AP Environmental Science (APES) Score Calculator – 2024

January 5, 2024

AP environmental science score calculator APES

I didn’t take AP Environmental Science (known as APES) in high school, but I wish I had. Has there ever been a time when understanding the environment was more relevant than it is right now? Not to be a downer, but the world is sort of burning. Wildfires continue to consume ever-increasing swaths of California, and studies have shown that climate change is to blame. This summer, temperatures in U.S. waters were higher than ever recorded, which led to coral bleaching in thousands of miles of coral reef systems stretching from South Florida to Mexico (Scroll down to use of AP Environmental Science Score Calculator).

That loss of biodiversity is just a drop in the bucket, globally speaking: scientists estimate that there are currently 1.2 million species under threat of extinction. If there’s any good news to be gleaned from this bleak state of affairs, it’s that going green is becoming more mainstream. Almost 70% of American adults are in favor of the U.S. becoming climate-neutral by 2050. And college campuses are cranking out an increasing number of environmental science majors. So if you’re getting a head start and taking APES in high school, you’ve come to the right place: our AP Environmental Science score calculator is a perfect tool to help you prep for the exam.

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What does the AP Environmental Science exam consist of?

The AP Environmental Science score calculator will give you an accurate picture of how you’d do on the AP Environmental Science exam. Then you can use the AP Environmental Science score calculator to determine your areas of strength and weakness and adjust your study routine accordingly. But what does the exam itself consist of?

The AP Environmental Science exam takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete and is broken into two parts: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. The multiple-choice section consists of 80 questions, lasts 90 minutes, and accounts for 60% of the total exam score. The free-response section consists of 3 questions, lasts 70 minutes, and accounts for 40% of the total exam score.

APES Score Calculator 

In general, the exam tests students’ understanding of the course materials and their ability to design research studies to solve environmental problems. But the course itself is a good guide as to which content areas will be most represented on the test. Only 6 to 8% of the exam will cover material from Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems. Same for Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity—only 6 to 8% of the exam will pertain to this material. Units 3, 4, 5, and 6, however (Populations, Earth Systems and Resources, Land and Water Use, and Energy and Resources Consumption), will be a little more well represented on the final exam.

These units will account for 10-15% of the overall exam score. Units 7 and 8, Atmospheric Pollution and Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution, make up 7-10% of the exam each. Unit 9, Global Change, takes up the most space on the exam, counting for 15-20% of the overall score. In addition to our AP Environmental Science score calculator, you can use these numbers (found on the College Board’s APES webpage) to guide the focus of your study.

Is AP Environmental Science hard?

Going by the numbers, AP Environmental Science ranks among the hardest AP courses. According to data released by the College Board, only 53.8% of students who took the AP Environmental exam received a passing grade of a 3, 4, or 5. Of the almost 180,000 students who took the exam in 2022, just over half—some 96,000—passed. That makes AP Environmental Science the 5th hardest AP course overall. To give you a little perspective, Physics 1, with a pass rate of just 43.2%, tops the list of the toughest AP courses, and Chinese Language and Culture, with a pass rate of 88%, is, statistically speaking at least, the easiest AP course.

AP Environmental Science score distribution

Let’s take an in-depth look at the results of the 2021 and 2022 AP Environmental Science exam. Doing so will give future test takers insight into which content and skill areas students tend to struggle with, as well as those that students typically have no problem mastering.

Let’s start with the 2022 exam results. As I mentioned above, just over half of students received a passing score of 3 or above, and the average score was just 2.79. Roughly 9% of all test takers in 2022 received an “extremely well qualified” score of 5. The largest share of test takers—27.4%—received a 4. And 17.5% received a 3. On the non-passing end of the spectrum, 25.9% received a 2, and 20.3% received a 1.

If we turn to the 2021 data, we can get a sense of where students had success and where they came up short. As is the case in most AP exams, students scored significantly better on the multiple-choice section than they did on the free-response section. In fact, the 2021 APES exam saw the biggest score discrepancy between the multiple-choice and free-response sections in any of the other AP Exams that year. On average, students who took the APES exam earned two times as many points on the multiple-choice section than they did on the free-response questions.

