AP Human Geography Overview
AP Human Geography introduces students to the study of concepts and practices that have shaped human understanding, alteration, and use of the Earth’s surface. It’s typically taught as a year long high school course, and is equivalent to a 1 semester introductory college course on human or cultural geography. AP Human Geography has no pre-reqs, but students who have studied world history, geography, or earth sciences may have an easier time.
We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP Human Geography books, Flashcards, and Review Guides for test year 2021 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:
A full Course Description for AP Human Geography is available from collegeboard.org.
AP Human Geography courses are constructed around thematic rather than regional topics. There are 7 broad topics covered by the course and exam, with topic order and specific material selection left to the instructor. The topics include:
Geography: It’s Nature and Perspectives
Students are introduced to the concept of spatial organization, knowing where events, people, and places are located helps you understand complex relationships between them. In this topic, students learn how to read and interpret maps and other data, use mathematical formulas and models to understand the world better.
Population and Migration
Knowledge of the ways in which human populations are located and organized geographically helps students understand complex cultural, political, and economic interactions. Students will study concepts like population growth and decline, refugee flows, immigration, and similar concepts.
Cultural Patterns and Processes
Fully understanding regional cultural variations is central to the study of Human Geography. The student will be exposed to a variety of cultural interactions and their resulting changes, conflicts, and adaptations.
Political Organization of Space
Organization of the Earth based on political boundaries, and the concept of territory is another major topic. Students study the political maps, and learn about how political boundaries don’t always match up with geographical, cultural, and other types of boundaries.
Agriculture and Land Use
Domestication of crops and animals, and their spread throughout the regions and world are key to the study of Human Geography. This topic explores the major agricultural regions of the world, their categorization, and characterization.
Internationalization and Economic Development
Geographic influence on economies and industrialization is the next major course topic. The ways in which location has historically influenced things like industrialization, globalization, and their impact on development is examined closely.
Cities and Urban Land Use
This topic is broken into 2 components: the location of cities, and the structure of cities. Both of these topics are critical to understanding how people and cultures interact in and around major cities of the world.
Students taking the AP Human Geography Exam are responsible for demonstrating knowledge of the above mentioned concepts and themes. The student’s knowledge is assessed through a 2 hour and 15 minute exam containing questions in both multiple choice and free response format. The exam is broken up into 2 parts, each having equal weight in determining a final score between 1 and 5.
Section 1: Multiple Choice
- 60 minutes long and covers multiple themes and topics
- 75 questions
- Accounts for 50% of the final score
Points are awarded for each correct answer, and no points are subtracted for incorrect or unanswered questions. Questions range in difficulty from requiring students to recognize the meaning of terms and concepts, to those that require the student to apply course concepts to new scenarios.
Section 2: Free Response
- 75 minutes long
- Contains 3 free response questions
- Accounts for 50% of the final score.
The free response question prompts require the student to clearly illustrate their mastery of the course themes. Example prompts may require students to demonstrate understanding of a particular model, cite examples of geographic influences, and analyze geographical concepts. Each question should take approximately 25 minutes to answer in full.
For exam dates, refer to The College Board AP Calendar.
Best AP Human Geography Books
AP Human Geography has several strong contenders for the best textbooks and review guides which we’ve ranked for you above. Continue on for detailed information on each one!
Cracking The AP Human Geography Exam
Pros: Well organized in-depth review material.
Cons: Fewer practice tests than some other guides.
Best For: Review guide for supplementing other course material.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5
Cracking The AP Human Geography Exam our #1 overall recommendation for Best AP Human Geography Book this year (2020 exam). It’s jam-packed with useful material, and will serve as a great resource for students both during the course and leading up to the exam. Full list of features include:
- 2 full length practice tests with detailed answer keys.
- Detailed maps and charts illustrating trends, theories, and models
- Strategies for each exam question type.
- Access to additional online resources.
The major strengths of this book are the written content, it’s depth, and organization. There’s really a lot of strong, relevant info here. Whether you’re planning to use this guide for additional context during the course, or just planning for a last minute review, this is a great overall pick.
