It's often a challenge to study for AP exams, AP Environmental Science included. Because this class covers so many different areas, such as science, law, and current events, it can be tough to keep your notes straight. Whether you're missing some notes or just want them organized more clearly, this guide is for you.
Here, we've put together a list of links to AP Environmental Science notes and vocabulary that you can easily browse through to supplement your studying. I'll also go over how to use these notes and wrap up with some tips to help make your prep as effective as it can be.
How to Use These AP Environmental Science Notes
These AP Environmental Science notes can be used for targeted studying throughout the class and for your end-of-the-year review for the AP Enviro exam. The notes don't cover every single topic on the exam, so don't rely on them exclusively for your prep; rather, you can supplement them with notes from your class, your textbook, and any review books you buy.
Using these notes will give you an organized way to sort through the material covered in both the AP Enviro class and exam. Meanwhile, the vocabulary links can help you learn different terms and concepts commonly tested on the exam.
While studying for the APES exam, you should also be regularly taking practice tests. Passive studying isn't enough to earn a high score on this test—you want to make sure you're actively engaging with the material and routinely checking your progress. We've got an extensive guide on APES practice test materials you can use in your prep. It’s also a good idea to look through the College Board’s official AP Environmental Science Course and Exam Description. This can help keep your studying of concepts organized and on track, plus it includes a short practice test to help you prepare!
Early on in the school year, you can use these notes in conjunction with practice tests by studying a certain topic and then taking a practice quiz on that same topic to see how well you understood and retained the information from the notes. Albert iO and Varsity Tutors are our top picks for unofficial practice quizzes!
Later on in the school year, after taking complete practice tests, you can review the questions you missed to see which topics are your weakest and then find those topics in these notes and prioritize them in your studying.
AP Environmental Science Notes to Use in Your Prep
These notes are organized by major unit/topic. Within each major topic are more specific areas of focus. The notes below come from Course Notes and give detailed outlines on their topic of focus. There are no images or fancy formatting to increase the visual appeal of the notes, but they do a good job of covering the topic in depth and separating the outline into different groups so you can quickly see which areas are covered.
The vocabulary links also come from Course Notes and are organized by chapter, according to the 13th edition of the Living in the Environment textbook, which is why they're a little out of order. The vocabulary notes give brief definitions for each of the major keywords you'll need to know.
Units 1 and 2: The Living World—Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Unit 3: Populations
Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources
Unit 5: Land and Water Use
Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption
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Units 7 and 8: Pollution—Atmospheric, Aquatic, and Terrestrial
Unit 9: Global Change
AP Environmental Science Formulas
These short guides (also from Course Notes) include many of the common formulas you'll use and need to understand for AP Environmental Science:
- Acid Rain
- Air Pollution Control and Prevention
- Air Pollution Formulas
- Ozone Formation and Destruction
- Photochemical Smog
- The Carbon Cycle
- The Nitrogen Cycle
Additional AP Environmental Science Notes
There are lots of free notes available out there, but many of these come from individual teachers, or don’t totally reflect the 2020 course changes. When looking for notes online, be sure to compare them with what you’re actually learning in class. That said, while these notes don't exactly fit into the major units of the class, they can be useful for your prep.
Major Environmental Laws
These notes, which come from Course Notes, give a brief overview of each of the most important environmental laws that have been passed in the United States.
Complete Course Overview
This full course overview comes from Scribd and gives a summary of the entire AP Environmental Science course, organized by the major topics. It's a lot of information to take in all at once, but if you'd like a document that touches on all the topics you'll need to know for this exam, this will be a very helpful resource.
Fiveable AP Environmental Science Exam Review
This site features review guides for every topic covered in the course. The link above starts with the first unit, but you can navigate to other units on the right side of your screen. These seem to all focus more on definitions and concepts in isolation, so be sure to also spend time studying how all these concepts work together elsewhere.
AP Environmental Science: 3 Essential Study Strategies
Flipping passively through your notes isn't enough to get a high score on the AP Environmental Science exam. Follow these three study tips to help you get the most out of your review.
Tip 1: Think About How Topics Are Related
Knowing each topic in isolation won't help you much on the AP Environmental Science exam. Even if you know every single fact about the water cycle, if you can't explain how it relates to other earth processes, how it affects (and is affected by) humans, how it has been impacted by climate change, and other connections, then you'll miss a majority of questions on the exam.
AP Environmental Science is a very interdisciplinary class, and one of the major themes of the class is that the earth is an interconnected system. Many questions will ask you to make connections among multiple topics, so practice doing this whenever you're reviewing your notes.
If you're studying the atmosphere, for example, think about how the atmosphere affects animal and plant life on earth, how it affects other earth cycles, how it affects human populations, what the causes and effects of air pollution are, how the atmosphere is influencing and being influenced by climate change, and the changes humans can make to increase sustainability.
Tip 2: Get Used to Your Calculator
With the big changes to the exam that started in 2020, you'll now have access to a graphing calculator at any point on the AP Enviro exam; therefore, it's extremely important that you get comfortable with using a calculator to solve AP Environmental Science questions both quickly and accurately.
Make sure you're familiar with all the calculator functions you'll be expected to know for the exam, as well as all the math formulas you'll need to memorize.
It's especially critical that you practice using your calculator on the third free-response question, which awards credit for showing your work and coming up with the correct answer to a quantitatively driven environmental issue.
Additionally, try to get in the habit of checking and double-checking your work on the exam with your calculator.
Tip 3: Know Major Environmental Events
AP Environmental Science isn't strictly a science class; it also includes recent and current events as well as some law, among other topics. Unlike the other AP science courses, you can't just know the scientific aspects of environmental science; you also need to know about major environmental events.
Studying the notes on major environmental laws above will help. You should also use your notes from class to review other environmental events. It can be very helpful as well for you to keep up on the news and know what the current major environmental issues are.
Conclusion: The Best AP Environmental Science Notes
Having a collection of organized notes can not only help you manage your AP Environmental Science prep much more easily, but also allows you to quickly access notes on specific topics you want to review.
These AP Environmental Science notes cover topics from each of the course's nine major units in addition to vocabulary, relevant formulas, and information on relevant environmental laws.
When reviewing your AP Enviro notes, be sure to keep these three tips in mind:
- Think about how topics are related
- Get used to your calculator
- Know major environmental events
You should now feel much more prepared for the AP Environmental Science exam in May!
Now that you've got handy AP Enviro notes, how should you use them in your review? Check out this guide to see a step-by-step review plan for AP Environmental Science.
Want some more practice tests and quizzes to enhance your APES studying? No problem. We have loads of practice resources you can use to study for the AP Enviro exam.
How many AP classes should you take? Learn exactly how many AP classes you should enroll in based on your interests and college goals.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.