AP Human Geography

Ap human geography course and exam description.

This is the core document for the course.

Course Overview

AP Human Geography is an introductory college-level human geography course. Students cultivate their understanding of human geography through data and geographic analyses as they explore topics like patterns and spatial organization, human impacts and interactions with their environment, and spatial processes and societal changes.

Course and Exam Description

This is the core document for this course. Unit guides clearly lay out the course content and skills and recommend sequencing and pacing for them throughout the year. The CED was updated in the summer of 2020 to include scoring guidelines for the example questions.

Course Resources

Ap human geography course overview.

This resource provides a succinct description of the course and exam.

AP Human Geography Course and Exam Description Walk-Through

Learn more about the CED in this interactive walk-through.

AP Human Geography Course at a Glance

Excerpted from the AP Human Geography Course and Exam Description, the Course at a Glance document outlines the topics and skills covered in the AP Human Geography course, along with suggestions for sequencing.

AP Human Geography CED Errata Sheet

This document details the updates made to the course and exam description (CED) in September 2019. It includes printable copies of the updated pages, which can be used as replacement sheets in your CED binder. Note: It does not include the scoring guidelines, which were added to the online CED in the summer of 2020.

AP Human Geography CED Scoring Guidelines

This document details how each of the sample free-response questions in the course and exam description (CED) would be scored. This information is now in the online CED but was not included in the binders teachers received in 2019.

Course Content

Based on the Understanding by Design® (Wiggins and McTighe) model, this course framework provides a clear and detailed description of the course requirements necessary for student success. The framework specifies what students must know, understand, and be able to do, with a focus on big ideas that encompass core principles, theories, and processes of the discipline. The framework also encourages instruction that prepares students for advanced geography coursework and active global citizenship.

The AP Human Geography framework is organized into seven commonly taught units of study that provide one possible sequence for the course. As always, you have the flexibility to organize the course content as you like.

Course Skills

The AP Human Geography framework included in the CED outlines distinct skills that students should practice throughout the year—skills that will help them learn to think and act like geographers.

AP and Higher Education

Higher education professionals play a key role in developing AP courses and exams, setting credit and placement policies, and scoring student work. The AP Higher Education section features information on recruitment and admission, advising and placement, and more.

This chart  shows recommended scores for granting credit, and how much credit should be awarded, for each AP course. Your students can look up credit and placement policies for colleges and universities on the  AP Credit Policy Search .

Meet the Development Committee for AP Human Geography.

The AP Program is unique in its reliance on Development Committees. These committees, made up of an equal number of college faculty and experienced secondary AP teachers from across the country, are essential to the preparation of AP course curricula and exams.

AP Human Geography Development Committee

AP Human Geography Language

Terms in this set (48), students also viewed, ap human geography vocabulary terms chapter 6, ap human geography ch. 5, ap human geography language terms, ap human geography unit 3b, recent flashcard sets, francuski 1 grupa słowa cz. 5, tet holiday, a ver si recuerdas vocabulario, sets found in the same folder, ap human geography culture, ap human geography chapter 6 vocab, ap human geography political geography, ap human geo ch 3 key terms, other sets by this creator, psych 373: exam #2, psychology 373 exam #1, asian 260 midterm #2, asian 260 midterm, verified questions, recommended textbook solutions.

convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

World History and Geography Student

convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

World History and Geography

convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

Florida World History and Geography

Other quizlet sets, mov 101-final exam, final exam key issues, morgan p1 study guide 3, language across cultures unit 3.

Cultural divergence

Religion is a part of many people's lives. Religion can be very influential to a culture with the values and moral standards outlined in the belief system.

Sometimes religious beliefs can clash with popular culture, forcing the faithful members of certain cultures to practice cultural divergence . A good example of this is the Amish culture in the United States.

The Amish are a type of Christian religious group. Part of the belief of this culture is that they must reject modern conveniences and luxuries.

Amish Transportation

The Amish are mostly farmers and woodworkers. The Amish have their own communities that are fairly separate from modern towns and cities. They grow and make just about everything they need for living themselves.

Amish Farming

You can see in this picture, the Amish have adopted some modern technology, like the tires on this farm machine.

Amish Girls in Traditional Dress

The Amish have their own schools and churches within their communities. Outsiders are not free to join, as they worry about the influence of modern society, which they see as sinful, on their community. The separation the Amish keep between themselves and other communities is an example of cultural divergence.

Activity: Use your knowledge of the Amish to test your understanding of cultural divergence based on religion.

Cultural convergence

The United States has more cultures than any other nation on Earth! This nation of immigrants was built of cultures from all over converging here, and living together.

Mexican style food is popular all over the U.S.

What is actually popular is "Mexican-American" food.

It is based on Mexican food, but with some changes to appeal to more people's taste.

Taco Bell food is based on foods found in Mexican culture, but the menu items are modified to appeal to the tastes of more people in the United States. The change of Taco Bell's menu items is an example of cultural convergence .

Activity: Compare the pictures of the tacos below. Note the differences and similarities between them. Then answer the multiple choice questions to test your understanding of cultural convergence with food.

There are examples of American cultural convergence in other countries. McDonald's serves food that is considered American, but the menu changes in other countries to appeal to the tastes of each countries' cultures.

Example 2 – McDonald's Restaurant

To be successful in other cultures, McDonald's has adapted its menu to the types of foods and tastes of the people in the cultures they serve.

Examples of changes McDonald's adapting the menu items for local cultural tastes:


In order to continue enjoying our site, we ask that you confirm your identity as a human. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

What Is Convergence Theory?

How industrialization affects developing nations.

Danny Lehman/Getty Images 

Convergence theory presumes that as nations move from the early stages of industrialization toward becoming fully industrialized , they begin to resemble other industrialized societies in terms of societal norms and technology.

