MAST Master-Tutor, Karen D. has come up with some tips for the AP Environmental Science exam. She is an experienced teacher with 10+ years, teaching AP Environmental Science, AP Biology, Biology, and Forensic Science, so she knows the in's and out's of the AP Environmental Science Exam. We hope these tips will help your understanding and preparation for the exam!

AP English Language Exam Tips

Posted by:
Amber M.
May 10, 2018

General Preparation Tips:

1. The AP Environmental Science exam covers 7 topics

  • 1) Earth Systems and Resources2) The Living World3) Population4) Land and Water Use5) Energy Resources and Consumption6) Pollution7) Global Change

2. The AP Environmental Science exam consists of two equally timed (90 minute) sections

  • Section I: consists of 100 Multiple Choice Questions and accounts for 60% of your final score
  • Section II: Is comprised of 4 Free Response Questions which account for 40%. 
  • Remember, calculator use is NOT ALLOWED on this exam

3. The MOST important tip ...

  • Is to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and stay hydrated the days leading up to the exam so that your brain is functioning at its optimum level!

4. Identify and use study methods (see below) that work best for you and devise a study plan

  • Choose methods that are comprehensive (that overview ALL major topics)
  • Identify areas YOU are weaker in and study those more!

AP Environmental Science “Must Know” Topics:

→ While all material in the course is fair game for questions, below are topics to prioritize in your study plan:

Earth Systems and Resources (10-15%)

  • Make sure to know WHERE the major plate boundaries are, the type of plate boundary and the effect.
  • Review the rock sock and understand soil formation.  Review the major soil horizons and be able to read a soil triangle.
  • Be able to identify the locations of major freshwater resources and know key characteristics of zonesfound in the ocean and in freshwater ecosystems.
  • Know the layers of the atmosphere and understand atmospheric circulation and the Coriolis Effect.
  • Atmosphere-ocean interactions including ENSO

The Living World (10-15%)

  • Understand the correlation between latitude and biome location.  Review the relative location of biomes and their characteristic features including; temperature, precipitation, animal and plant life.
  • Review the energy flow throughout ecosystems and living things including; food webs, trophic levels, ecological pyramids, photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
  • Understand the cycling of matter throughout the biotic and abiotic portions of the environment including; carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and water.
  • Be able to explain the different types of and significance of biodiversity making connections to the process of natural selection and ecosystem services.
  • Review interactions among species including; symbiotic relationships (mutualism, commensalism, parasitism), predation and competition.
  • Understand the difference between an organisms realized versus fundamental niche.
  • Review primary versus secondary succession.

Population (10-15%)

  • Be able to read population biology diagrams showing carrying capacity, logistic growth, and exponential growth.
  • Review age pyramid diagrams and have a general idea of countries which have age pyramid structures that are showing rapid growth, slow growth/stabilization, and a decline in growth.
  • Have a general idea of the population size of the nation’s most populous countries.
  • Understand the various stages of the demographic transition model, specifically understanding the interplay between the changing birth rate and death rate.
  • Human population growth can be directly or indirectly linked to every impact humans are having on the environment.

Land and Water Use (10-15%)

  • Understand the basics of the green revolution.
  • Know the key characteristics of industrial agriculture.
  • Review the link between agriculture and eutrophication of lakes and oceans.
  • Understand integrated pest management and how it can help farmers to avoid the pesticide treadmill.
  • Know examples of sustainable farming methods.
  • Understand the impacts of over fishing and review major types of fishing techniques.

Energy Resources and Consumption (10-15%)

  • Understand the formation of fossil fuels.
  • Know the major types of fossil fuels including where the largest reserves and located, their uses, and the pros and cons of each.  Also review the most populous countries and their main energy sources.
  • Understand energy conservation methods.
  • Be able to explain how fossil fuels and renewable energy sources are used for the generation of electricity.
  • Understand the different types of renewable energy sources and be familiar with the pros and cons of each.