APES Score Calculator 

In terms of content areas, Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution, was far and away the least thorny—64% of students earned almost perfect scores on questions pertaining to this unit. But students struggled mightily on questions pertaining to Unit 1: Ecosystems. 10% of students were only able to answer a single question pertaining to Unit 1 correctly. And poor performance on Unit 1-related questions tended to weigh down overall test scores.

As far as skill areas, Science Practice 3: Text Analysis, proved to be easy for most students to master—71% of students received perfect scores on all questions that pertained to that skill.

Science Practice 4, which involves analysis of research studies and design of research methods, was much more of a struggle. 10% of test takers didn’t answer a single question that used this skill correctly. Also problematic was Science Practice 6: Mathematical Routines.

To sum up here: make sure you’ve got a good handle on Unit 1: Ecosystems, as Unit 1-related questions tend to be some of the trickiest on the entire test. The same goes for Science Practice 4 and Science Practice 6. You might want to devote more time to solidifying these skills given that test takers in the past have struggled with them.

AP Environmental Science FRQ

The free-response section consists of three equally weighted questions and takes an hour and ten minutes to complete. The entire section accounts for 40% of a student’s overall score. The questions are of three types. The first is a “design an investigation” question, wherein students are presented with an environmental scenario and an accompanying model, visual representation, or data set. The second question—“analyze an environmental problem and propose a solution”—has similar parameters: students are presented with a scenario and an accompanying model, visual representation, etc. The final question has students “analyze an environmental problem and propose a solution doing calculations”.

In general, the free-response section tests a student’s ability to identify and explain environmental concepts, analyze visual representations, studies, and data, and use math to solve problems and propose solutions to environmental problems.

APES Score Calculator 

Below, I’ll include some free-response questions from past APES exams.

1) Common snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentina, are primarily aquatic, but they lay their eggs on land. Researchers are interested in understanding the impact of pollution on turtle nesting sites. The researchers examined nesting sites at two agricultural areas along the floodplain of a river upstream and downstream from a chemical factory that is a known source of aqueous mercury pollution. Turtle eggs, soil, and vegetation samples taken from areas around turtle nests downstream from the chemical factory showed high levels of mercury in a previous study. Mercury was not detected in samples taken upstream from the chemical factory.

A) The map shows locations of both successful and unsuccessful turtle nests.

  • Identify the area with the greatest nest success rate, based on the information in the diagram.
  • Identify the dependent variable in the study.
  • Based on the information provided, identify a likely scientific question for the study.
  • Describe why researchers measured mercury levels in locations upstream from the factory.
  • There are plans to remove trees and other vegetation along the river bank. Explain how this modification could affect the location and number of successful turtle nests in Area B. (2022)

2) Habitat destruction and fragmentation can have many different effects on species. Describe a characteristic of a specialist species that would make the specialist species more likely to be negatively affected by habitat fragmentation than a generalist species. (2021)

3) Haiti shares a border with the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

A) The border between the two countries can be seen using images because of the severe deforestation in Haiti.

  • Provide one reason why deforestation commonly occurs in a less developed country such as Haiti. (2017)

How to get a 5 on the APES exam – AP Environmental Score Calculator

The only way to get a 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam is to know the content and be competent in the skill areas. Duh, you might say, but how do I do that? One great way to know where to focus your study is to use the AP Environmental Science score calculator. It’ll let you know what areas you’re struggling in, and therefore need to focus on, and what areas you can safely deprioritize. You can also use the successes and failures of previous test takers to guide your study routine.

Make sure you know the content and skill areas that have proved difficult in years past. And keep in mind that you won’t be tasked with mindlessly regurgitating definitions, particularly in the free-response section. Rather, you’ll have to explain, analyze, and justify using authentic scenarios, data, and mathematical formulas. So don’t forget to practice those skills as well. If you can do all that, you’ll set yourself up for success on the APES exam.