It is an impressive thing to have taken an advanced placement class as a freshman, but it is even more impressive to say you got a 5 on the first College Board test you took. It is likely that most freshmen end up taking human geography as their first advanced placement class, and while most teachers understand this and keep their expectations slightly lesser than other teachers do, the College Board isn’t likely to keep this in mind when they write their tests. The following guidelines can help you score a 5, especially if you decide to start preparing early—because trust me when I say procrastination isn’t your friend here (take it from someone who did the exact opposite).

1. Learn the Models & the Inventors

I can’t emphasize how important it is to know the models. I would go as far as to say that 30% of the entire test is solely based on how well you are able to understand, define, and apply them. It is great if you can define the function of a model, but make sure you are also able to pull information out and analyze them as well.

A rookie mistake that people are prone to make is studying the model but forgetting to study the inventor’s name. This isn’t a bright idea, having done it myself. It is likely you will be asked to use a model given just the name of the guy who came up with it.

You might know exactly what each model does and may even be able to connect one to a real life example, but if you don’t know who made that model, then you automatically end up getting a zero on that section. Instead of making a bad grade, I highly recommend spending an extra minute learning the inventor’s name.

It is usually easy at first but then gets confusing as more and more models are added throughout the semester. The best thing to do would be to find a visual representation of all the models you learned in a year (you can either draw them out or just copy and paste a picture from the internet).

When you have all the pictures in front of you, make sure you are able to identify the name of the model, the inventor, the time period it came into use, and the purpose of it. After that, make sure you also know how to apply each model or pull important information out of it if necessary.

It is good to remember that you don’t need to learn every model that pertains to geography (if you do that, you will never finish). It will help you more if you focus on the most important models when learning, and you can usually find a short list in many review books.

2. Know the Vocabulary Inside & Out

The entire structure of this class is based on vocabulary, vocabulary, and, well you guessed it, more vocabulary. It can get confusing and frustrating at times, but most of the words are used so frequently in every unit that you get used to it. It is hard to forget some of the words you learned after sitting through an entire year of this course.

It is necessary to remember, though, that the College Board very rarely asks a question that is just straight out definition (especially in the multiple choice section), so you can bet they will want you to apply the definitions you learn.

The best method I found was grouping all the vocabulary words from a unit and then making flashcards out of them. It is beneficial to write them down rather than typing because the words stick with you better. It is also helpful if you go over these words continuously after you make them.

I highly recommend making two columns on a piece of paper with the vocabulary words pre-written. You can then quiz yourself by writing down a definition and an example for each word (this will help you prepare for the free response section tremendously). If nothing else, it will most certainly strengthen your vocabulary before the test.

If you have the time, then make sure to go back and compare your flashcards with the columns you just filled out. It will provide an extra review, and you can be sure that you are on the right track.

3. Learn Where Each Country Is Located on a Map

I had no idea there were 195 countries in the world before taking this class. It was probably just my ignorance, but some of the countries’ locations startled me. It is a downright bad idea to finally look at a map ten seconds before taking the test.

Nonetheless, if you decide to learn it ten seconds before, then focus on the world powers. Those are places you don’t want to miss out on. On the other hand, if you heeded my advice and learned the map when you were supposed to, then good job (that makes one person).

Either way, be able to pinpoint the exact location of each country, but do remember that the College Board prefers to focus more on regions. A good knowledge of countries can be helpful anyway when answering free response questions.

A type of question that frequently reappears on the test is one where a map is aggregated based on a situation and you are asked to identify a country that represents the situation really well. If you can’t pinpoint the exact name of a country, you lose points by default. I can promise you that your one hour that you think you wasted by learning the names of weird countries will come in handy when you are trying to get a 5 on this test.

If you can’t bother to learn the countries, then make sure to at least know the regions. The best way to learn the locations of all the countries is to just sit down and learn it. It isn’t the most helpful tip, but it is the actual truth.

There are multiple websites that offer practice quizzes, and you can always print out blank maps to fill in; but, you have to begin by actually looking at a world map and memorizing the countries in it. If you are able to get most of the countries in the world right, then pat yourself on the back because you are on your way to acing the test!

4. Make a Current Events Journal

If you are completely out of tune with current events, guess what? I was much worse. If I can get over my distaste for reading the newspaper, then absolutely anyone can. This skill isn’t necessary to succeed on the test but can take you a long way. After all, the entire aim of the human geography course is to expand your knowledge of current events, so you can bet there is going to be at least a few questions that come straight from the newspapers.

I highly recommend keeping a journal that lists the most important affairs of the day (or at least ones that struck a chord with you). It can be hard keeping up with the news most of the time (if there is anyone that gets that, it is me), and the motivation to type up a newspaper’s name after a long day can often amount to none. But just keep the test in mind to motivate you.

It isn’t a big deal if you forget to read the newspaper here and there; just make sure you aren’t doing it continuously. If even thinking of reading a huge newspaper gives you nightmares, then signing up for The Skimm can help a lot. It is an app that delivers to your inbox a summarization of all the important events that took place on a particular day. The great thing is that you can read it on a bus ride home or even during a trip to the coffee shop. It is such a small read that you might even end up enjoying it (gasp).

If you follow these four tips, then your chances of making a 5 just went up by 98%. The other 2% really depends on your abilities in the class (sorry to say that). After all, in the end, your test grade correlates with how hard you work during the year, so good luck!!




Vyshnavi Viju attends George Walton High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Her favorite thing to do in the whole world is cuddling up with a book on a rainy day. She is a huge fan of traveling to new and exotic places that are far away from where she lives, tasting all kinds of hard to pronounce foods, and experiencing new cultures from all over the world. She takes absolute delight in spending time with her best friends and her family, especially her cute and cuddly sister 🙂

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