Pollution (25-30%)

  • Know the most common and major pollutants found in water.  Known their sources and effects on living things.
  • Treatment of wastewater including the major stages at a waste water treatment plant and throughout a septic system.
  • Understand the differences between, and major types of primary and secondary air pollutants.
  • Review the major nutrients involved in and the steps of the formation of dead zones.
  • Know the major categories of pollutants, their sources, and the effect they have on human health.

Global Change (10-15%)

  • Review the differences between the ozone in the stratosphere and the ozone in the troposphere.
  • Understand how stratospheric ozone is formed, the causes of ozone depletion and its effects on organisms.
  • Understand the greenhouse effect, know the major greenhouse gases, and review the impacts and consequences of global warming.
  • Make connection between anthropogenic global change and the loss of biodiversity.

Study Tips:

1. Come up with a study plan

  • No matter how much time you have left before the exam, break that time into chunks and plan WHAT topics you will study and HOW you will study them.

2. Choose the study methods that work for you:

  • Read through the summaries in an AP review book.
  • Complete practice exams as an active study tool, meaning stop and look up topics as you go.
  • Take a “mock” exam, meaning you take a practice exam under exam day conditions; 90 minutes for 100 Multiple Choice Questions and 90 minutes for 4 Free Response Questions.  Some of studying should be about building test-taking stamina; being able to answer a lot of challenging questions in a short period of time.
  • Make a one page concept map/flow chart for each major topic area.  This should include the concept at the center and arrows, words, and lines showing connections to relevant content.
  • Watch review videos on topics you are less comfortable with such as; Bozeman Biology or Khan Academy (which also has practice questions).
  • Reread class/reading notes highlighting key points and using post-it notes to tag the most important.

Exam Day Tips:

1. Go to bed early the night before.

2. Wake up early the day of and eat a good breakfast 

  • Rich in protein and complex carbs that will maintain your energy level through the exam.

3. Remember your pen, pencil, good eraser, watch

4. Take a deep breath or two before you begin

  • Enter the exam with a relaxed mindset
  • At this point you have done all you can, be confident in what you know and do your best!

Multiple Choice Tips:

Be an active reader.  As you READ questions on the exam:

  • Underline key words and jot down notes to yourself in the margin.
  • Use the process of elimination – cross out answers you are certain are not right.
  • For graph-based questions, begin by analyzing the information given to determine what it is showing and then read through the questions.
  • If unsure of a question, choose your best answer and move on.  Circle it and go back to it if you have extra time at the end.  Trust your intuition on questions you are unsure of.  If there is one choice you are leaning towards a little more than others, choose it!

Free Response Tips:

1. You must write responses to 4 FRQ’s in 90 minutes.   

  • Plan to spend 22 minutes on each FRQ.

2. Quickly scan all 4 FRQ’s and decide the order that you’ll answer.  

  • The easiest one first, next easiest second and so on, answering the most difficult one last.

3. You may think the math FRQ is the most difficult...

  • Remember that the math is only part of the FRQ.  Even if you can’t do the math, be sure to answer the free-response sub-topics of the math FRQ.

4. Now read your first-choice FRQ thoroughly

  • Underline the key words (e.g. compare, analyze, diagram, describe, etc.)

5. Write a response that answers all parts of the FRQ

  • No fluffy introduction, no insightful conclusion.
  • No meaningless sentences.  These are a waste of your time!!
  • e.g. “cleaning up the environment will help it survive”
  • e.g. “The pH would affect the biodiversity.”

6. Divide each FRQ clearly into its sub-topics

  • Between each leave a blank line OR write the subtitle OR indent.

7. Make sure you:

  • Print clearly and draw a line through mistakes (no huge black blobs, no white-out).
  • Write complete sentences.
  • Capitalize the first word and end each sentence with a visible period.
  • Avoid using unprecedented pronouns (e.g.  It, They, Some, etc.)
  • No bullets or tabular lists.
  • If you draw a diagram, then make sure it is clearly titled and labeled.
  • - On a food chain, draw it large enough to see the trophic levels.  Arrows pointed in the correct direction.
  • - On a graph, label the axes.   Label the units.  Make the graph is large enough to see.
  • Save 2-3 minutes at the end to proof read, making sure your sentences are coherent and legible.

Keep working hard! We are almost there :)

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