AP US Government and Politics Overview
AP US Government and Politics is roughly equivalent to an introductory level college course in US Government. It’s a non-partisan intro to key concepts, ideas, behaviors, and interactions which shape the political landscape in the United States. Students study key documents, branches of government, court decisions, and will read and interpret data to develop evidence-based arguments. There are no specific prerequisites for AP US Government and Politics, but students should be able to read and write proficiently.
We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP Government and Politics books, Flashcards, and Review Guides for test year 2021 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s our short list:
Best AP US Government and Politics Books
AP Government and Politics 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!
AP US Government & Politics Crash Course
Pros: Narrow focus and great content for exam takers getting ready for the test
Cons: Limited number of practice tests compared to other offerings.
Best For: Last minute review immediately leading up to the test.
Our Rating: 5 / 5
AP US Government & Politics Crash Course is our top pick for overall review guide on the subject. It’s not as in-depth as other guides on this list, but we think the content it does contain is some of the best and most relevant to the actual exam. Key features include:
- Full length online practice test.
- Narrow focus on material relevant to the exam.
- Proven test taking strategies focused on both question formats on the exam.
- List of “must know” terms and concepts for quick review
If you’re looking for supplemental materials to use throughout the course as a review guide, consider one of the other options on this list. However, if you’re in crunch-mode leading up to your exam date, or just looking for a good overview of what to expect on the test, this is our top pick for you.
Cracking the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam
Pros: Large number of full length practice tests.
Cons: Broad focus can be hard to get through if time is an issue.
Best For: Supplementing course textbooks and practice tests leading up to exam.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5
Cracking the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam is our top pick for students looking for a more in-depth review than the Crash Course guide above. It has tons of practice tests, and goes into extensive detail on all the key course concepts. Full list of key features:
- 5 full length practice tests (4 print and 1 online).
- In-depth review of all key concepts from the course.
- Available in print and digital format.
- Glossary of key terms and techniques for the free response section.
All in all, if you’re looking for more of a comprehensive review or to supplement your other course textbooks, this is your best pick. Thanks to the multiple full length tests, it’s also a great buy for last minute preparation.
5 Steps to a 5: AP U.S. Government & Politics
Pros: Good online bonus content included with the book.
Cons: Fewer practice tests and less focused review than others on this list.
Best For: Course-long study aide.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
5 Steps to a 5: AP U.S. Government & Politics didn’t quite make the top picks on this list of Best AP US Government and Politics guidebooks, but it’s still a very solid resource. It comes with access to some pretty good online content, and does a good job covering course and exam material in a way that’s logical and well laid out. Key features:
- Three full length practice exams.
- Hundreds of practice excercises with explanations.
- Bonus online content.
- Strategies for each section of the exam.
This is another good choice for students looking to supplement other required course material. If you’ve used and enjoyed any of the other 5 Steps to a 5 books, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
Barron’s AP U.S. Government and Politics
Pros: Solid practice test and answer material.
Cons: Can be somewhat wordy in places.
Best For: Students looking for extra practice exams.
Our Rating: 4 / 5
Barron’s AP U.S. Government and Politics rounds out our list of top AP US Government and Politics Books for the 2020 exam. It’s a pretty good overall review, and comes with multiple printed and online practice exams. Features included in the book:
- 5 full length practice tests (2 printed + 3 online).
- In-depth review of all critical course material.
- Detailed answer keys and explanations for all practice test problems.
Overall, this is a good pick for students looking for a final review before the exam day. The numerous practice tests are good quality, but we tend to recommend some of the other books on this list if you’re looking more for the textual review of course content.
Best AP US Government and Politics Flashcards
In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, AP Government and Politics students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best AP Government and Politics Flashcards are outlined below.
Barron’s AP Government and Politics Flash Cards
Pros: In depth questions and explanations covering all major exam topics.
Cons: No digital format available.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Barron’s AP Government and Politics Flash Cards are a set of 500 physical flashcards covering chemistry definitions, forms, and structures organized according to the AP Government and Politics main concepts (listed above). These flashcards pair well with the Barron’s AP Government and Politics book mentioned above, but will work with any of the other resources (or on their own as a supplement to your course textbook). Key features include:
- Over 400 cards covering all AP Government and Politics key topics.
- Online exam included with purchase.
The Barron’s AP Government and Politics Flash Cards help ease the task of repetitive memorization, and make your final preparation for the exam much easier. The cars are relatively in-depth rather than simple multiple choice, so they can take a while to work through, but this helps in the long run.
