Links to all of the AP US Government and Politics Review Posts
AP Government Review #5A: Institutions of National Government- Congress

This is 35-45% of the exam (that’s why I’m breaking it up into multiple posts)!

Key Terms:

  1. Cloture: Senate; motion to end a filibuster; requires a 3/5 vote
  2. Conference Committee: temporary committee that is formed to resolve differences between the bills of the HoR and Senate
  3. Congressional Redistricting: reallocation of the number of representatives each state has in the HoR (Reapportionment)
  4. Delegate Role of Representation: when members of Congress cast votes based on the wishes of their constituents
  5. Filibuster: Senate; delays or prevents action on a bill b using long speeches or unlimited debate to “talk a bill to death”
  6. Franking Privilege: right of members of Congress to mail newsletters to their constituents at the government’s expense
  7. Gerrymandering: legislative process by which the majority party in each state legislature redraws congressional districts to ensure the maximum number of seats for its candidates
  8. House Rules Committee: only in the HoR; sets guidelines for floor debate by giving each bill a rule that places the bill on the legislative calendar, limiting debate time, and determining what type of amendments will be allowed
  9. House Ways and Means Committee: HoR committee that handles tax bills
  10. Incumbent: officeholder who seeks reelection
  11. Logrolling: tactics of mutual aid and vote trading among legislation
  12. Oversight: congressional review of the activities of an executive agency, department, or office
  13. Seniority: unwritten rule in both houses of Congress, which reserves committee chairs to members of the committee with the longest record of continuous service
  14. Standing Committee: permanent subject-matter congressional committee that handles legislation and oversees the bureaucracy


  • Is bicameral- House of Reprsentatives and Senate
  • Based off of the British system of government: House of Commons and House of Lords
  • Fulfilled the Connecticut Promise as large states wanted a bicameral legislature based on population and smaller states wanted a unicameral legislature with equal representation

House of Representatives v. Senate:

  • House of Representatives (HoR): based on population; 2 year terms; representatives must be 25 years old, an American citizen for 7 years, and a resident of the state which they represent; always been elected by eligible voters
  • HoR Reapportionment:every 10 years, the House seats are reapportioned based on state population; Reapportionment Act of 1929: set size to 435 permanently; important because it affects power/influence in the House (more representatives per state, more potential power)
  • Hor Gerrymandering: protects incumbents, strengthens the majority party, and increases/decreases minority representation
  • HoR Speaker of the House:most influential member of Congress, oversees house business, stands second in line for presidential succession
  • HoR (Other) Leaders: Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Majority White, Minority Whip
  • Senate: 100 members (2 from each state); at least 30 years old, an American citizen for 9 years, and a resident of the state which they represent; originally chosen by state legislatures (17th Amendment-mandated that senators be elected by voters in each state)
  • Senate Leader: vice president is the leader of the senate; may vote only to break a tie
  • Senate (Other) Leaders: President Pro Tempore- longest serving member of the majority party; Majority Leader, Minority leader, Majority Whip, Minority Whip

Why Incumbents Normally Win:

  • They have money (able to raise more campaign contributions), constituent service (able to get money and jobs “pork” for their constituents), visibility (better known than their challengers), and franking (send newsletters to their constituents at the government’s expense)


  • play a dominant role especially in the House of Representatives
  • Standing Committee: permanent bodies that focus on legislation (agriculture); bills are referred to standing committees where they are passed, killed, or amended; divided into subcommittees
  • Joint Committee: include members of both houses; similar in function to select committees
  • Select Committee: special panel formed for specific purposes and limited time; usually formed to conduct an investigation in a current matter (Watergate)
  • Conference Committee: temporary bodies formed to resolve differences between the House and Senate
  • Seniority System: important because committee chairs call meetings, schedule meetings, decide what bills to hear, and select all subcommittee chairs

How Bills are Made:

  • Anyone can write a bill, but most are written by Congress members; most originate in the Executive Branch; only congress members can introduce bills by dropping them into the “Hopper,” a box hanging on the edge of the clerk’s desk

Floor Action:

  • House of Representatives: Rules Committee sets strict limits; bill is debated and a vote is ultimately taken by the full body
  • Senate: members may speak as long as they wish, filibusters exist, senators can ask to be informed about a particular bill before its brought to the floor (known as a hold) since it stops the bill from being debated; bills are eventually voted by the full body

Congress and the Executive Branch:

  • Congressional Oversight: Congress reviews the activities of the executive branch, as they can confirm cabinet heads and presidential appointments to federal courts; also can set guidelines for new agencies, control the budget, and evaluate agencies’ programs

Congress and Foreign Policy:

  • War Powers Resolution: (previous FRQ) passed in 1973; was a response to President’s actions during the Vietnam War; was designed so Congress had more control than the President when committing the military to hostile situations; requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours after deploying troops and must bring troops home within 60-90 days unless Congress extends this time 
AP Government Review #5C: Institutions of National Government- Federal Bureaucracy

This is the last portion of 35-45% of your exam! A lot of what is relevant to the Bureaucracy has already been mentioned in #5A and #5B, which is why this one is much shorter than the other two![:

