Preparation Hints for the Free Response Questions on the ap environmental Science Exam About the Exam

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Specific Hints:

1-     On the quantitative question, be as organized as you can be and show all your work.

            -     Calculators are not allowed.

-         Don’t write numbers all over the page.  Be organized.  It is easier for you to work and easier for the reader to follow your reasoning. 

-         Use scientific notation for all large numbers and values very much smaller than one.  It will help you keep track of the decimal places. 

-         If you use a formula, write it out and show how you substituted values into it.

-         Sometimes the question will involve the changing of units. Always label your

      values. Learn the factor-label method for converting units. 

        If the question asks for a graph, there are some basics that must be followed. 

-         The independent variable is always the X (horizontal) axis and the dependent variable is always the Y (vertical) axis. 

-         Mark off the axes in proportional units, even if the data is not uniformly spaced.

-         Label each axis and give the unit of measure. 

-         Plot the data points as accurately as you can and connect the points with a smooth continuous line, unless the instructions specifically tell you to do something different.

-         If more than one line is plotted, label each one.  Don’t use a legend on the side.

-         Give the graph a title.

2-     On the document-based question, be sure to carefully read the whole passage or document. 

-         The question will ask for specific information from the reading and then ask you to react to it using your knowledge of the topic. 

-         Be particularly alert to the verbs used in the question.  They each mean different things.  The verb compare will usually mean linking one item from the reading passage and one of your choosing in a specific way.  Describe would be asking you to tell in some detail about an event or process outlined in the question.  Develop an argument would mean that you will have to link together two or more pertinent facts about the topic asked.

3-     The synthesis and evaluation questions are a very sophisticated test of your reading ability and scientific background.  The questions are knowledge based and require you to make connections between major topics in the course. 

-         Again it is extremely important that you read the question carefully.  Make particular note of the verbs used.

-         Don’t restate the question.  This is not a formal debate or an English Composition class.  Time is valuable. 

-         Write about what the question asks.  Don’t waste time by giving long introductions or eco-babble on about historical perspectives.  Get to the point and answer the question in a straight forward and complete way.

-         If you are asked to give two examples, only your first two responses will be graded.  Don’t give a longer list, hoping for the best.

-         One word that students miss is economic.  If the question asks for economic incentives, for example, it means a financial effect such as more money, tax breaks, less cost, etc.  Review some of the previous year’s questions to see how this was missed by many students.       

-         Another term students seem to ignore, to their detriment is per capita.  This means per person.  Per capita energy use is the amount of energy used by the average person.

-         Define and explain any terms you use.  Don’t just name drop “buzz words”.  Use examples wherever possible and be complete, but precise.

-         Be sure to include the obvious in your explanations. Don’t assume the Readers will know what you mean.  They won’t, unless you tell them.  Be very complete, but to the point. Being thorough in your answer could score you extra points. 

-         If the question asks for a linking of concepts and you can’t think of any, tell what you know about each concept separately.  Once more, use details wherever possible.

4-     Again, sometimes one of the questions asks you to design an experiment to solve an environmental problem.  If this happens, there are a few things to keep in mind. Remember what is necessary for a good experiment.

-         All experiments need a hypothesis.  This should be a simple declarative

sentence that can be tested.  It is a prediction of what you think will happen. It is mandatory that it be included in your answer.  

-         You need to describe the variable that you will manipulate.  Outline why you selected it and describe how you perform your tests.

-         If this is going to be a controlled experiment, describe what variables you will control and how you will do it.

-         If the experiment is a long term study, be sure that it runs for at least two or more cycles of the event you are studying.

-         If your experiment involves organisms, be sure to describe their behavior as a result of the experiment. 

-         Tell what equipment you propose to use and why.

-         Say how you will collect data and analyze it. 

-         If you draw a conclusion, be sure to connect your results to the hypothesis that you stated in the beginning.

-         Lastly, your experimental design should be realistic and theoretically possible, based on accepted scientific theories and principles.

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