AP® US Government & Politics

Party people, come on down.

If all you know about the United States government is that there exist three things called the "legislative branch," the "executive branch," and the "judicial branch," you're already halfway there. Go the distance with Shmoop's online guide to all things (American) government.

In this guide, you'll learn

  • why you should focus your studying on the three branches of government.
  • whether it's possible to write four whole essays—in a row—without passing out in the middle of the test. (Short answer: yup.)
  • more useful government stuff…promise.

Come find your polling place (a.k.a. testing room) and get your AP on.

What's Inside Shmoop's Online AP U.S. Government & Politics Test Prep

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our Test Prep resources will help you prepare for exams with fun, engaging, and relatable materials that bring the test to life.

Inside Shmoop's AP U.S Government & Politics guide, you'll find

  • a diagnostic exam to figure out where you're struggling before you even begin.
  • three-full length practice exams that mimic the look and feel of the exam
  • answer explanations to help figure out where you went wrong…or right.
  • test-taking tips to help you break down a lengthy exam
  • loads of practice drills.
  • review of constitutional foundations, presidential elections, federalism, and more.

The Details

Unit 1: Foundations of American Democracy

In this section, we are going to review the democratic theories that the American founders were cribbing from. We go over the Constitution's early history, starting with why (or whether) we needed one in the first place, and ending with the story of how it narrowly became the law of the land. We outline the new powers the Constitution created for the federal government. And finally, we outline the limitations on that government's power: separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and the Bill of Rights.

Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government

An institution is where you may end up if you stop visiting Shmoop, disastrously bomb the AP Government exam, wander out of the testing room and across several lanes of traffic in a near-catatonic state of shock, and end up locking yourself in your basement and listening obsessively to Taylor Swift songs on repeat. An institution is also a pattern of behavior or social organization that shapes our society over time and often outlives the individuals who participate in it.

In this unit, we'll be dealing with the second kind of institution. In particular, we'll discuss the institutions that make the federal government run: Congress, the presidency, the courts, and the federal bureaucracy. But remember: if you stop reading now, you're statistically more likely to end up in the first kind of institution. Don't say you weren't warned.

Unit 3: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Did you know that if you ask an undercover cop if he's a cop, he totally has to tell you? It's in the Constitution, bro.

Actually, it's not. But that hasn't stopped the "Undercover Cop Amendment" from spreading like urban-legend wildfire. It's one example of the kind of mess you can get into when you don't know your constitutional rights. Skip this unit, and you might mistakenly believe that shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater is free speech, or that the Constitution protects your right to own a giant pile of bear arms.

Your rights are important stuff, so this unit covers some of the most important of the bunch, and how they've developed over time.

Unit 4: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

Politicians don't operate in a vacuum. Their choices and priorities don't come out of thin air, or even from communing directly with public opinion; instead, those choices are shaped by pressures from their political parties, the interest groups that try to influence them, and the mass media's effect on the public. In this unit, we're going to cover those pressures—how parties, interest groups, and the media shape our politics.

Unit 5: Political Participation

As everyone from hologram Will.I.Am to animatronic George Washington will tell you, your vote matters. That's true whether you're casting a ballot for Congress, writing a hard-hitting letter to the editor, cutting a $5 million personal check to your favorite presidential candidate, or hiring several dozen lobbyists to systematically undermine federal food-safety regulations, freeing you to package and ship all of the delicious E. Coli you want. Democracy! We're going to cover those topics in this unit: we'll touch on ideology, the formation of our political beliefs, public opinion, and political participation. Did you know that you're sticking it to the Man simply by reading this unit?

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