SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The Best AP Human Geography Review Plan

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Nov 4, 2018 10:27:00 AM

Advanced Placement (AP)



Half the battle in reviewing for AP tests is knowing where to begin and how to structure your time. How do you successfully switch from preparing for in-class tests to gearing up for the more comprehensive AP exam? In this guide, I'll give you a list of all the topics you'll see on the AP Human Geography exam, go through a detailed review plan, and provide some tips for acing the test.      


What’s on the AP Human Geography Exam?

There are seven main topics covered by the AP Human Geography exam. Every topic should show up in roughly the same number of questions (except for the first topic on the basics of what geography is, which will only make up 5-10 percent of questions). Like other AP exams, the AP Human Geography test has a multiple-choice and a free-response section. You have an hour to answer 75 multiple-choice questions and 75 minutes to answer three free-response questions.  

I’ll list all the topics covered by the course along with links to key terms and notes to go along with them so that you can use this article as a resource for your AP Human Geography review. The “Additional Notes” I've included are from CourseNotes, “Key Terms” are from Quizlet flashcards created by students for each unit of the course, and the “Important Things to Know” notes are PowerPoints in pdf form from an AP teacher. I’d recommend using a review book and/or your notes from class to supplement the information in this article.


AP Human Geography Topics

Topic #1: Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives


Topic #2: Population


Topic #3: Cultural Patterns and Processes


Topic #4: Political Organization of Space


Topic #5: Agricultural and Rural Land Use


Topic #6: Industrialization and Economic Development


Topic #7: Cities and Urban Land Use


Here’s a comprehensive document (from an AP teacher's public site) that covers all the topics in AP Human Geography so you can review everything in one place if you want. 

There is also a bit of a science aspect to AP Human Geography, so you should know how to read the different types of models. I’ll get more into this (with corresponding links) in the section on study tips at the end of this article.



Grids are a staple of urban planning, unless you live in Boston. I have no idea how anyone found their way around here before GPS. Then again, my sense of direction is so bad that I've resorted to cheating to escape from corn mazes more than once. 


AP Human Geography Review Plan

Even if you know what’s on the test, it’s not always easy to come up with a good plan of attack. This section will walk you through a study process that will get you up to speed with everything the test might throw at you. 


Step 1: Take and Score a Full Practice Test

Your first move should be to take a full practice test so you can get a better idea of your current score level. When you take the test, time it to the specifications of the real AP exam so that you’ll be able to tell if you have any issues with time management. Circle any questions where you don't feel totally confident in your answer. Even if you end up getting them right, you’ll want to reexamine that content later in your review. Remember, there are no points taken off for incorrect answers. You just get a point for every question you answer correctly. Ultimately, you should fill in every bubble even if you end up guessing. 

Score your test by adding up all the points you earned and plugging the results into this online calculatorYou’ll be able to see approximately where you fall in the AP score range (although keep in mind that the calculator uses the 2006 exam curve, so you shouldn’t take the results as gospel). Then, you can set a goal for improvement and decide how many hours you’ll need to put into your prep.

If you’re already scoring in the 5 range on an official practice test, you might not even need to go through all the rest of these steps. You can just do a couple of hours of light review before the test. If you’re not satisfied with your score, you should go through all the steps at least once. If you want to improve by one AP point, I’d say going through this process seriously once or twice should be enough to get you up to speed. If you’re shooting for an improvement of two points or more, you’ll probably need to devote a bit more time to studying the material and taking practice tests. Depending on how quickly you pick up on things, you may cycle through the process two, three, or even four times. For more advice on setting a goal score, read these articles on whether you need a 5 and how AP credit works at colleges. 



Every cycle through this review plan will become progressively more radical. You can get some sweet air going through your mistakes.


Step 2: Go Through Your Mistakes

Assuming you’ve decided that your score could use some improvement, you should go through your mistakes on the practice test and categorize them. If you want to see real improvements, this is the most important stage of the entire study process. This is how you’ll decide which content areas to focus on in your review. There’s no point in studying concepts and terms that you’ve already mastered.

You might also note whether certain question formats gave you more trouble than others. Did you have more problems on questions that asked directly about definitions or regional characteristics, or did you struggle more with logical reasoning questions that required you to apply intuition on top of your knowledge? To show you what I mean by the latter, here’s an example:


You need to know what “physiological population density” is, but you should also understand on a deeper level why it’s considered to be a useful measurement (the answer is A). If these types of questions were a problem for you because of the extra layer of analysis, try shifting your focus onto doing practice questions rather than memorizing content.


Step 3: Study Appropriate Content and Do Practice Questions

After you finish categorizing your mistakes, start looking at notes that correspond to the areas where you had the most trouble on the test. Make sure that you’re fully absorbing the information as you read. In this case, flashcards might be useful because there are so many terms to remember for AP Human Geography. If you had problems identifying specific regions and connecting them to topics on the test, you might review a world map as well.

