About the AP U.S. Government and Politics Course

AP U.S. Government and Politics provides a college-level, nonpartisan introduction to key political concepts, ideas, institutions, policies, interactions, roles, and behaviors that characterize the constitutional system and political culture of the United States. Students will study U.S. foundational documents, Supreme Court decisions, and other texts and visuals to gain an understanding of the relationships and interactions among political institutions, processes, and behaviors. They will also engage in disciplinary practices that require them to read and interpret data, make comparisons and applications, and develop evidence-based arguments. In addition, they will complete a political science research or applied civics project.

Course Overview

AP U.S. Government and Politics has been designed as a nonpartisan course and has been endorsed by the National Constitution Center as well as a range of conservative and liberal scholars for its political balance. The required readings are the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, representative Federalist Papers, Brutus No. 1, and Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In addition, there are 15 required Supreme Court cases. Additional readings and assignments that teachers select to supplement the course must, as a whole, maintain a political balance. It is expected and required that all AP-authorized courses maintain political balance through a nonpartisan curriculum.

The content outline is divided into five separate units that comprise major course topics. Each unit begins with a short narrative providing background and context, followed by two or more essential questions that will help you connect the unit’s content to the big ideas in the course. Within each unit, a number of enduring understandings focus on specific aspects of the unit and delineate the level of conceptual understanding required of successful AP students. The course content for each unit is presented in a tabular format. The Units are as follows:

  • Foundations of American Democracy
  • Interactions among Branches
  • Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
  • American Political Ideologies and Beliefs
  • Political Participation

The Project Requirement

The required project adds a civic component to the course, engaging students in exploring how they can affect, and are affected by, government and politics throughout their lives. The project might have students collect data on a teacher-approved political science topic, participate in a community service activity, or observe and report on the policymaking process of a governing body. Students should plan a presentation that relates their experiences or findings to what they are learning in the course.