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Ap Comparative Government Essay

What is AP Comparative Government and Politics? According to CollegeBoard, AP Comparative Government and Politics “introduces students to fundamental concepts used by political scientists to study the processes and outcomes of politics in a variety of country settings.” At its most basic level, AP Comparative Government and Politics looks at the different governing bodies of six selected countries: Great Britain, Mexico, Russia, Iran, China, and Nigeria.

The class also examines how each respective country tackles global problems and the effectiveness of their solutions. In this article, we are going to look at whether AP Comparative Government and Politics is the class for you.

While AP Government and Politics may seem to be just another AP exam, it has its own particular format, content, and required the skill set that you will need to master if you want to succeed. Specifically, this AP Comparative Government study guide will break down the AP Comparative Government and Politics exam pass rate, what you will be studying if you decide to take the course, and what to expect on exam day. Finally, we will give you our assessment of whether the exam is worth it and the steps you can take to begin preparation as well as some AP Comparative Government tips. Let’s get started!

By the Numbers

First, we’ll give you some brief statistics surrounding AP Comparative Government and Politics, so you have an idea of the score breakdown. CollegeBoard collected the data surrounding the AP Comparative Government and Politics exam, and it found that in 2016 22,001 students took the exam. This is compared to 2015 where 21,367 students took the final exam, an overall 3% increase nationally. 1,303 high schools offered AP Comparative Government and Politics around the country.

In addition, if you were considering taking the class to get the transferable college credit, there were 2,100 colleges and universities receiving the AP scores for AP Comparative Government and Politics. To gain the college credit, it is necessary for you to score above a certain threshold. While earning a 3 may count as a passing score, you will need to check with individual colleges to know the score they require. Sometimes a 3 is not a guarantee that the college will accept the AP class in place of a college course. To give you a better idea of the exam’s difficulty, we will summarize the different scores students received after taking AP Comparative Government and Politics. The score distribution for the 2016 round of AP Comparative Government and Politics scores is as follows:

  • Students who scored a 5 – 4,519
  • Students who scored a 4 – 4,663
  • Students who scored a 3 – 4,493
  • Students who scored a 2 – 4,728
  • Students who scored a 1 – 3,598

Of the 22,001 students who took the AP Comparative Government exam, 62.2% scored a three or higher. Of these 22,001 students, only about 20% scored a 5, which is typically the score that guarantees a college will accept the AP credit. Remember that to pass the exam, you need to score at least a three, but most colleges only take fours and fives as transferable credit. Now that we have a better understanding of numbers surrounding the AP Comparative Government exam, let’s look at the actual content and what you need to study.


Whether you are taking the class to get college credit, or you are only interested in political systems and how it differs across borders, you still need to be familiar with the course content before deciding if the class will be a good fit for you. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of topics you will encounter. It will help when putting together your AP Comparative Government study plan and when you are preparing for the AP Comparative Government exam. We have also provided a brief summary of each topic.

Introduction to Comparative Politics

This section will explain the purpose of political science. It will also delve into why it is important for you, as both a student and a citizen, to stay informed about current events. In a world where globalization is becoming the norm and a nation’s economy is increasingly tied to the international stage, it only makes sense to keep up to date with politics abroad.

Sovereignty, Authority, and Power

In this topic, we delve into the nature of power and how it is derived. The world as an interdependent series of countries did not exist until about the seventeenth century when geopolitics in Europe led to the rise of the first nation-states. In this section, you will learn how cultural values play into the exercise of power and its effects on authority. Furthermore, you will learn how the exercise of power allows a nation sovereignty and lends it legitimacy on the international stage.

Political Institutions

This section introduces you to the inner workings of a nation’s government. For example, you learn how a country arranges its branches of government. Additionally, you learn which parts of a country’s government hold certain responsibilities and obligations. You will also study how a political elite forms as well as a nation’s electoral system.

Citizens, Society, and the State

You will learn how the different parts of a society can affect a country’s political system. Whether it is ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status, all of these factors play a role in the evolution of a political system. You will also discuss how civic participation unfolds in different political institutions and the potential effects of the media.

Political and Economic Change

When talking politics, it is impossible not to discuss economics. Politics drives economic reform, trade deals, and trade embargoes, and sometimes it is possible for the opposite to be true as well. For the purpose of AP Comparative Government, a country’s economy is a function of its politics, so you will be introduced to such organizations like the World Trade Organization and the EU.

