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AP Human Geography – Expert Complete Guide

AP Human Geography – Expert Complete Guide

AP Human Geography is an exciting and unique Advanced Placement course option in high school, aiming to help students discover the nuances of human geography, including population, migration, culture and so much more. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to help students to develop their global citizenship and cultivate environmental stewardship. In this article, we will discuss the ins and outs of AP Human Geography, and offer valuable insights into taking this course as well as strategies and study tips to help you ace the exam!
1. What is AP Human Geography about?

At its core, AP Human Geography is the study of how human beings interact with their surroundings, communities, and the world at large. By studying Human Geography, students will be able to understand and apply geographical information from a wide variety of sources and mediums, analyze trends and patterns, and recognize spatial relationships using geographic scales.

AP Human Geography is equivalent to an introductory college-level course in human geography. The exam content includes questions about geographic concepts, and in-depth analysis of maps, geospatial data, infographics, and more.

As a high-level course, AP Human Geography has two main components: content and skills. As with any course, AP Human Geography will teach course content that is relevant to the topic. However, the content may be much more in-depth and dense than other high school courses. In addition, memorizing content is only part of this class. Students will also be developing essential skills in Human Geography that will support their understanding of course materials and guide students toward achieving the true course goals of global citizenship and environmental stewardship.

For AP Human Geography, there are 5 skill categories that the course aims to develop:

  1. Concepts and Processes: Learning to utilize geographical concepts and processes both theoretically and practically. 
  2. Spatial Relationships: Learning to understand and find the Big Picture implications. of applied data using patterns and relationships from real data.
  3. Data Analysis: Learning to analyze qualitative data from different visual sources.
  4. Source Analysis: Learning to analyze qualitative data from different visual sources.
  5. Scale Analysis: Learning to use geographical ideas to explain and predict spatial relationships and outcomes.

These skills will be developed by interacting with the course content, which is split into 7 units:

  • Thinking Geographically
  • Population and Migration Patterns and Processes
  • Cultural Patterns and Processes
  • Political Patterns and Processes
  • Agriculture and Rural Land-Use Patterns and Processes
  • Cities and Urban Land-Use Patterns and Processes
  • Industrial and Economic Development Patterns and Processes

The first unit acts as an introduction to the course, and prepares students for what to expect in terms of breadth, depth, and work-load during the rest of the class. Consequently, the content from this first unit will be weighted less on the final exam; however, students should still ensure that they understand the content because it is the basis for the rest of the course content.
These 7 units will be approached through the lenses of 3 Big Ideas:

  • Patterns and Spatial Organization
  • Impacts and Interactions
  • Spatial Processes and Societal Changes

Whenever you find yourself struggling with understanding a particular concept or how it fits into the bigger picture of the course content, it’s good to come back to these three ideas and determine how they apply to whatever you’re having a hard time with. These ideas are the foundation of the course as a whole, so if you work to understand the content in each of these contexts, you can be confident going into your exam!

2. What is in the AP Human Geography Exam?

The AP Human Geography Exam 2023 is on Tuesday, May 7, 2023 at 8AM in your local time zone. The entire exam is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, although different amounts of time will be allotted to different sections.

The exam includes two sections like almost any other AP exams, with multiple choice and free response questions. Both sections are weighted equally (50%) to determine your final score.

The multiple choice section has 60 questions, and lasts 60 minutes. Your score for this section will be determined based on your correct answers, with more weight put on certain questions. The weight of each question is assessed through the 5 course skills that we mentioned above. Generally, ‘Concepts and Processes’ receives the most weight (25-36%), ‘Spatial Relationships’ receives the second most (16-25%), and the remaining three skills are all weighted between 13-20%. Some questions will be stand-alone, and others will be grouped in related sets divided between quantitative and qualitative sources.

The free response section has 3 questions, and lasts 75 minutes. These questions are similarly weighted based on the 5 skill categories, and additionally follow the same priority levels for each skill category. The first question won’t include any visual stimuli, the second question will have one, and the third question will have two. The purpose of the Free Response section is to demonstrate your holistic knowledge of course content through the skills that you have been developing. These questions may ask you to consider certain concepts or theories in new contexts, or apply them in unexpected ways, so it’s important to look at past or practice exams to get a general idea for what these questions will require.

