AP® Environmental Science math for students for the 2019 exam.

This is the basic information you need about APES math on the AP® Exam.

Read this post for some practice problems.

  • No Calculators. Big bummer, I know, but its the way it is.  You may have heard that this is changing for 2020….it is, but for this year, NO calculators.
  • Pre-Algebraic Word Problems. Many students struggle with setting up the problem. The actual math is not that hard, but setting it up is challenging for many. Practice this with problems your teacher assigns you or with review books.
  • Usually 8-10 Multiple Choice Questions. There are 100 multiple choice questions and 8-10 are usually math related.  The Rule of 70 is a favorite for 1 or 2 of the problems. You DO NOT need to show work for MC questions.
  • One FRQ is Half Math. You have four FRQs in 90 minutes. Question #2 will have math quesitons for half the FRQ. Over the years, the math has gotten easier on the FRQ, but this has not increased the national pass rate. To practice, go to the College Board’s website and print out some FRQ #2s from previous years. Then, go to this playlist on Youtube to help solve the problems.
  • Students MUST Show Work on FRQs. NO WORK=NO CREDIT, even if correct. Units in set-up and in answer.
  • No Formula Sheet. You must memorize some simple formulas (see below).

You can pass the AP® Exam without doing any of the math, BUT this is a gamble and you need to know everything else really, really well.

Math Skills you Should Have Already Learned (But Probably Forgot)

  1. Dimensional Analysis. This is something learned in chemistry, but often forgotten. APES math always has dimensional analysis.
  2. Density: Also in chemistry… and in middle school …and maybe elementary school.
  3. pH: Just the basics–what’s an acid, what’s neutral, what’s a base.
  4. Half-Life: Often taught in chemistry and/or physics, but may be new to some.
  5. Scientific Notation. A favorite on the AP® Exam and one that many students really don’t like. Many students will convert to zeros before solving, but this is a gamble as more errors are made when you do that. The AP® Exam will often use scientific notation in the givens and these divide or multiply cleanly so its a benefit to know this skill.
  6. Long Division by hand. Many students have forgotten this elementary math skill and struggle with it.
  7. Percentages.  Many students don’t remember how add, subtract, multiply or divide using percentages without a calculator.
  8. Percent Change
  9. Metric Conversions 

New AP Environmental Science APES math

These are APES math topics that are new for most students.

  1. Population Math (see below)
  2. Productivity (see below)
  3. Trophic Levels (90% loss of energy as you go up a trophic level)
  4. Energy Math: Kilowatts, joules etc.
  5. LD-50 calculations

Formulas you need to memorize

You can print out this formula sheet to help you memorize, but you cannot have it with you for the exam.

  • Population Math Basic, easy formulas
  • Percent Change
  • Metric Conversions–g to kg, for example. They need to know the following prefixes only: micro, milli, centi, kilo, and Mega.The table from my metric review.
  • Density–one they should know, but need to be reminded of
  • pH scale —1 # decrease on scale = 10x H+ (acidity)
  • Productivity:  Gross Primary Production – Respiration = Net Primary Productivity
  • Half-Life–not a formula, but a method to solve by sketching outSample half-life problem with solution
Sample half-life problem with solution.

You DO NOT need to memorize any other conversions such as gallons to liters.

Don’t forget content review

Make sure you are studying your notes, textbook and/or a review book. Some favorite review books are: A Cartoon Guide to the Environment and ASAP and
Five Steps to a Five. But many others are good as well (Barrons, and ones by textbook publishers).

This is a well-used review book for many years of APES content review.
A page from the book.


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