The AP Environmental Science Course and Exam is designed by a committee of higher education faculty and expert AP teachers who ensure that the AP course reflects college and university-level expectations. The AP Development Committee defines the scope and goals of the AP Environmental Science course, articulating what students should know and be able to do upon completion. The committees work is informed by data collected from a range of colleges and universities to ensure that AP curricula reflect current scholarship and advances in the discipline. The committee then works with the Educational Testing Service to develop multiple-choice and free-response exam questions. Committee members also help develop and review instructional materials, AP Course Audit requirements, and the AP Course Descriptions.
How do I determine who should be in an AP class?
The College Board recommends allowing any motivated and academically prepared student to take an AP course. We encourage the elimination of barriers that restrict access to AP for students from ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented. Schools should make every effort to ensure AP classes reflect the diversity of their student population.
What prerequisites should a prospective student satisfy?
It is recommended that prior to taking the AP Environmental Science course students should have completed two years of laboratory science (typically biology and chemistry) as well as one year of algebra. Prospective AP students should also have the ability to read and synthesize texts quickly. They should also be able to articulate through writing their understanding of concepts and to justify their claims based on evidence. Typically, the most successful students are highly motivated and enter the class with the broadest and deepest backgrounds in science and math. Because of these prerequisites, students usually take the course in their junior or senior year.
Do colleges and universities give credit or advanced placement for a grade of 3 on an AP exam?
Students should check the credit and placement policy at the schools they are considering. Policies vary from one institution to another; they may also vary from department to department within an institution. We recommend advising students taking AP Science courses to save their lab notebook. Students can often use the notebook to advocate for departmental credit, as it documents the breadth, depth, and rigor of their laboratory and field investigations. The AP Credit Policy Info tool provides information on specific college and university credit policies.
The CourseHow can I learn more about teaching the course?
The College Board offers a one-week AP Summer Institute and one- and two-day workshops, where master teachers discuss best practices, course planning and pacing, lab investigations, and strategies for taking the exam. These experts also provide reviews of textbooks, a wealth of materials (including labs and field studies), and local field trips. Participants say that a valuable part of attending these learning opportunities is interacting and sharing with other teachers. You may also find innovative teaching strategies and college-level syllabi in the AP Environmental Science Teacher's Guide and the AP Environmental Science Course Description.
Another great resource is the AP Environmental Science Teacher Community. This site allows you to share with colleagues and create a library of resources. You can also join in active discussion groups with other teachers to get new ideas for instruction.
Where can I find review materials for the exam?
Some AP Environmental Science free-response questions — with scoring guidelines and sample student responses — are available on AP Central. Full practice exams are typically released every five years. The 2003 and 2008 Released Exams are available for purchase from the College Board Store.
Which textbooks does the College Board recommend for the AP Environmental Science?
The College Board does not recommend textbooks. However, the AP Course Audit website provides a list of available textbooks that meet the curricular requirements of the AP Environmental Science course; see Example Text Book List. Since every textbook has its strengths and weaknesses, you may want to write to various publishers asking for an examination copy for review. This will help you determine which textbook best suits your needs. You may also want to have several different textbooks on hand as ancillary instructional resources to support your course.
What kind of lab equipment do I need to run a successful course?
If your science department is reasonably well equipped to teach biology, chemistry, and physics, you probably have the equipment and materials needed to get started. You can complete many labs using common household items, such as paper cups, plastic trays, empty soda and water bottles, and etc. Over time, you may want to add more specialized equipment, based on the labs you conduct, such as chemical test kits for water and soil, CBLs, sensors and probes for environmental testing, weather instruments, soil sampling materials, forestry materials (such as Baltimore Sticks), diameter tapes and increment borers, maps, compasses, GPS receivers, and sampling nets .
Do AP Environmental Science students need strong math skills?
Yes, students will need strong algebra-based mathematical skills to fully understand many of the concepts woven throughout the course. The AP Environmental Science Exam also requires quantitative reasoning and application on the multiple-choice and free-response questions. To succeed in the course and on the exam, students need to apply the following mathematical skills in the context of environmental concepts:
- basic algebra
- ratios, percents, scientific notation
- statistical validity
- dimensional analysis
- graphing techniques, such as plotting data on graphs and interpreting and extrapolating data and trends from graphs.
The ExamWhat is the format of the exam?
The exam is three hours long and divided into two equally-timed sections. Section I contains100 multiple-choice questions and makes up 60 percent of the exam score. Section II contains four free-response questions and makes up 40 percent of the score. One free-response question involves the evaluation of data and some form of calculations. A second question requires students to read a passage and apply concepts learned throughout the course to answer specific questions related to the passage. Finally, two synthesis and evaluation questions test students' ability to relate and apply information from several areas of environmental science. For more information, see the topic outline in the AP Environmental Science Course Description.
How is the AP Environmental Science exam graded?
The multiple-choice sections are sent to Educational Testing Service for automated scoring. The free-response booklets are read and graded by a team of experienced high school and college environmental science educators, who use scoring rubrics. The scores for each section are combined to produce a composite score.
What kinds of calculators are used?
Students may not use calculators when taking the AP Environmental Science Exam. Therefore, it is recommended that they avoid using calculators in class during tests and quizzes so that they build proficiency in performing quantitative routines throughout the year. Most calculations or estimations on the exam involve simple algebraic routines (no time-consuming number crunching necessary).
AP® Course AuditWhat is the AP® Course Audit? Where can I find more information about it?
The AP Course Audit provides teachers and administrators with clearly articulated guidelines on curricular and resource requirements for AP courses. It also gives colleges and universities confidence that AP courses are designed to meet the same clearly articulated college-level criteria across high schools. For more information visit AP Course Audit.
What resources are available to support the course-authorization process?