AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam: 2021 Results

The following data reflect the 17,750 students worldwide who took either the paper or the digital AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam in May. Data from students who tested in June are not yet available.

AP Comparative Government and Politics score distributions, 2019 vs 2021

The following table enables comparisons of student performance in 2021 to student performance on the comparable full-length exam prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

AP Score 2019 2021
5 22% 17%
4 25% 24%
3 19% 31%
2 19% 15%
1 15% 13%

Of these 17,750 students, 2 students achieved a perfect score from all professors/readers on all free-response questions and correctly answered every multiple-choice question, resulting in the rare and impressive feat of earning all 120 of 120 points possible on an AP Comparative Government and Politics Exam.

The May 17 In-School Paper Exam

The largest exam date for AP Comparative Government and Politics was May 17, so the following information is specific to the exam version administered on that date.

As usual, students scored significantly higher on the multiple-choice section than on the free-response questions.

Multiple-choice section:

  • Course Periods/Units:
    • AP Comparative Government and Politics students demonstrated stellar mastery of Unit 3, Political Culture and Participation: 24% of students earned a perfect score across questions about this unit, and an additional 27% of students only missed a single point. Student mastery of Unit 1 (Political Systems, Regimes, and Governments) and Unit 5 (Political and Economic Changes and Development) was nearly as strong.
    • While students scored well across all units, the most challenging, with somewhat lower scores, was Unit 4, Party and Electoral Systems and Citizen Organizations. 10% of students earned perfect scores on this unit.
  • Disciplinary Practices:
    • Data Analysis: Students demonstrated strongest skills in this area, with 39% answering all of these questions correctly, and less than 25% of students missing more than 1 point.
    • Source Analysis: 28% of students answered all of these questions correctly.

Free-response section

For exam security, several different sets of free-response questions were administered. The following analysis will focus on one of the most widely administered, “Set 2.”

Set 2 Questions:

  • The highest performance was on Q2, the quantitative analysis of political freedom rankings. 4% of students earned all 5 points possible on this question, and 32% earned 4 of 5 points. .
  • The lowest performance on this year’s exam was Q1, about the rule of law. 12% of students earned perfect scores, while 38% of students earned 0.
  • The comparative analysis of social movements, Q3, proved challenging for some students. 10% earned all 5 points possible, while 18% earned 0 points.
  • On the argumentative essay about executive term limits:
    • 79% of students earned the claim/thesis point.
    • 34% earned 2 evidence points; 35% earned 1 evidence point; and 31% earned 0 points.
    • 52% earned the reasoning point.
    • 38% earned the point for responding to an alternative perspective.

The May 28 Digital Exams

To support student access, different testing modes—paper and digital—were essential. To protect exam security, many different exam versions were necessary. Accordingly, to provide students with similar opportunities for success regardless of which version they took, each version of the exam had to be analyzed separately by psychometricians to identify its unique difficulty level so that standards for scores of 3, 4, and 5 could then be separately identified for each exam version. Analyses focused on:

  1. Differences in the testing mode (paper or digital). For sections of the exam that proved easier to take digitally, the digital versions require more points for each AP score. For sections of the exam that proved easier to take on paper, the paper exam requires more points for each AP score.
  2. Differences in the difficulty of specific questions. When exam questions prove easier, more points are required for each AP score, and when exam questions prove more difficult, fewer points are required on one version than another.
  3. The net result for this year’s AP Comparative Government and Politics exams is that out of 120 points possible, most of the digital versions were more difficult than the paper version. As a result:
    1. On the easiest digital version, a student needed to earn 1 more point to receive an AP score of 3 or higher than students who took the paper version.
    2. On the harder digital versions, a student needed to earn 4–8 fewer points (depending on their version) to receive an AP score of 3 or higher than students who took the paper version.