How to Score a 5 on the AP Environmental Science Exam


Getting ready to take the AP Environmental Science exam? Brush up on these study tips from Olympia, WA tutor Tali H


The three-hour AP Environmental Science exam has two 90-minute sections: a 100-question multiple-choice section, accounting for 60% of the final grade, and four free-response questions (one data-set question, one document-based question, and two synthesis and evaluation questions), accounting for 40% of the final grade. As you begin studying, incorporate these tips to enhance your knowledge:

1. Watch the news!
Environmental science is extremely important in today’s world. Just by watching the news, you can learn a lot about important issues that may be covered on the exam (from air pollution in China to global warming to the environmental factors behind California’s recent drought). In the free-response section, you can spice up your answers with anecdotes about current events. Watching (and especially discussing) current events also serves as a great way to remember information rather than through rote memorization of a textbook.

2. A picture is worth a thousand words
Yes, textbook information is important to know. However, many of the environmental science concepts come alive through online videos and pictures. Try looking up any need-to-know terms on YouTube (videos on El Nino/La Nina and the Aurora Borealis were especially cool to me). Don’t stop with just concepts though. Also try to find videos for environmental laws (for example: “Endangered Species Act”). It’s super helpful to have narration and visuals combined when trying to remember specific information.

3. Check out TEDTalks
For high-quality, informative videos, check out TEDTalks. They have an excellent array of videos on many environmental topics: pollution, evolution, energy, sustainability, the environment itself, etc. The information provided offers the most cutting-edge findings from the researchers themselves.

4. Quizlet, Quizlet, Quizlet
Many of the multiple-choice questions are simply testing whether you know the terms by throwing in fill-in-the-blanks. But with so many terms, how do you remember them? Use Quizlet. Quizlet allows you to learn through virtual flashcards, either by playing games or testing yourself (you can customize the test you create for yourself, choosing multiple-choice, free-response, matching, etc.). There is also a learn mode. What’s great about Quizlet is that you can create your own sets (which I recommend for better learning), or if you’re short on time, you can use others’ pre-made flashcards. Just type in “AP Environment” and a whole bunch of options will come up.

You can use Quizlet for regular vocabulary or you can type in specific questions. For instance, “How old is the earth?” or “The ______ is the type of soil that holds the most water.”

5. Focus on Pollution
According to The College Board website, 25%–35% of the multiple-choice questions are related to the concept of pollution (pollution types, impacts on environment and human health, and economic impacts such as cost-benefit analysis, externalities, marginal costs, and sustainability). If the test is coming up soon, focus there. The other core concepts – Earth Systems and Resources, the Living World, Population, Land and Water, Energy Resources and Consumption, and Global Change – all have approximately equal coverage percentiles, somewhere between 10 -15%. It is definitely worth it to spend some time focusing on pollution (pull up some videos, listen to the news, etc.).

One of the great things about the AP Environmental exam is that the subject material is bombarding you all the time; literally the environment is all around you. It’s just about opening your eyes. Pay special attention to the weather and train your ears to perk up when media sources you frequent mention pollution, sustainability, or new energy sources. If you’re still having trouble, working with a tutor can help, allowing you tailored strategies to quickly and easily retain the information you need to know. Check out TakeLessons’ selection of environmental science tutors for additional help learning the material.

TaliHTali H. tutors in various academic subjects in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 



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