Public Policy

Public policy varies widely from country to country. Many moving parts affect how policy is formed and carried out. At the domestic level, there are interest groups exerting pressure on the different arms of government to pursue their own goals. There is also international pressure derived from agreements between countries and trade alliances like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). All of these things also have consequences. Where a single piece of public policy may work in one nation, there is no guarantee that it will work in another.

This list should give you an idea of what topics you are going to see in both the class and on the exam. If you plan to take the exam, you should look at the next section. There we’ll discuss how the exam is formatted.

Exam Structure

The AP Comparative Government and Politics exam are scheduled to last exactly two hours and twenty-five minutes. It is composed of two sections. The first section is a multiple-choice section comprised of 55 questions. These questions will be taken from the material that you have studied all year and will test your ability to remember the concepts you have learned. You will have 45 minutes to complete the first section, and it represents 50% of your total score.

The second section is the free response question (FRQ). This section is composed of eight open-ended questions. Five of these questions are dedicated to your ability to identify terms as well as provide examples and explain their significance. One question in the free response section will be devoted to using concepts taken from the class to illustrate the relationship between a country’s politics, public policy, and its interactions with other nations. The final two questions in the free response section will ask you to analyze one or more of the countries we mentioned using the knowledge you learned. You will have 100 minutes to finish this part, and it represents the other 50% of your score. Now why don’t we look at the skills you are going to need to get that 5?

Skills Required

At its most fundamental level, AP Comparative Government and Politics is a class that requires you to be able to read, write, and discuss information at the college level. However, should you decide to take the course here are some AP Comparative Government tips. First, there are some goals you will want to keep in mind. The central theme is taking an in-depth look at the government and political processes of six different countries. You will be looking for similarities and differences between the American system and Great Britain, Mexico, Russia, Iran, China, and Nigeria.

By the end of the class, you should be able to do a couple of things. First, you will be able to compare political concepts and ideas across a wide spectrum of governing bodies. Then you will be able to provide detailed descriptions of political processes and their general effects. You will also have the ability to differentiate political institutions across the aforementioned countries and explain how they function. Finally, you will be able to take data gathered from a nation’s political processes, such as a voter turnout rate across three election cycles, and interpret their effects.

You will also see actual quantitative data that you will need to analyze logically. You will need to take the facts from these bodies of data to support arguments and discussions you will make in the free response section. Furthermore, you will need to be able to compare and contrast policy issues across countries and the methods different political institutions take to solve these matters.

Finally, can you maturely discuss topics that may be perceived as controversial? You may see issues that arise not just from political differences, but that also stem from cultural, religious, and ethnic differences. It is highly likely that you may encounter public policy that may seem strange, perhaps even unfair. You have to remember that people from other countries may hold different value sets and belief systems that are in opposition to your own. If you feel that you can acquire all of these skills necessary to succeed in AP Comparative Government and Politics and maintain an honest, respectful attitude, then go ahead and sign up! If you are still on the fence about the class, then this next section is for you.

Is AP Comparative Government Worth it?

We have provided you with several AP Comparative Government tips but to decide if AP Comparative Government and Politics is a class you want to take, there are several factors you need to consider. First, what is your course load going to look like? What other classes are you going to take along with AP Comparative Government? This is important because there is going to be a significant amount of reading associated with this class. Will you be able to handle long reading assignments on top of problem sets from AP Calculus and vocabulary practice from AP French? Depending on how challenging your other classes are, you may need to consider what your schedule is going to look like for the coming academic year.

Another major factor is the instructor teaching the course. An important question to ask regarding the instructor is, “Does his teaching style match your learning style?” If they don’t necessarily mesh well, would you be able to teach yourself the material? What have your friends who have already had this instructor said about him? A teacher will have a significant effect on your ability to learn, process, and analyze the material. Depending on whether he is capable can mean either success or failure for you once the exam rolls around.

Perhaps you are taking AP Comparative Government and Politics on your own without formal instruction from a teacher. Do you have access to an AP Comparative Government study guide? Do you have an AP Comparative Government study plan to approach studying all of the material? Do you have the discipline it takes to sit down every day, teach yourself the material, and review it? Essentially, it boils down to what degree you are willing to self-study. This also applies if you are taking formal lessons because you still need to review the material afterward.

If you are still set on taking AP Comparative Government and Politics but have not yet figured out what your next move is, then keep reading! We can help you put together an AP Comparative Government study plan for future practice and study!

Next Steps

You should get a head start on studying. It’s never too early to start learning the material in preparation for the exam in the spring. Create a schedule for yourself, something that you feel like you will stick to so that you will see the best results from your efforts. Using this plan, you will be able to stay organized as you go through each topic or lesson. Most textbooks and AP Comparative Government study guides keep a vocabulary list that is key to mastering the concepts discussed. Keep a master list of the vocabulary on your own, either on notecards or online! Once the exam rolls around, you will recognize all the vocabulary.