5 Steps to a 5 AP U.S. Government and Politics
Pros: Digital format available.
Cons: Explanations are somewhat sparse on some cards.
Our Rating: 4 / 5
The 5 Steps to a 5 flashcards are another viable option for students looking to supplement other review materials. The information is less densely packed than on the Barron’s cards, which some students may appreciate. Key features include:
- Over 600 cards covering all AP Government and Politics key topics.
- One term per card with bulleted list of key information on back
We recommend flashcards for any AP US Government and Politics student planning to take the AP exam, and these are a great choice. If you prefer cards you can get through quickly, rather than comprehensive explanations per-card, go with these over the Barron’s version.
A full Course Description for AP US Government and Politics is available from collegeboard.org.
The AP US Government and Politics course offers students the chance to see how an individual’s thoughts and actions can change the world in which they live. Students explore central topics like justice and liberty through the study of 5 “Big Ideas” that are central to the course:
Constitutionalism: The United States Constitution defines a system of checks and balances between the 3 branches of government. Likewise, power is allocated between both State and Federal government.
Liberty and Order: Laws which balance order and liberty are based in the constitution, and have changed and been re-interpreted over time.
Civic Participation in a Representative Democracy: The base assumption in a representative democracy is that citizens will engage and participate in the process.
Competing Policy-Making Interests: Multiple parties come together to make policy. Their varied interests help ensure a give and take balance.
Methods of Political Analysis: Political scientists use a variety of methods to measure how behaviors, institutions, and attitudes are shaped over time.
In addition to the standard textbook based curriculum, the AP US Government and Politics course includes a major project to apply the concepts learned during the course. Projects should help the student apply course concepts to real-world political issues. As an example, a student might participate in a civic event and then prepare a report or presentation that ties the course learning to what they experienced.
Students taking the AP Government and Politics Exam are responsible for demonstrating knowledge of each of the above mentioned “Big Ideas”. It assess a student’s ability to:
- Analyze and compare political concepts.
- Analyze and interpret different types of data sources.
- Apply course concepts in a variety of contexts.
- Develop an argument using foundational documents as evidence.
The AP Government and Politics test is comprised of 2 sections (multiple choice and free form response), each of which make up 50% of the overall score.
The Multiple Choice section:
- 1 hour and 20 minutes long.
- It accounts for 50% of the overall exam score.
- 55 multiple choice questions.
The Free Response section:
- 1 hour and 40 minutes long.
- It accounts for 50% of the overall exam score.
- 4 open ended questions.
The 4 free response questions are broken down as follows:
Concept Application: Explain how a particular scenario relates to political institution, policy, or process.
Quantitative Analysis: Analyze data, identify a pattern, draw a conclusion, and explain how it relates to a political principle, policy, or behavior.
Supreme Court Comparison: Compare a supreme court case which isn’t covered in the required course content with one which is. Explain how they relate.
Argument Essay: Use evidence from the required foundational documents to build an argument in essay form on a particular topic.
For exam dates, refer to The College Board AP Calendar.
AP US Government and Politics is a great introduction to the topic for any student looking to knock out some early college requirements, or simply become a more informed citizen.
We’ve compiled this list of the top AP US Government and Politics books available to students, but choosing the correct one for you is a matter of personal circumstance. Whether you’re looking to add on to your assigned course materials, or for a quick refresher leading up to the exam, we’ve got you covered. Recapping our top pics:
|Top Overall Recommendation||AP US Government & Politics Crash Course|
|Top Pick For Course Supplement||Cracking the AP US Government and Politics Exam|
|Top Pick For Last Minute Prep||AP US Government & Politics Crash Course|
|Top Pick For Flashcards||Barron’s AP Government and Politics Flash Cards|
Our top pick overall is best suited to students nearing the exam dates who want to focus their study time. The AP US Government & Politics Crash Course does a good job of cutting out the fluff, and getting down to brass tacks.
For students with more time on their hands, or looking for a more comprehensive review of the course material, our top pick is Cracking the AP US Government and Politics Exam. Princeton Review guides regularly place at the top of our Best AP Books lists, and there’s a reason for that.
For flashcards, both the Barron’s and 5 Steps to a 5 are good choices, it’s more a matter of preference on how densely packed you like the information on each card.
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 Government and Politics resources available. Good luck, and study hard!