If you found the free response questions especially challenging, you should also practice a few more of them before you move on from this step. You can use some of the sites I list in my study guide for this exam to review specific topics with short multiple-choice quizzes. I’d recommend getting a review book if you feel that you would like more structure and want to see all the content together in one place. Check out my article on the best review books for AP Human Geography to get a better idea of which one will fit best with your needs.

You should consider devoting some extra time to reviewing if you took this as a first semester class and haven't revisited the material in a while. Some schools offer AP Human Geography over the course of just one semester because it doesn't cover as much material as most other AP classes. 


Step 4: Take a Second Full Practice Test

When you feel that you’ve fully addressed all of your mistakes on the first test, you can take a second timed practice test to check if you’ve managed to improve. After you score this new test, compare your score to the goal you set in the first step. Then, decide whether you want to go through the study process again or are happy with your current score. If you find that you haven’t improved, you need to reevaluate how you conducted this process and make some changes in the next round. Were you in an environment that was too distracting? Did you skim over the terms and your notes instead of really absorbing them? These are the kinds of things that might cause your efforts to stall.

Here’s the estimated time required for each of the steps in this process:

  • Step 1: 2.5 hours
  • Step 2: 1 hour
  • Step 3: 2 hours
  • Step 4: 2.5 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours

You can always spend more time reviewing content and answering practice questions if you find that you’re rusty on many different topics or want to ensure a dramatic improvement on the next test.


body_drillbits.jpgSometimes you have to try a few different study methods before you find the one that does the trick.


AP Human Geography Study Tips and Strategies

In this section, I’ll provide some study tips that are specific to this class and will help you successfully navigate your AP Human Geography review.


Tip #1: Memorize the Terms

Your knowledge of terminology is very important on the AP Human Geography exam. Many multiple-choice questions will ask you to rely on your understanding of terms to choose the correct answer. Take this question, for example: 


If you hadn’t studied the term “formal region” you’d be hard pressed to answer correctly (the answer is C, in case you’re wondering). Many of the sample multiple-choice questions in the course description are similar to this one. Out of the 23 questions, I could count ten that asked you to identify (directly or indirectly) the correct definition of a term or match a term with a definition.

Likewise, on free-response questions, often the first part of the question asks you to define a term, and the rest of the question builds off of that definition. You could find yourself totally lost on these questions if you forget the definitions at their roots. 


Tip #2: Practice Free-Response Questions

Free-response questions for this test are different from those you might see on many other AP exams. Human Geography falls into a subject realm between science and the humanities, and the free-response questions reflect that. You’ll need to write explanations and provide examples, but you won’t have to come up with actual essays with introductions and conclusions. You should practice getting right to the answer on these questions and avoiding too much fluff. It’s best to make it as easy as possible for the grader to award you points! 


Tip #3: Time Yourself

Another thing you should know about AP Human Geography is that it’s a pretty fast-paced exam. You have to answer 75 multiple-choice questions in an hour, which means less than a minute for each question. Before you’re faced with the real test, you should make sure you can get through that many multiple-choice questions in such a short time span. You should also time yourself on the three free-response questions, for which you are given an hour and 15 minutes. Aim to spend no more than 20 minutes on any individual free-response question to leave yourself a reasonable time cushion. 


Tip #4: Understand Geographic Models and Theories  

Geographic models and corresponding theories will also play a big part in the exam. I found a document that lists the most important models you need to know for the examI’d also recommend taking a look at this comprehensive Prezi that describes the main theories and models covered by the AP Human Geography curriculum (I apologize in advance for any motion sickness you might experience when viewing information in this unnecessarily turbulent medium). The Crash Course review book also has a great chapter that summarizes all the models you need to know for this exam.



Geographers have come up with many different models to measure the growth and dispersal of the human population around the world. They know exactly how far away we are from a Wall-E situation. 



The AP Human Geography exam has 78 questions that you'll answer over the course of two hours and 15 minutes. The questions cover seven main topics. These topics include:

  • Basics of Human Geography (Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives)   
  • Population
  • Cultural Patterns and Processes
  • Political Organization of Space
  • Agricultural and Rural Land Use
  • Industrialization and Economic Development
  • Cities and Urban Land Use  
To prepare for the test, you should take a practice exam and evaluate your mistakes. Based on where your mistakes happened, you can study content selectively. The essential steps of your review plan should be:
  • Step 1: Take and Score an Initial Practice Test
  • Step 2: Go Through Your Mistakes
  • Step 3: Review Appropriate Content and Do Practice Questions
  • Step 4: Take a Second Practice Test  

This review process can be repeated as many times as necessary for you to feel happy with your score level. Some tips you should keep in mind as you study are:

  • Memorize Terms
  • Practice the Free-Response Questions
  • Time Yourself
  • Understand Geographic Models and Theories

By following these steps and strategies, you can ensure that you arrive at test day fully prepared and confident in your abilities!


What's Next?

What score do you need to get on the AP test to make it worth your while? Learn more about how AP credit works in college classes. 

Are you self-studying for this or other AP exams? Follow our seven-step plan for self-studying to get the most out of your time.

How late is too late to prepare effectively for an AP test? Read this article for some helpful advice on when to start studying based on your goals.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)


Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!