over the loudspeakers at a football game violated the Constitution because it was occurring “on government property at government-sponsored school events.”  
  1. Identify the constitutional clause that is common in both Engel v. Vitale and Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.
  2. Explain how the facts in both Engel v. Vitale and Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe led to a similar decision in both cases.
  3. Describe an action that could be taken by legislators who disagree with the ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.

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🏛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
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