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AP Government Review #8: How to Handle the FRQs 

Hi! Here’s some tips on handling the FRQ.

  1. Pace yourself. You get approximately 25 minutes per question. Watch the clock/timer! You’d be amazed at how quickly 25 minutes goes by.
  2. Define concepts! If there’s a part of the question, and you’re not sure if you should define it, define it anyways. Give a quick short definition to drive it into the reader’s head that you know your stuff. For example, if an FRQ asks how a president can control domestic policymaking using vetos, you need to define what a veto is. Be specific.
  3. Be direct with your responses. This is not English class. Fluff is not appreciated. You do not need to blow the reader away with your vocabulary. Rather, it’s the opposite. You don’t need a thesis statement here. You need to just directly answer what they want from you.
  4. If it says to describe, describe. Be aware of what the question’s asking you. Describing requires you to explain how a definition is put into practice. For example, if I define what a veto is, I could later go on and explain that a president can pocket veto a bill by ignoring it for 10 days. If Congress adjourns within 10 days, then the bill is vetoed.  My best advice is to include a “for example” to make sure you’re actually describing it.
  5. If they ask you for 2 examples, give three (if time permits). If you know more than what they ask you for, go ahead and list them. They won’t deduct points for wrong answers if you have enough qualified answers. Does that make sense? If, for part c, it asked me to describe 3 types of enumerated powers of the president and I knew 4, I should list 4 in case one of them is wrong. Cover yourself. 
  6. Complete the loop. By this, I mean, basically restate the question in a sentence form. Is it sophisticated? No. Does it matter? No. You need to reiterate the question in order to complete your explanation. If you begin by saying the President exerts influence over domestic policymaking by….and then you describe everything great. You need to end it with, thus the President is able to hold great influence over domestic policy making. Redundant, sure, but at least you covered all your bases. Failing to complete the loop is one of the dumbest reasons for losing points. JUST COMPLETE THE LOOP. 
  7. Cross out A, B, C, etc. If you have the right answer to A in part C, but you have them labeled, graders can’t give you those points! You can have the letters while writing to keep you on track, but before you’re done, cross them out! You want to get as many points as possible.
  8. Write as legibly as possible. No, they’re not grading you on handwriting, but they will only spend roughly 30 seconds on your question. Let them get through your answer as easily as possible. They are not your friends. They will not go looking for places to give you points. They do not recognize your handwriting. Make their lives easier by writing decently. 
  9. Remember that the questions build upon one another. Do not go jumping around from a to e. Work in order. It’ll progress logically.
  10. Write a short conclusion summing up your ideas. This is not the same as an English paper conclusion. Rather, it can be a couple short sentences reminding the reader of your key points and what you answered (you can always rework the question into it too). 

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