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How Can I Get a 5 in AP Environmental Science?

4 min readoctober 19, 2021


Thomasina L.

AP Environmental Science ♻️

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Enlighten yourself and earn a 5 in AP Environmental Science! Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Do you want to earn a 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam? In 2020, only 11.8% of APES students earned a 5 on the exam, which means that this group is particularly selective. Consider a few tips and tricks to help you get started on your journey and adapt the suggestions to your own experience!

✈️ Exam Overview and Format

AP Environmental Science explores the concepts, processes, and connections of Earth, developing essential scientific skills to analyze and solve environmental problems. On the AP exam, you must demonstrate your ability to apply your knowledge in order to analyze presented sources and data as well as propose solutions to various environmental dilemmas.
Take a look at the exam format:

AP Environmental Science Exam

Section NumberQuestion TypeNumber of QuestionsExam WeightingTiming
1Multiple Choice (MCQ)8060%1 hour and 30 minutes
2Free Response (FRQ)340%1 hour and 30 minutes


🔥 5 Tips and Tricks to Earn a 5

🏗️ 1. Know the content

This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but knowing the content is crucial to success (and a 5) in APES! While you might fixate on the exam as May gets closer, don't forget to balance reviewing and practicing for the exam. As you encounter different concepts and questions, you'll quickly be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses within the course. Use these observations to your advantage as you develop knowledge and skills. Remember that content is half of the battle of the exam!

👩‍⚖️ 2. Know how to explain, analyze, and justify

Once you develop a strong foundation (content), apply your knowledge to multiple-choice and free-response questions. You'll need to demonstrate complex thinking on the AP exam in order to earn a 5, so dig deeper than the surface-level content. Learn how to explain concepts and processes, analyze presented sources and data, and justify proposed solutions.
Don't wait until the last minute to focus on this step! Instead, you should form these skills throughout the year by supplementing typical content with more advanced and in-depth thinking. Depending on your targeted practice, you might want to use MCQs or FRQs to develop these skills, but become comfortable and confident with both!

🤹 3. Know how to answer Multiple-Choice Questions

The multiple-choice section accounts for 60% of your exam score, which means that you need to enter the exam feeling familiar and confident with each style of question in order to earn a 5. A typical MCQ will provide a text-based source or visual representation of data (tables, charts, graphs, models, representations) and ask 1 or more questions based on the given information and other relevant knowledge.
As you practice throughout the year, be sure to work through many different sample problems. Don't feel comfortable with only one style of question; mix it up. If you typically practice using MCQs that provide a graph as the reference material, try answering MCQs that provides a text-based source. By the time that the exam rolls around, you'll be an expert in the multiple-choice section!
📝Check out this guide on multiple-choice questions and the hub for practice questions by unit!


✍️ 4. Know how to answer Free-Response Questions

The free-response section accounts for 40% of your exam score, but don't let that trick you into thinking that it's less important to master! This category is still a major portion of your exam and you'll need to excel on the questions in order to earn a 5. Out of the total 3 questions, 1 question will ask you to design an investigation and 2 questions will ask you to analyze an environmental problem and propose a solution.
You might experience a steeper learning curve as you practice FRQs in comparison to MCQs. After all, the structure of the questions is fairly unique and complex. As you work through numerous FRQs, you'll become more comfortable with the section. Similar to the MCQ section, you should become familiar with different styles of prompts in order to gain the most experience.
📝Read: AP Environmental Science - FRQ Help


📝 5. Practice, practice, practice

Don't underestimate the amount of time and effort that it will take to earn a 5 on the APES exam. Consistent practice makes perfect. As you practice different questions and prompts, you'll develop a complex understanding of the content and strong thinking skills to apply to exam material. As you're introduced to new concepts in the course, find sample problems to supplement your learning!

✨ Words of advice

These tips and tricks can give you a starting point as you prepare for the exam in May. Don't forget to balance your review and practice a large variety of question structures. Sharpen your best skills and develop stronger skills in weaker areas. The review process can be overwhelming, so break it into smaller steps! You are capable of earning a 5, but remember that an exam score doesn't define you. Keep up the hard work and good luck on your exam!

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🏜Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems
🐠Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity
👪Unit 3: Populations
🌏Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources
🏖Unit 5: Land and Water Use
⚡️Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption
💨Unit 7: Atmospheric Pollution
♻️Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution
🔥Unit 9: Global Change
🧐Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
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