Barron’s AP Human Geography
Pros: Detailed material with many full length tests.
Cons: Some students find it hard to absorb densely packed information.
Best For: Extra study aid for the duration of the course.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Barron’s AP Human Geography is our #second overll pick on this list, and has tons of great learning material. It includes 5 full length tests, as well as access to a bunch of other bonus online resources. The full list of features include:
- Access to 5 full length practice tests (2 printed and 3 online).
- Diagnostic tests help you identify where to focus study time.
- Comprehensive review of major course topics.
It’s a versatile book that does well as either a last minute review (due to all the practice tests included), or a year long course supplement. Whatever your situation, this book is worth your consideration.
Kaplan AP Human Geography
Pros: Good practice test resources.
Cons: Less detail and depth than some guides on this list.
Best For: Final review leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5
Kaplan AP Human Geography is another top-notch review book available for students planning to take the exam. It holds a great deal of useful information, and comes with online resources you’re sure to benefit from. Features include:
- 2 full length practice tests with detailed answer keys.
- Diagnostic test to help you assess your specific learning needs.
- Glossary of key terms and concepts.
- Tips and strategies for taking the test and scoring high marks.
Kaplan is a well recognized name in test-prep, and this guidebook is a good illustration of why that is. Overall, it does a good job of covering the key concepts and ideas tested in the exam, and should work well as a review guide leading up to your exam date.
AP Human Geography Crash Course
Pros: Innovative format uses youtube to thoroughly explain sample problems.
Cons: No full length practice tests.
Best For: Review of specific test question examples leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5
AP Human Geography Crash Course is an abbreviated guide to AP Human Geography, best suited to students with limited time before the exam. It cuts out a lot of the broad review you find in other books on this list, in favor of a narrow focus on exam content. Features include:
- 1 free online practice exam.
- Focused content covers just what you need to know for the test.
- Proven test taking strategies for tackling the different test sections.
This probably isn’t your best bet if you’re looking for a comprehensive review or a supplement to other required course material. It does however have a great place as a last minute review in the days before the test.
Best AP Human Geography Flashcards
In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, AP Human Geography students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best AP Human Geography Flashcards are outlined below.
Barron’s AP Human Geography Flash Cards
Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Some cards contain relatively elementary terms.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Barron’s AP Human Geography Flash Cards serves as a fantastic way to memorize key facts and information tested in the exam in a way that’s fun and entertaining. It’s a great compliment to Barron’s AP Human Geography guide, or any of the other books outlined above. Key features include:
- Over 460 flashcards.
- Covers all 4 themes from AP Human Geography course.
Flashcards have a tremendous benefit for students who elect to use them in their test preperation. These are our top pick, but students should consider making their own if nothing else.
The study of Human Geography can provide students with tremendous insight into the way societies and peoples have evolved and interacted around the globe throughout history. The AP Human Geography course is a challenging and rigorous one, and students will benefit from supplemental resources like exam guides and flashcards.
We’ve rounded up the top AP Human Geography books and flashcards and presented them above. When it comes down to it, the correct choice for you depends heavily on your personal circumstances. To recap our recommendations:
|Top Overall Recommendation||Cracking The AP Human Geography Exam|
|Top Pick For Course Supplement||Cracking The AP Human Geography Exam|
|Top Pick For Last Minute Prep||AP Human Geography Crash Course|
|Top Pick For Flashcards||Barron’s AP Human Geography Flash Cards|
For students who want to add to the list of required course textbooks for year long study, our recommendation (and top pick overall) is Cracking The AP Human Geography Exam. Princeton Review books are consistently high quality, and this book has a ton of great content.
For students with less time to spare before the exam, AP Human Geography Crash Course is our top pick. It’s laser focus, and ability to cut to the core of information needed on the exam is excellent.
Lastly, if you’re looking for memorization tools, our top pick there is the Barron’s AP Human Geography Flash Cards. They’re comprehensive and in-depth, and will help any student retain the information they need to succeed.
Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best AP Human Geography resources available. Good luck, and study hard!