Additionally, one of the best things you can do to review and practice is to study previous questions from past exams. This will give you a better idea of what to expect of the material on which you are going to be tested. Below we have provided a sample multiple-choice question as well as a free response question. However, you are encouraged to look at past exams!

Sample Multiple Choice Question

In the developed and developing worlds, respectively, the greatest demographic pressures on policy come from which of the following?

A. Gender imbalances


B. Aging                                            


C. Emigration  


D. Overpopulation

High death rates                    

E. High birth rates  


The correct answer is B. You can eliminate option A and option E because aging is typically not a demographic pressure in a developing nation and developed countries usually don’t have high birth rates. Option C is incorrect because the demographic pressures should be reversed with developed nations suffering from high levels of immigration and developing countries have high rates of emigration. Finally, Option D may seem correct, but while developing countries may have high death rates, overpopulation is not considered a demographic pressure.

Sample Free-Response Question

Define referendum. Describe one referendum that took place in Great Britain in the last twenty years. Describe one political consequence of the referendum result.

A sample answer for this FRQ would look like:

A referendum is a national vote called by country’s government to address a specific issue. It is typically associated with proposals to alter the constitution, but it is not limited to that type of topic. A major referendum that took place within the last twenty years would be Great Britain’s decision to remain a part of the European Union or exit the economic partnership. A political consequence of the referendum result was Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to resign from his position because he was pro-EU, but the country had voted to exit the European Union.

AP Comparative Government and Politics is a class whose examination of politics and the political system is wide-ranging. You will learn about different nations’ political institutions and the role it plays in dealing with society’s issues and the influence it has on culture and the economy. Still, while we have outlined the general format of the course and broken down the exam, you are still going to have to be the one to take it. Don’t worry, though; we’ll be here to help! Have you decided to take the course and exam?

Looking for AP Comparative Government practice?

Kickstart your AP Comparative Government prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

AP Comparative Government is one of the most challenging AP courses. One of the things that students find most difficult about the AP Comparative Government test are the free response questions. These questions can cover a wide variety of material and require nuanced, detailed answers. This handy guide will help you make sure you know what you’re doing when dealing with AP Comparative Government free response questions.

What is the Format of AP Comparative Government?

The AP Comparative Government test consists of two sections: multiple choice and free response. Each section is worth 50% of your final scaled score. This chart should help clarify the contents of each section, and provide you with an idea of the overall structure of the exam.

SectionQuestion TypeNumber of QuestionsTimeOverall Value of Scaled Score
Section IMultiple Choice5545 Minutes50%
Section IIFree Response5 Short Answer

1 Conceptual

2 Country Specific

8 Total Question

1 Hour 40 Minutes50%

As you can see, there are eight total free response questions: five Short Answer, one Conceptual, and two Country-Specific. As a result, there are a number of skills you will need to handle AP Comparative Government free response questions adequately.

Why is the AP Comparative Government Free-Response Important?

Free response questions deserve a solid portion of your AP Comparative Government practice because of how crucial they are. AP Comparative Government free response questions make up 50% of your scaled score, a strong indicator of their importance. However, the way AP Comparative Government free response questions are scored will also help you understand their impact. This score sheet is an excellent demonstration of the point. You’ll notice that the score you get on each question is weighted, and those weights are higher than the weight given to the multiple-choice questions. Therefore, while each section counts toward 50% of your final score, each point you get from a free response question contributes much more value to it. The result of this is that doing well on free response questions can boost your final score!

What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP Comparative Government?

The different types of free response questions cover different elements from the course. Short Answer questions are more definition based, and require students to define key concepts from the course outline. These questions are the most basic free response questions, and require the least amount of comparison or nuance.

The next type of question, conceptual, is more intensive than the short answer questions. It requires students not only to define, but also to analyze a concept covered in the class. However, these only cover major concepts for the course outline, so that will narrow down the list of potential questions when you are designing your AP Comparative Government Study plan.

The final question type on the AP Comparative Government free response section is the Country-Specific one. These questions will require students to provide specific information on the government or political structure of the countries covered in the class and provide comparative analysis on them. As a result, students can expect to explain the similarities and differences between different governments, as well as the importance and implications of those similarities and differences.

How to Prepare for AP Comparative Government’s Free-Response

There are many ways that you can approach your preparation for AP Comparative Government free response questions. The first and most important thing to do is develop a study plan. An AP Comparative Government study plan will help you make sure that your prep is on schedule and is covering all of the topics that you need.

