Resources for the AP® Environmental Science Exam

Read about the AP® Exam in these various posts. You can also find out the basics of the APES exam on this College Board website.

What Do Students Think is Best for AP Exam Review?

I survey my students every year after the AP Exam, because I want to improve my practice and adjust for needs the following year. For review ideas, read this post. Remember, every school, teacher and students are different. What my students need or do not need is unique to them. As a professional, you will do trial and error and your own surveys to find out the best way to prep your own students for the exam. To see a copy of my survey click on this google doc.

I have a lot of students take my course and the exam (140+) and these numbers give me good insight. Overall, my students do well on the exam and have a good amount of self-reflection afterwards. Here are the major points from the past two years of survey data:

Review Materials that Students Think are Very Helpful

  • Students reported sticky notes were the best in preparing them for the AP®  Exam (75+% average in the past two years said they were very helpful).
  • Released exams and diagnostics were also highly rated (75+% average also said they were very helpful).
  • Mastering Environmental Science coaching extra credit assignments were very helpful (70+% average). This is the online program that comes with the Withgott book. It has tutorials called “coaching” assignments. I make several “coaching” assignments as extra credit due the night before the AP®  Exam. Students drag and drop and sort content, watch videos with questions and graph analysis practice.
  • Binders were very helpful to about half my students.
  • Remind texts were very helpful to over half my students. (I do my own texts the weekend before the exam with helpful hints texted every 2 hours or so).
  • Bozeman videos were very helpful to about half my students. I give links and guidance for Bozeman videos in relation to my textbook on their 6 Week Study Plan.

Please note: There are a lot of other review ideas and materials out there that are great. These are just the ones I pick for my students.

2018 results
2018 results

Review Material not as Helpful

  • Review book that the school owns. My school has a copy of a review/test prep book for each student to check out. It is from the textbook publisher. It has not been highly rated by my students. Perhaps this is because they cannot write in it. I will have to ask this year.
  • Google folder with lots of review items–vocab lists, study cards, etc. Anything I think is helpful is uploaded into this folder, but less than 20% thought it was very helpful. (Sorry, I cannot share my review folder, because some items in it are copyrighted).
  • Other review books that the student purchased. Now, this may be skewed, because not every student bought a book.

Class-time Review that was Helpful

I do not spend class time on content review. Instead, my students take released exams (which cannot go home as homework according to the agreement you acknowledge with your AP audit). Most students thought these were valuable to do in class:

  • FRQ strategies lesson-I pass out 4 FRQs from a recent year and I have students write all over the four with hints and strategies and have them decide how they want to tackle in 90 minutes.This is the video I record for my online section of APES. https://youtu.be/ZuPGKKFklc4
  • Mathematics review–most said the review was helpful to spend time on.
  • Experimental design practice— I give students practice problems from released APES exams and also AP Biology exams (since they have more released questions) along with the experimental design FRQ from 2012.
  • Geography review
Results from 2018. A 5 was very helpful and 1 was not helpful

* AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.

February = AP® Exam Pacing Check

In February, I like to plan the rest of the year up to the AP® Exam. Pacing is crucial and while kids may complain about going too fast through content, they will complain even more if you don’t make it through everything by the AP Exam. Here’s some advice for pacing.

  • Count the chapters/topics left to cover and assign a number of weeks/days for each. Some topics need more time so check the AP® Environmental Science outline on the College Board website. Don’t forget about holidays, spring break, the prom and state testing.
  • Set days for exams and sticky to it! You will have to cut, cut, cut favorite activities, videos and labs. I have reworked plans multiple times until I’m happy with the items I have left in the time I have.
  • Do not skip anything. Sometimes a minor topic is an entire FRQ. See the 2015 #4 FRQ for an example. Many teachers skipped the chapter on cities that year due to snow days or running out of time and lamented the decision.
  • Post your pacing plan for students. Explain it to them and talk about strategy. Keeps the complaining down when you have strict deadlines and when you pick up the pace and cover chapters faster.
  • Assign content for homework. Explain to kids that NO AP® teacher has time to spoon feed everything AND also make sure students have developed AP Science Practices (which are a big part of the multiple choice section of the exam). Homework might be video notes or assigned textbook reading with reading guides or quizzes.
  • Encourage your students. I say “this semester we are going to pick up the pace, because you have the foundations down of ecology, soil, etc. We can go through the chapters faster now. I do this every year and my students always rise to the task.
  • Give sufficient time for review: I review science skills and do practice exams in class. I allow 2 weeks for this and then give the final exam a couple of days before the AP® exam. Kids review content on their own via a “6 week study guide”.

Essentials for class time

A lot of content is “the easy stuff” and can be read and understood by students without you.
Focus on skills and difficult content during class time such as:

Supplies needed for Airborne Particulate Experimental Design Lab.
  • Difficult content like El Nino, Water and wastewater treatment, Air pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion, GPP/NPP, biogeochemical cycles and LD-50 graphing. 
  • Math. Its better to do math during class time where you can make sure students do not copy and can get help as needed. Assign content at home in exchange. Explain this strategy to kids.
  • Labs that give a lot of “bang for the buck”. Make sure labs cover many concepts, skills and topics. Students need to collect a lot of quantitative data in charts and then analyze this data. The multiple choice section of the AP Exam will have data sets for students to answer difficult questions about. An example of a lab with a lot of data collection, analysis and math is the Kill-A-Watt Lab.
  • FRQ practice, assessments and peer grading. Self-grading and peer-grading dramatically helps students understand how to write better FRQs.
Self-grading and peer-grading with highlighters. Students highlight the exact words that give the point.

* AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.