You have90minutes to write 4 essaysofequal value (10 pointseach).This givesyou alittleover22minutesforeach essay. Counton20minutes to read andwrite theessay and2 minutes to edit whatyou have written.Makesure to readeach questionthoroughlyandmakesureyou understandallof itsparts. The rubricforeach question isset up to containmorethan 10 points(11-13), but you can only earn amaximum of10 pointson any onequestion.Start with theessay that you deemtheeasiest first. The four questions usually fallintothreecategories:
One will involvethat Analysis ofa Data Set (calculators notallowed!).
One will involveaDocument-Based Question. Youwill read a document and answer question basedon theinformation inthat document aswell as expand on itbased onyourgeneralknowledge.
Two will involvea Synthesis andEvaluationQuestion.One ofthesewill requireyou to set up anexperimentto showa particulareffect.
THINGS TO DO Before answering any questions
Read thequestion twice.
Underline whatthe question is asking for;answer only thequestion(s)asked.Answer all partsof the question.
Begin answeringthe question in theorder it iswritten.
Outline theansweron thegreen booklet to avoid confusion anddisorganization.Pay closeattentionto theverbs used in thedirections, such as describe, explain,compare,give evidence for, graph,calculate,design anexperiment, etc., andbe sureto follow those directions. Thinking ahead helps to avoid scratchouts, asterisks, skipping around andrambling.
If the question saysto ‘discuss’or ‘describe’
Describeor elaborateon the topic
State anexampleofthat topic
If the question saysto ‘compare and contrast’
Clearly state what theitems havein common
Clearly state how items aredifferent
If the question asks a mathematical problem
Show every singlestep ofall work
Set up problemsso thatlabels cancel out (dimensional analysis)
State howyou will drawaconclusion (compareresultsto hypothesis and predictions)
Note: Your experimentaldesign needs to be at least theoreticallypossibleand itis very importantthatyourconclusions/predictions be consistent with the principles involved andwiththe wayyouset uptheexperiment.
Writetheessay.Outlinesand diagrams, no matter how elaborateandaccurate,are not essays,andwill notget youmuch credit, ifany.Youmay usebullets sparingly withinanessay.Note: If youare askedas a part of anessayona laboratoryto calculate a number,thisdoes notrequirethatyouwritean essay, butbe sureto showhow you gotyouranswer. Show formulas used, andthevalues insertedinto thoseformulas. Alwaysincludeunits –no naked numbers should be present. If askedto draw adiagram, besureto label thecomponentscarefully and correctly.
Defineand/or explainany termsyou use. Say something about each oftheimportant termsthatyou use.Rarely would theexam askfor a listof buzzwords.
Answer the question parts in theorder called for andlabel them "a", "b", "c", etc.as they are labeledin thequestion. Itis best not to skip around within the question. However,thefouressays do not have to beanswered inany particularorder.
Use a ballpoint penwith blue or black ink.Bring an extra, just incase!
Go into detail thatison thesubject andto the point. Be sureto include theobvious (forexample,"light isnecessary for photosynthesis"). Answer thequestionthoroughly.
If youcannotrememberawordexactly,take a shot at it- get asclose as you can. Even ifyou don'tremember thenameof the concept, describethe concept.
Remember that no detailistoo smallto be included aslong as it isto the point. Be sureto include theobvious -most points are given for the basicsanyway.
Carefully labelyour diagrams (otherwise they get nopoints).Placethem inthe text at theappropriateplace, not attached at theend.
Widen yourmargins a little. This willmake the essayeasier formost folksto read.
Bring a watch to theexam so youcan paceyourself.You have four essaysto answerwith about22minutesfor each.
Understand thattheexam is written tobehard. The national average for theessay section will be about50% correct (i.e.,5/10). It is very likelythatyou will notknow everything. This isexpected, but it isverylikelythatyou do knowsomething abouteach essay,so relax and do thebestyou can. Write thoroughanswers.
The APExam may includewhat arecalledsynthesis and conceptualquestions. These questionsmay ask youto indicate the relationshipbetween two ormore concepts. Ifyoudo notknow the relationship betweenthe concepts, at leasttellwhat you doknow about them individually.
THINGS NOT TO DO Do notwastetimeon background information ora long introduction unlessthequestionscall for historicaldevelopmentor historicalsignificance. Answerthe question.
Don't ramble. Get to thepoint; don't shoot the bull. Say what you knowandgoon to the next question.You canalways come backlater andaddinformationif youremembersomething.
Don't use felt tip pens -they leak through the paperand make both sides hardto read. Do notobliterateinformationyou wantto delete.Oneortwo linesdrawn through the word(s) should be sufficient. Don'twritemorethan avery fewwordsin themargin.Don'twritesloppily. It iseasier for thegraderto miss animportantwordwhen he/she cannotreadyour handwriting.
Don't panicorgetangry because you are unfamiliar with the question.You probably havereador heardsomething about the subject- becalm andthink.
Don'tworry aboutspellingeveryword perfectly or using exactgrammar.Theseare notpoor spelling andgrammar willhurt your chances.
There isno need to saythesame thing twice.While introductoryparagraphsmaybe important in Englishclass, saying, "ProcessA iscontrolled byx,y, andz"and then writing aparagraph eachonA, X, y, andz is awasteofvaluabletime.This alsogoes for restating the question.Don't restatethe question, just answerit.
If given achoiceof two orthree topicsto write about,understand thatonlythe first one(s)you write aboutwill count. You mustmakea choice and stickwith it. Ifyoudecidethatyourfirstchoicewas abad one, thencrossoutthat partof theanswer so the reader knowsclearlywhich part youwish to be considered forcredit. If the question saysto choose3outof5 topics,choosethe3you are themost confidentof,in otherwords,”the“best” answersyoucan provide. Ifthe question asks specificallyabout RNA, don’t discussDNAduplication.
Don't leave questions blank. Rememberthateach point you earnon anessay questionis theequivalentoftwo correctmultiple-choice questions, andthere is no penalty for awrong guess, bad spelling orbadgrammar. Makean efforton every question!
Avoid usingvagueterminology. Examples are thefollowingterms/phrasesthat need somespecificdescriptive information: pollution, factory, contamination, runoff,kills stuff, smokestacks, bad, toxic,harmful, bad for theenvironment,negativelyinfluences, energy source, waste,chemicals, pesticides,good/bad, better/worse.Youmust do more than“term drop” – showthatyou actually understandthespecifics.
Do notincludeopinion, points ofviewor flippant answers.
Get to the point
Be concise.Be precise.
Don'twaste timeadding any additional information.Credit isonlygiven for information requested.
Give exampleswheneveryou can, butstill beconcise.
Don’t listitemsin anoutline form. Usenormal sentence structure to give alistof items.Always usecomplete sentencesandgood penmanship. If they can't read it,they can't grade it.
For questions involving calculations, calculators are not allowed. You cangetcredit forsetting up a problemcorrectly andshowingall work including correct units.You receiveno credit for the correct answeronly.
There are several strategies you can useto help boostyourscoreon the Free Response sectionof theAPEnvironmental Science exam. Oneofthose strategiesis to avoid the useofvagueand “flowery” terms and phrases.Theseterms andphrasesmay sound descriptive, but they frequentlysay littleandprovidenoneofthe detail neededto earn credit. To avoidthem you should try to explainyourself asbestas possible using moredetail.
The following is a listing of these terms and phrases to try to avoid:
“bad for the environment / planet”
"cause environmental degradation"
"cause global warming and pollution"
“change” without of specifying increase or decrease.)