# ap environmental science free response questions and answers

Review the released free-response questions and the scoring guidelines. Download All 2. Review the released free-response questions to get an idea of the exam format and content. See the guidelines that the AP Program used to score the free-response questions.

Review free-response questions, sample student responses, and scoring guidelines from and earlier. Register for AP Exams. Practice for the Exams. What to Bring on Exam Day. AP Exam Calculator Policy. As a result, it's very important that you get comfortable with using your calculator to help you solve problems and do calculations quickly and accurately.

This tip is especially relevant to Question 3 of the FRQs, since this one will require you to propose a solution using mathematical calculations. As you saw with the sample question, you'll usually get 1 point for showing your work and 1 point for finding the correct answer for each question part that involves calculations. It's a good idea to check and double-check your solutions with your graphing calculator as well.

If you feel that you're struggling with finding the best way to use your calculator on the APES exam, practice with some official free-response questions ideally, ones that mimic the rough structure of Question 3 on the new test format.

Every part of every AP Enviro free-response question contains a task verb, or a specific command that tells you what you must do to earn credit. Knowing what kinds of command verbs you can expect and what they mean will help you feel more prepared to answer the questions.

My final tip applies primarily to Question 3 the one that involves calculations. As you saw in the sample problem, questions often include multiple types of units. This sample problem had meters, square meters, kilograms, and dollars.

Making a careless error will cost you points on the AP Enviro exam. When you take the test, pay attention to every unit you see. Circle or underline the units if you have to in order to make them stand out. Also, you should be a pro at converting between units. You don't want to waste time trying to remember how many meters are in a kilometer; it should be something you know off the top of your head! Even after you've become a unit expert, don't forget to show your work when you convert from one unit to the next.

Even if the process of going from meters to kilometers seems ridiculously obvious to you and doesn't seem as though it warrants being written out, do it anyway! Typically, you'll earn at least 1 point for simply showing your work , so don't let a bit of laziness lower your score.

After reading this far, you now know all the basics of the AP Environmental Science free-response section; however, the way to really conquer the test and get a high score is to become an expert!

How can you do that? The best way is to complete lots of practice problems. On the College Board website, you'll find links to previously administered free-response questions for APES exams from to This means you have dozens of official free-response questions to look over and practice with.

Because there are so many free-response problems, you can begin completing practice problems a few months into your class say, around November and continuing up until the AP exam in May.

At the beginning of the school year, when you're still learning a lot of the main course material, you can read through the questions to find the ones that focus on topics you've already covered. In order to get the most out of these practice problems, make sure to use a timer and give yourself the same timing limitations the real exam will have. The free-response section of the AP Environmental Science exam is often challenging for students, but becoming familiar with it can go a long way to helping you get a higher score.

Also, you may use a graphing calculator especially important for Question 3. Each FRQ is worth a total of 10 raw points. This phenomenon has occurred around the world and has had economic, health, and environmental consequences. Describe the relationship between population density and petroleum use shown in the graph. Describe TWO steps a municipality could take to encourage smart growth in order to limit urban sprawl.

Describe TWO methods to reduce harmful effects on wildlife populations from highways and urban sprawl. Describe one practical way to increase food production within urban areas.

How and when will urban sprawl occur and what are the potential effects to humans and the environment? How can cities develop in a way that is sustainable and will minimize impact. For each remark, provide one justification for your position. Describe TWO environmental problems that could result from the construction of the plant i. Explain one environmental consequence other than effects on human health of a nuclear power plant accident. Support your beliefs of nuclear power with facts.

How can nuclear power plants pollute waterways and what can be done to reduce this? Name a major nuclear power plant that an accident has occurred and what is a environmental issue that has happened because of this event? Like many communities, Fremont has a combined sewer system that collects both sewage and storm water. The untreated overflow is discharged into Fremont Creek along with the treated waste.

Recently parts of Fremont received 5 cm of rain in 60 minutes. The storm caused widespread flooding in the northeast section of town. Especially hard hit was the Shoppes at Fremont shopping center. Use the data from the table below to answer the questions that follow. Show all calculations. Assume that all the water that falls on the parking lot runs off.

Assume that only the impervious surfaces generate runoff. Calculate the volume of untreated water in m3 that bypasses the plant as a result of the storm. Note that the plant still receives 5, m3 of domestic sewage per day.

What pollutants can be in stormwater runoff? Calculate the total amount of water that would be runoff after a given amount of rain.

Calculate the amount of water that would then be untreated. How can storm water runoff be reduced? Plate movements over vast stretches of time have led to the current orientation of our continents and oceans. Individual events along plate boundaries, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, pose periodic threats to human activity and ecosystems. On the map above, each dot represents a volcano or an earthquake.

What are the different types of plate boundaries and what geological formations result? How do each of the boundaries move? How can volcanoes cause primary succession? How are tsunamis generated and what are the potential harmful outcomes? These elements and their compounds are necessary components of all life, and because they cycle, they can be used repeatedly by new generations of organisms.