Key Terms:

  • Bureaucracy: large, complex organization of appointed officials; have hierarchical authority, job specialization, and formal rules
  • Executive Order: a directive, order, or regulation issued by the president (mentioned in #5B)
  • Implementation: translation of policy goals into rules and standard operating procedures
  • Regulation: use of governmental authority to control practices in the private sector

Federal Bureaucracy:

  • originally drawn from an elite group of upper-class white males
  • Pendleton Act: (1883) created the federal civil service; workers are selected according to merit, not party loyalty
  • Office of Personal Management (OMP): administers civil service laws and regulations; in charge of hiring most federal agencies

Federal Bureaucracy’s Organization:

  • Cabinet Departments: 15 departments–each headed by a secretary (except the Department of Defense, which is headed by the Attorney General) 

Independent Regulatory Agencies:

  • created to protect the public by regulating key sectors of the economy
  • major ones include: Interstate Commerce Commision (ICC), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the Federal Reserve Board (FRB). 
  • are led by small commissions appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate (commissioners cannot be removed)

Monetary Policy vs. Fiscal Policy:

  • Monetary Policy: refers to the money supply and interest rates; controlled by the Federal Reserve; most common form of monetary policy is open market operations (increase the money supply or decrease the money supply)
  • (Discretionary) Fiscal Policy: refers to government spending and taxing; more government spending and less taxing is expansionary; less government spending and more taxing is contractionary

Government Corporations:

  • provide a service that could be provided by the private sector
  • major ones include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Amtrak

Independent Executive Agencies:

  • include basically everything that’s non-cabinet
  • major ones include: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Implementation vs. Regulation:

  • Implementation: can break down due to conflicting goals, faulty program design, a lack of finances, and fragmentation of responsibilities; Congress usually gives mandates to federal agencies
  • Regulation: was actually mandated by the Supreme Court in Munn v. Illinois (1877); business was deregulated when Congress disbanded the Civil Aeronautics Board

Bureaucracy and the President:

  • President appoints agency heads and subheads, but the rest of his power is limited since Senate has to approve his appointments and the agency heads are loyal to their own departments, not the president
AP Government Review #8: How to Handle the FRQs

Hi! Here’s some tips on handling the FRQ.

  1. Pace yourself. You get approximately 25 minutes per question. Watch the clock/timer! You’d be amazed at how quickly 25 minutes goes by.
  2. Define concepts! If there’s a part of the question, and you’re not sure if you should define it, define it anyways. Give a quick short definition to drive it into the reader’s head that you know your stuff. For example, if an FRQ asks how a president can control domestic policymaking using vetos, you need to define what a veto is. Be specific.
  3. Be direct with your responses. This is not English class. Fluff is not appreciated. You do not need to blow the reader away with your vocabulary. Rather, it’s the opposite. You don’t need a thesis statement here. You need to just directly answer what they want from you.
  4. If it says to describe, describe. Be aware of what the question’s asking you. Describing requires you to explain how a definition is put into practice. For example, if I define what a veto is, I could later go on and explain that a president can pocket veto a bill by ignoring it for 10 days. If Congress adjourns within 10 days, then the bill is vetoed.  My best advice is to include a “for example” to make sure you’re actually describing it.
  5. If they ask you for 2 examples, give three (if time permits). If you know more than what they ask you for, go ahead and list them. They won’t deduct points for wrong answers if you have enough qualified answers. Does that make sense? If, for part c, it asked me to describe 3 types of enumerated powers of the president and I knew 4, I should list 4 in case one of them is wrong. Cover yourself. 
  6. Complete the loop. By this, I mean, basically restate the question in a sentence form. Is it sophisticated? No. Does it matter? No. You need to reiterate the question in order to complete your explanation. If you begin by saying the President exerts influence over domestic policymaking by….and then you describe everything great. You need to end it with, thus the President is able to hold great influence over domestic policy making. Redundant, sure, but at least you covered all your bases. Failing to complete the loop is one of the dumbest reasons for losing points. JUST COMPLETE THE LOOP. 
  7. Cross out A, B, C, etc. If you have the right answer to A in part C, but you have them labeled, graders can’t give you those points! You can have the letters while writing to keep you on track, but before you’re done, cross them out! You want to get as many points as possible.
  8. Write as legibly as possible. No, they’re not grading you on handwriting, but they will only spend roughly 30 seconds on your question. Let them get through your answer as easily as possible. They are not your friends. They will not go looking for places to give you points. They do not recognize your handwriting. Make their lives easier by writing decently. 
  9. Remember that the questions build upon one another. Do not go jumping around from a to e. Work in order. It’ll progress logically.
  10. Write a short conclusion summing up your ideas. This is not the same as an English paper conclusion. Rather, it can be a couple short sentences reminding the reader of your key points and what you answered (you can always rework the question into it too). 
What is a party platform?

A political party platform or platform is a list of the values and actions which are supported by a political party or individual candidate, in order to appeal to the general public, for the ultimate purpose of garnering the general public’s support and votes about complicated topics or issues.