# Chapter 2: How to Approach Free-Response Questions

## The Art Of The Free-Response Essay

• You’re given the free-response questions to answer in 70 minutes. That’s only about 24 minutes per question. Each of these three questions will present a scenario and ask you to answer several smaller questions.

• You can get a maximum of 10 points per free-response question. Each question has a certain grading rubric assigned to it, which is what the free-response readers use to give you points for your responses.

• The best way to rack up points on this section is to give the graders what they’re looking for.

## Now or Later

• For the exam, one of the free-response questions will ask you to design an investigation, and one will ask you to propose a solution to an environmental problem using models. The third question will ask you the same as the second, but this time using calculations, so a calculator can be very useful for this question.

While you do have to answer each of these questions, you do not need to answer them in order.

• The best strategy is to read the scenario and decide if this is a question you want to attempt now or later. Do this before reading the next scenario. If you decide to do it later, move on to the next question.

• If you decide to do it now, look at the questions and start answering them. Remember the grading rubric, makes it easy for the graders to give you points. If the question asks for two solutions, label the solutions so the graders can easily find them.

• If the question asks for a calculation, show all your work including any formulas you are using. If the question asks you to plot something, clearly label the x- and y- axis.

## Calculate the Math

Yes, there’s math in environmental science and you will be allowed to use a calculator on the exam. Be sure to use your calculator to avoid mistakes.

## Hot-Button Terms

• The AP essay graders have a checklist of key terms and concepts that they use to assign points.

• We like to call these “hot-button” terms. Simply put, for each hot button that you include in your essay, you will receive a predetermined number of points.

• For example, if the questions deals with photochemical smog, the AP graders are instructed to give students two points for writing: “In the presence of sunlight and heat, VOCs, NOx, ozone combine to form “smog”—or something very similar to that. These key terms can be found in the Chapter 12 glossary.

## Make an Outline

• As you read the question, brainstorm a list of terms and concepts you want to cover. Use the sub-questions to help you with your list of terms and concepts.

• Next, draft an outline that will help you organize them into some logical order. While you do not get points for organization, a well-organized response is to write. The best way to organize your response is to write a clear, simple outline.

• It is important to remember that the three free-response questions are essay questions, and they need to be written in paragraph style. On average, you will need to write no more than one or two paragraphs for each question.

• If the question asks for two examples, give just that--two examples. If you present more than two examples, the grader may not even count them toward your score. Make sure you read carefully and provide just what the question is asking for.

## Label All Diagrams and Figures

• Sometimes it’s easier to present a diagram or figure as a part of your essay. You may illustrate your answer, but all illustrations should be labeled and discussed in the verbiage of your answer.

• Remember to properly label your diagram or figure; otherwise, the AP graders will give you no more than partial credit for your work.

## Know the Labs Covered in Your AP Course

• At least one of the 3 essay questions will be experimentally based. Sometimes the questions will refer back to a laboratory experiment conducted in your AP class. Consequently, the laboratory component of your course is an integral part of this exam.