Each biogeochemical cycle has different pathways with various reservoirs sources and sinks where elements may reside for days or millions of years. Discuss TWO other human activities that increase the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. Discuss one consequence of the problem you identified.

What are the processes that move carbon throughout the carbon cycles from a gas in the atmosphere into a solid substance that makes up the bodies of organisms? How has the balance of carbon been altered and how is that a potential harm to ecosystems? Explain how each of the activities alters the flow of sediments. James says that it is important to restore sediments.

James also indicates that it is necessary to limit fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi River. Describe TWO environmental impacts on the marine ecosystem that are caused by fertilizer when it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Describe ONE strategy, other than reducing the use of fertilizer, that can be employed to reduce the flow of nutrients into the Mississippi River.

How are sediment and fertilizer runoff into the Gulf of Mexico causing environmental problems and what can be done to mitigate them? Battery electric vehicles BEVs have been introduced to consumers as an alternative way to reduce the environmental effects caused by use of internal-combustion engine ICE vehicles.

A comparison of both vehicle types can help determine whether the use of BEVs would be beneficial in the future. Where calculations are required, show your work. Calculate the cost of gasoline per mile. The car will run for miles on a full charge. Calculate the cost of the electricity to fully charge the battery. Assume that the battery is not charged to begin with. Calculate the cost of electricity per mile to drive the BEV.

When it is driven miles, the ICE vehicle contributes The drilling, refining, and transportation costs of getting the gasoline to the gas station add an additional The BEV does not emit anyCO2 itself, but the extraction, transportation, and combustion of the coal that produced the electricity at the power plant add How can the government encourage the use of electric vehicles among the public?

Calculate and compare the cost of driving gasoline vs electric cars. Calculate the difference in CO2 that each type of car produces.

Ozone O3 is an atmospheric trace gas that occurs naturally in the stratosphere. The location of ozone in the atmosphere determines whether the gas protects or damages the environment. Describe the chemical processes that lead to this natural balance between decomposition and formation of stratospheric ozone you may use chemical equations in your answer.

Although the Montreal Protocol has led to a dramatic decrease in CFCs released into the atmosphere, stratospheric ozone destruction has decreased only slightly. Explain the process by which CFCs lead to the destruction of stratospheric ozone. You may use chemical equations in your answer.

Explain why the rapid decrease in CFC emissions has not led to a similarly rapid decrease in the destruction of stratospheric ozone. What solar radiation will stratospheric ozone absorb? What was the Montreal protocol? Why was it needed?

What did it do and was it successful? Biological diversity, or biodiversity, has become a topic of great concern among conservationists. Biodiversity is often used by scientists and policy makers to help determine the health of ecosystems. What is biodiversity and what environmental factors lead to high biodiversity? How have humans resulted in the loss of biodiversity and what can be done to fix the situation? Read the following article from the Fremont Gazette and answer the questions that follow.

Discuss TWO environmental benefits of using natural gas as a fuel compared to using coal. However, there are also problems associated with nuclear power plants. Describe TWO negative environmental impacts associated with nuclear power. What is the process of fracking and what are some environmental and economical pros and cons to this in comparison with coal mining? The Fremont School District uses oil to heat school buildings.

Go Green! The superintendent has declared that the district will dedicate itself to reducing its carbon footprint. In addition to taking serious energy-conservation measures, the district is planning to help offset its carbon dioxide emissions by raising money to help conserve a portion of a large tract of forest land adjacent to the high school campus.

Discuss one environmental benefit other than reduced CO2 emissions and one environmental drawback of using the alternative source instead of fuel oil. For each calculation, show all work. See Diagram i Calculate the mass of carbon, in kg, that is accumulated and stored in 1. How can the carbon emissions from a school be offset by preserving a plot of forest?

Calculate how much forest they would have to preserve and the cost of doing so. The active ingredients in many pesticides are chemical compounds that kill organisms such as insects, molds, and weeds. Proponents claim that the use of pesticides improves crop yields and thus protects land and soil by reducing the conversion of forests and wetlands to cropland.

Opponents of pesticide use claim that pesticides degrade water and soil quality and that other modern agricultural techniques and practices are responsible for the improved crop yields in recent years.

For the experiment you design, be sure to do all of the following. Be specific. Design an experiment to test of pesticide is toxic to minnows by identifying the major components of an experiment and the results you would expect to see. What is IPM and why is it used? Wetlands were once considered to be wastelands. Over 50 percent of the United States original wetlands have been destroyed.

See Diagram ii Explain why it takes many hectares of wetland to support a pair of eagles. Explain how wetlands perform the equivalent of i primary treatment, and ii secondary treatment. What are wetlands and in what ways are they a unique ecosystem? What are the benefits of wetlands and how is it similar to wastewater treatment centers?

Read the following article from the Fremont Inquirer and answer the questions that follow. Describe TWO ways that the activities of the beetles might enhance climate change. Identify TWO physical changes that occur in the forest ecosystem as the result of the death of mature trees. For each physical change you identify, describe an impact of that change on the forest ecosystem. Describe TWO specific economic consequences of the collapse of the managed honeybee colonies.

