AP Human Geography Multiple-Choice Strategies

The AP Human Geography exam can be challenging, but with the right strategic mindset, you can get yourself on track for earning the 3, 4, or 5 that you need to qualify for college credit or advanced placement. The following are strategies to aid you on the multiple-choice section of the exam.
Multiple-choice questions will ask about a variety of topics, ranging from more straightforward to more complex. One question might ask you to identify a type of diffusion, while the next question might ask you to apply a geography model to a hypothetical scenario, and the question after that might ask you to analyze relevant trends based on a map. You will have 60 minutes to answer the 75 multiple-choice questions that comprise Section I of the exam.

For the 2019-20 administration, each AP course will have a 45-minute free-response exam focusing on the content most schools were able to cover by early March. You’ll take the test from home, on whatever device you have access to. Colleges have agreed to accept this year’s AP scores as they would any scores on full-length AP exams. You can see all CollegeBoard AP updates here.

AP Human Geography Multiple Choice Question Terminology

There are many important key terms in human geography, and multiple-choice questions will fold these terms into both the question and the answer choices. Therefore, in order to answer the questions, you’ll need to have a solid foundation of geography terminology. The free-response portion of the exam relies on knowledge of terminology, so learning these terms and practicing with them in the multiple-choice section will help prepare you for the AP exam as a whole.
When studying terminology, it’s crucial to learn both the definitions of terms and the connections they have to other terms and topics. For example, to answer a question about the findings of Thomas Malthus, you need to know about birth rate, death rate, exponential population growth, the J-curve, and the S-curve. Furthermore, you need to know how Malthusian theory relates to modern-day population and food production trends.

Stimulus Analysis

Recently, the College Board has begun adding more stimulus-based questions. These are questions with some type of chart, map, graph, or other visual element attached to the question. Before you spend too much time studying the stimulus, make sure you read the question stem and understand what the question is asking. It may be that the question is only focused on a certain part of a map or section of a chart, or that the question is about the general topic that the image depicts.
For any stimulus, focusing on just a few main aspects will often yield what you need to answer the question at hand.

  • Titles or captions: Students are often tempted to skip these seemingly simple features, but a lot of information can be gleaned from them. Read any titles or captions carefully, noting the subject as well as any years, sources, or other pertinent details.
  • Keys or labels: There might be color coding in a map, or bars in a graph, that you need to understand in order to answer the question. The AP exam will always provide a key or label to help you decode this information.
  • Trends: Think about what trends or patterns this stimulus is depicting, where they are occurring, and where they are not occurring. It may help to think about why people would have created the image. What were they trying to convey? Why did they choose to include certain information? After all, maps, charts, and other visuals are ways we organize information to better understand it.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to both analyze the stimulus and use your prior knowledge in order to answer these questions. Plan your time accordingly with stimulus-based questions, as they will take more time than typical multiple-choice questions.

AP Human Geography Multiple Choice Question Pacing

With 60 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions, you have 1 minute on average to answer each question. Some questions, such as stimulus-based questions, may naturally take longer to answer, while other questions may take less time. As you move through the exam, answer questions as efficiently as you can in order to save extra time for the questions that need it. Don’t rush, though, or you’ll open yourself up to making silly mistakes.
Check your time periodically, but not obsessively. There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so make sure you answer every question. It can’t hurt and might even help your score! Save yourself a little time at the end to fill in guesses on any question you skipped over or didn’t have time to answer. If you finish early, you can go back to spend some extra time on any questions you skipped.

Process of Elimination and Educated Guessing on Multiple Choice Questions

A blind guess on the AP Human Geography exam gives you a 1-in-5 (20%) chance of getting the correct answer. Even better, every incorrect answer you can confidently eliminate increases those odds: eliminate one and your chances improve to 25%, two and you’re at 33%, three and you’re at 50%. And, if you eliminate all four incorrect answer choices, you just got the question right! So, whenever the correct answer isn’t immediately clear, start eliminating and see where it gets you.

AP Human Geography Multiple Choice Practice Questions

Metropolitan AreaAfrican American Population, 1940African American Population, 1970
New York City661,1002,347,100
Los Angeles76,200765,800
Washington, D.C.251,600695,100

1. The table above best exemplifies which of the following concepts?

  • (A) Contagious diffusion
  • (B) Stimulus diffusion
  • (C) Relocation diffusion
  • (D) Hierarchical diffusion
  • (E) Expansion diffusion

2. In analyzing population movements in a country, which of the following would be most helpful?

  • (A) Historical data about population movements in that country
  • (B) Contemporaneous accounts of population movements
  • (C) Historical data about population movements across the world
  • (D) Population density maps of the country’s largest cities
  • (E) Maps showing all the physical features of that country

Answer Choice (C) is the correct response.

Relocation diffusion: The spreading of a custom when people move; language tends to be spread through relocation diffusion.

Answer Choice (A) is the correct response.

Focus on Your Strengths

The questions on the AP Human Geography exam are numbered, but that doesn’t mean you have to answer them in the order presented. Every question, regardless of how hard or easy it seems, is worth the same amount. That means you should feel free to answer the questions in an order that plays to your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. You don’t want to spend precious minutes puzzling over a question that has you stumped. Always be willing to skip over a tough question and come back to it later.

AP Human Geography Multiple Choice Question Scoring

The multiple-choice section is scored electronically. Each correct question is awarded one point, and no points are deducted for incorrect or unanswered questions. The multiple-choice section is worth half of your total score, with the other half coming from the free-response section.