3. AP Human Geography Exam Score Information
AP Exams are scored using a 5 point scale, with 5 being the highest score. Generally, scores of 3 and up can be used as college credit, but this can sometimes vary depending on the distribution of scores for that examination season. Hence, it is important to be aware of the percentage of exam-takers who get each score. The 5-point percentage can help you to determine the overall difficulty of the exam (the lower the percentage, the harder the exam). The following is the latest score distribution data of AP Human Geography in 2023 for your reference.
4. How Hard is AP Human Geography?

AP Human Geography is a challenging, yet rewarding class that is equal to a first year human geography course in college. Hence, unlike standard level high school geography courses, AP Human Geography involves much more than just learning to read a map or memorizing location names; students will be expected to engage much more extensively with the material and its deeper implications, focusing on critical thinking and data analysis. For example, some foundational concepts in this discipline are population, migration, and urbanization. However, just understanding these concepts is not enough. In this AP course, students will need to dig deeper to understand the relationships between these concepts, how they’re related to one another, and how they shape human societies.

In addition, analytics is also a more difficult aspect of the subject, since it requires students to utilize the foundational concepts of Human Geography in tandem with practical data to analyze maps, geographic patterns and relationships, interpret data, and explain spatial relationships.

On a more practical side, AP courses require extensively more reading than other high school courses, with many requiring both a textbook and supplementary text. Often, reading between classes can surpass 100 pages, and needs to be read with care to truly understand the material to get the most out of the following lecture. On top of the reading, students will also be expected to study old material and practice for their coming AP exam on top of any other homework for the course. So, the difficulty of this course will most be determined by how much time and energy a student has to dedicate to it.

5. How to study for AP Human Geography?

For a more in-depth guide to studying for AP exams, please read our article Spring Semester AP Study Guide!

Throughout the year, you should take time every week to review old units and concepts to keep them fresh in your memory. You should also prioritize asking peers and teachers for help whenever you have trouble understanding content, as concepts in AP classes stack on one another, and it’s often essential to understand prior material in order to understand later course content. You should also dedicate time to looking at past exams and clarifying anything about the exam requirements and format that you find confusing.

In general:

  • Develop a systematic study plan: Since AP Human Geography has a lot of content, you should develop a comprehensive study plan that breaks it down into manageable chunks and topics. You should consider creating a schedule where you highlight specific study goals for each session to help you stay focused. 
  • Practice, Practice, practice! Practice is essential for success in any course. You can practice questions from Advanced Placement past AP Human Geography practice test with key, including the latest 2023 exam questions. Aralia also has AP Human Geography preparation courses in all different levels for students. 
  • Study with others. To better understand the materials, we recommend you study with classmates, teachers, or online study groups. Study groups will help you clarify ideas and provide different perspectives and insights on topics through discussions. Don’t forget to seek feedback from your teacher or classmates on your practice essays or other written responses! This can also help you to improve your writing skills and address any gaps in your understanding.

A month before the exam:

  • Take the full practice test and go through your mistakes. Practice using past exams provided by AP to familiarize yourself with the exam format, such as the types of questions asked and the time limit.
  • Review content that you’re less confident with. After receiving the score for your practice exam, review the questions that you didn’t answer correctly. Identify areas and concepts associated with those questions to create a focused study plan to specifically review the areas where you encountered difficulties.
  • Take a second full practice test. Once you feel more confident about the areas you are struggling in, take another full-length practice test. This will allow you to assess your progress and work on any remaining areas that require attention.

AP courses can be very challenging and intimidating; however, taking the time to understand what will be expected of you, as well as making a study plan at the start of the year will help you to be successful and confident. AP Human Geography is a unique and valuable opportunity to engage with Geography from a global perspective and gain beneficial skills that will support your academic pursuits for the rest of your life. If you’re considering this course and are interested in the material but intimidated by the requirements, we encourage you to utilize the many resources at your fingertips (everything from you professors and peers to preparatory courses provided by Aralia), and enroll in AP Human Geography with confidence!

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