Identify a different ecosystem service and explain how that service benefits human society. How have climate change and public policies caused an increase in the beetle population?

What are some impacts on an forest ecosystem that loses its large trees? What is a economic consequence of the loss of honey bees? Scientists are concerned that relatively rapid decreases in ocean water pH will hinder the deposition of CaCO3. The graph above shows the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water and ocean water pH shown in parentheses since and the predicted changes through Use the assumptions in the table below to perform the calculations that follow.

Show all steps in your calculation. Calculate how much less CaCO3 , in kg, is expected to be deposited in than would be deposited if ocean water pH were to remain at its current value. Explain the chemical reaction that takes place from CO2 in the atmosphere leading to decreased ocean pH. Use the data to calculate global increases. What is a environmental impact of the loss of coral reef ecosystems? Shown above is a graph of the gross domestic product GDP per capita versus the annual electrical energy consumption per capita for nine countries in Describe how electricity is generated from a geothermal source.

Explain this apparent contradiction. Identify one such issue and describe the impact it has on human health. Justify your answer with an explanation.

How is geothermal electricity made? What fuel sources generate the most CO2? How is electricity made from sugar cane and tar sands? What are disadvantages of using this source? See Diagram a On the graph below, plot the data from the table above and draw a smooth curve. See Diagram b Assume that the maximum arable land area on Earth is 4. Using the smooth curve that you created above, determine the year in which the human population is likely to run out of arable land for agriculture. Accurately be able to set up a graph of the available data.

What are the different properties that classify soil and how do they change soil quality? How can we use less land for farming? How can soil salinization happen and how can it be prevented?

See Diagram a Choose any ONE of the three pollutants mentioned above and respond to each of the following. Egguen is correct in asserting that children are particularly susceptible to toxic pollutants.

Determine the cost, in dollars, to capture the total amount of CO2 released from manufacturing one MP3 player. Select one of these pollutants and identify one technology that can be used to remove it from the waste stream of coal-burning power plants. Choose a pollution mentioned in the article and describe its source, how it gets into humans and steps that can be made to reduce it. Why are children at a greater risk? Calculate the cost to capture the CO2 from manufacturing one MP3 player with the given data.

What technology can be used to remove nitrogen and sulfur oxides from coal factories waste exhaust? What do manufacturers have their factories in China and India rather than the U. Termites are social insects that are essential decomposers in tropical rain forest ecosystems.

Termites may account for up to 95 percent of insect biomass in tropical rain forests. Termites consume vast amounts of dead and decomposing plant material, thanks to the work of mutualistic cellulose-digesting microorganisms that inhabit their guts. In addition to their roles as important decomposers, termites digest plant materials and directly contribute to carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere.

It is likely that, like many insect species, termites and their symbionts may be sensitive to changes in their microclimate caused by global climate change, especially with regard to temperature and humidity. See Diagram a Respond to the following using the data in the table above, which gives the rate of wood consumption by termites, in mg per day per termite, under various temperature and relative humidity conditions. Under optimal conditions, the emission rate of methane by termites is approximately 70 kilograms of CH4 per year per 1, termites.

Using the data provided, determine the amount of methane, in kilograms, that would be emitted by the termites in the 2,hectare tropical rain forest. Thereafter, the termite population size decreases dramatically. Use the data to calculate the methane emitted by termites in different conditions. Why would the population of termites go up and then down when a forest is cleared?

How will the destruction of forest contribute to climate change? The zebra mussel, a mollusk native to Eurasia, was first discovered in the Great Lakes of North America in Zebra mussels attach to solid substrates and are filter feeders. Adult zebra mussels can survive for several days or even weeks out of water if the temperature and humidity are favorable.

An adult female zebra mussel can produce as many as one million eggs per year. The recent range of occurrence of zebra mussels in the United States is indicated by shading in the map above. Describe one viable method for preventing the spread of zebra mussels into isolated lakes. Give a specific example of the use of this strategy and discuss a negative impact of introducing a nonnative species to control an invasive species.

How are zebra mussels introduced into new ecosystems? What impact can they have on non native ecosystems? What can be done to prevent them from moving into new non native areas? What is another invasive species and what adaptations made it good at living in new places? Increases in the global mean atmospheric temperature during the past century have been accompanied by a gradual increase in sea level; currently the average rate of increase in sea level is 3.

Additional increases in sea level are expected during the next century as global mean atmospheric temperatures continue to rise. These increases in sea level will affect coastal ecosystems as well as human activity along coastal margins. Download free-response questions from past exams along with scoring guidelines, sample responses from exam takers, and scoring distributions. AP Exams are regularly updated to align with best practices in college-level learning.

Not all free-response questions on this page reflect the current exam, but the question types and the topics are similar, making them a valuable resource for students. Free-Response Questions. Scoring Guidelines.