AP Environmental Science Course

The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in
environmental science, through which students engage with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to
understand the interrelationships of the natural world. The course requires that students identify and analyze natural and human-made environmental problems, evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. Environmental Science is interdisciplinary, embracing topics from geology, biology, environmental studies, environmental science, chemistry, and geography.


Students should have completed two years of high school laboratory science — one year of life science and one year of
physical science (for example, a year of biology and a year of chemistry). Due to the quantitative analysis required in the course,
students should also have taken at least one year of algebra. Also desirable (but not necessary) is a course in earth science.

AP Environmental Science Course Content

Environmental science is interdisciplinary; it embraces a wide variety of topics from different areas of study. There are several unifying themes that cut across topics. The following are course themes:

  • Science is a process.
  • Energy conversions underlie all ecological processes.
  • The Earth itself is one interconnected system.
  • Humans alter natural systems.
  • Environmental problems have a cultural and social context.
  • Human survival depends on developing practices that will achieve sustainable systems.
Topic Outline
  1. Earth Systems and Resources
  2. The Living World
  3. Population
  4. Land and Water Use
  5. Energy Resources and Consumption
  6. Pollution
  7. Global Change
Inquiry-Based Investigations

Because it is designed to be a course in environmental science rather than environmental studies, the AP Environmental Science course includes a strong laboratory and field investigation component. The AP Environmental Science course requires teachers to provide students with opportunities to perform experiments and analyses involving the study of air, water, and soil qualities as an essential core for the lab/field investigation activities. These investigations challenge students’ abilities to

  • Critically observe environmental systems;
  • Develop and conduct well-designed experiments;
  • Utilize appropriate techniques and instrumentation;
  • Analyze and interpret data, including appropriate statistical and graphical presentations;
  • Think analytically and apply concepts to the solution of environmental problems;
  • Make conclusions and evaluate their quality and validity;
  • Propose further questions for study; and
  • Communicate accurately and meaningfully about observations and conclusions.

Exam questions are based on each major topic area. They are designed to cover the breadth of students’ knowledge and depth of understanding of environmental science.

Section I: Multiple Choice: 100 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 60% of Exam Score
• Individual Questions
• Questions in sets
Section II: Free Response: 4 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes |40% of Exam Score
• Data Set (1 question)
• Document-Based Question (1 question)
• Synthesis and Evaluation (2 questions)