The next step to preparing for AP Comparative Government free response questions is to make sure you have a list of all of the core concepts covered in the class. The core concepts are found in the course outline linked above. You should go through this list and make an honest assessment of your comfort with each concept and country. This will help you get a better picture of what you need to brush up on to ensure a complete AP Comparative Government review.

The third tip for preparing for AP Comparative Government free response questions is to look back at old tests. The CollegeBoard provides all of the past free response questions, as well as scoring guidelines and rubrics. These tools will give you an accurate assessment of your ability to answer AP Comparative Government free response questions by practicing with actual test questions and seeing what your score would be.

A fourth tip to make sure you get the best AP Comparative Government practice possible is to make your own random question generator. The process is simple; make a stack of notecards with a single concept from the class, and a stack of cards with the different countries. Shuffle the concept stack, flip one over and also turn over two country cards. Write a practice essay that compares the two countries based on the concept that you’ve turned over. This method will help you prepare for anything that the test can ask you, and makes sure that you don’t limit yourself to only practicing questions for which you already know the answer.

The final recommendation for increasing your score on AP Comparative Government free response questions is to review outside resources for questions. Make sure to notice any trends when you are practicing multiple-choice questions, as they can indicate knowledge gaps that can undermine your free-response score as well.

How to Answer AP Comparative Government Free-Response Questions?

There are many ways to answer AP Comparative Government free response questions. One of the most important things to remember, especially for the Conceptual and Country-Specific questions, is that the course is comparative. Consequently, you can explain the concept as it relates to one country, then the other, and then finally compare and contrast the two countries, explaining why the similarities and differences that you point out are important. This approach works helps you outline the country information and then set up the comparison and analysis of the concept.

Another method that students have found successful is to start with the concept. By first defining the concept, and then explaining how each country relates to that concept, some students find that their ability to articulate the similarities and differences between countries is enhanced. This phenomena occurs because writing about the concept at the start helps them remember and realize things about the countries studied in the class, as opposed to starting with the countries, which can leave some students at a loss trying to remember details.

What are AP Comparative Government Free-Response Questions Like?

The different types of AP Comparative Government free response questions can seem confusing, but some examples can help you feel at ease and get you in the right frame of mind to execute your AP Comparative Government practice.

The short answer questions are the most numerous on the exam. The following is an example of a short answer question on the 2016 AP Comparative Government exam.

Define referendum. Describe one referendum that took place in Great Britain in the last twenty years. Describe one political consequence of the referendum result.

You can clearly see how these questions are looking for basic definitions and descriptions. A successful answer to this question might define referendums, cite the recent Brexit referendum, and describe the implications that vote had for the members of Parliament in the U.K.

The conceptual questions are more intensive than short answer questions, and the CollegeBoard recommends spending at least 30 minutes on them. The 2016 exam had the following Conceptual question:

Forms of political participating vary in both democratic and authoritarian regimes

a. Describe how political participation in elections is different in democratic regimes and authoritarian regimes.
b. Describe how political participation through social media is different in democratic regimes and authoritarian regimes.
c. Describe how participation in civil society is different in democratic regimes and authoritarian regimes.
d. Explain why people participate politically in democratic regimes. Explain why people participate politically in authoritarian regimes
e. Explain why authoritarian regimes allow certain forms of political participation
f. Explain why democratic regimes allow certain forms of political participation.

As you can see, this question doesn’t cover a specific country but rather explores the similarities and differences between democratic and authoritarian governments, and how their citizens respond. A complete answer will deal with every item on the checklist, paying attention to the fact that items a-d require a response for democratic and authoritarian regimes.

he Country Specific questions are the final question type. This example from the 2016 exam demonstrates this question type:

Describe two domestic factors that influenced the relaxation of China’s one-child policy. Describe one international factor that influenced the relaxation of this policy.

This question asks you to apply concepts from the class to a specific policy of a specific country. Complete answers might discuss different population and political dynamics in the country, as well as international pressure over human rights issues that the policy creates.

How can I Practice AP Comparative Government Free Response

You can find many resources online to practice AP Comparative Government free response. These study guides frequently also have many helpful AP Comparative Government tips that will not only help you with the free response but also with the multiple-choice section. Make sure that you identify what you need the most help on, develop an AP Comparative Government study plan, and follow through on it. Consider the different ways to approach different question types and practice as much as you can, and you will be well on your way toward getting the AP Comparative Government exam score you’ve always wanted.

Looking for AP Comparative Government practice?

Kickstart your AP Comparative Government prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

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