The characteristics of these nations effectively converge. Ultimately, this could lead to a unified global culture if nothing impeded the process.

Convergence theory has its roots in the functionalist perspective of economics which assumes that societies have certain requirements that must be met if they are to survive and operate effectively. 

Convergence theory became popular in the 1960s when it was formulated by the University of California, Berkeley Professor of Economics Clark Kerr.

Some theorists have since expounded upon Kerr's original premise. They say industrialized nations may become more alike in some ways than in others.

Convergence theory is not an across-the-board transformation. Although technologies may be shared , it's not as likely that more fundamental aspects of life such as religion and politics would necessarily converge—though they may. 

Convergence vs. Divergence

Convergence theory is also sometimes referred to as the "catch-up effect."

When technology is introduced to nations still in the early stages of industrialization, money from other nations may pour in to develop and take advantage of this opportunity. These nations may become more accessible and susceptible to international markets. This allows them to "catch up" with more advanced nations.

If capital is not invested in these countries, however, and if international markets do not take notice or find that opportunity is viable there, no catch-up can occur. The country is then said to have diverged rather than converged.

Unstable nations are more likely to diverge because they are unable to converge due to political or social-structural factors, such as lack of educational or job-training resources. Convergence theory, therefore, would not apply to them. 

Convergence theory also allows that the economies of developing nations will grow more rapidly than those of industrialized countries under these circumstances. Therefore, all should reach an equal footing eventually.

Some examples of convergence theory include Russia and Vietnam, formerly purely communist countries that have eased away from strict communist doctrines as the economies in other countries, such as the United States, have burgeoned.

State-controlled socialism is less the norm in these countries now than is market socialism, which allows for economic fluctuations and, in some cases, private businesses as well. Russia and Vietnam have both experienced economic growth as their socialistic rules and politics have changed and relaxed to some degree.

Former World War II Axis nations including Italy, Germany, and Japan rebuilt their economic bases into economies not dissimilar to those that existed among the Allied Powers of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain.

More recently, in the mid-20th century, some East Asian countries converged with other more developed nations. Singapore , South Korea, and Taiwan are now all considered to be developed, industrialized nations.

Sociological Critiques

Convergence theory is an economic theory that presupposes that the concept of development is

It frames convergence with supposedly "developed" nations as a goal of so-called "undeveloped" or "developing" nations, and in doing so, fails to account for the numerous negative outcomes that often follow this economically-focused model of development.

Many sociologists, postcolonial scholars, and environmental scientists have observed that this type of development often only further enriches the already wealthy, and/or creates or expands a middle class while exacerbating the poverty and poor quality of life experienced by the majority of the nation in question.

Additionally, it is a form of development that typically relies on the over-use of natural resources, displaces subsistence and small-scale agriculture, and causes widespread pollution and damage to the natural habitat.

convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Language Flag

Find Study Materials for

Create Study Materials

Select your language

convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

Central Place Theory

Lerne mit deinen Freunden und bleibe auf dem richtigen Kurs mit deinen persönlichen Lernstatistiken

Nie wieder prokastinieren mit unseren Lernerinnerungen.

If you come from a small town, you probably know how long it takes to get to the nearest Walmart or Starbucks. Places like that need a certain number of customers to make a profit, and Anytown, USA, population 923, is not going to cut it unless it's along a major highway or near a city.

There's a certain distance you are willing to travel for the things you want or need on a weekly or monthly basis, right? We're guessing you'll drive up to an hour. You can travel in several directions to any of several small cities, each with 15,000 people or more. But these small city folk, like you, must travel to the nearest big city for the more uncommon and frankly expensive purchases and services: an IKEA, a rock concert, a surgery.

You may not know it, but you and the city-dwellers, and the places where you all live, obey economic geographic principles that, when combined with everyone else's actions, are predicted and mapped by central place theory. Keep reading to learn more about Christaller's Central Place Theory, its definition, and more.

Christaller's Central Place Theory

Walter Christaller (1893-1969), a German economic geographer, was a leader in quantitative approaches to understanding space that formed an essential part of geography in the 1960s-1980s. While his work was initially published in his home country in 1933, it became hugely influential in the US and UK when an English translation came out in 1966. 1

[W]e see large and small towns ... beside [each] another. Sometimes they agglomerate ... in an improbable and apparently senseless manner. ... [W]hy are there...large and small towns, and why are they distributed so irregularly? We seek answers to these questions. We seek the causes of towns being large or small, because we believe that there is some ordering principle heretofore unrecognized that governs their distribution. 1

Christaller, inspired by the von Thunen Model and other theories that described abstract spaces governed by economic principles, was trying to find a way to explain the size and distribution of urban areas. He asked, what is the relationship between the different sizes of urban locations and the patterns they form on the landscape?

His region of focus was southern Germany, where a few large market centers such as Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, and Munich were surrounded by smaller cities, with each of these surrounded by smaller places.

Christaller recognized that this spatial hierarchy of sizes has some essential characteristics:

Translation: large places become large and stay large (in population, area, and economic output) because they dominate a region economically and thus limit the growth of nearby places, which in turn limits the growth of places encircling them .

He called the largest, first-order urban areas "central places" and determined that the second-order settlements around them were arranged regularly and predictably. If you drew lines around the main influence areas of the first-order and second-order central places, they looked like hexagons of two different sizes (see below).

Why hexagons? You might think market areas are circular, but circles can't be arranged on a plane without overlap or empty space. Hexagons, like those that bees make as honeycombs, are found in nature because they maximize surface area and thus are highly efficient containers.

Central Place Theory Definition

Central Place Theory (CPT) starts with a question about why urban places are located where they are and ends with the hexagons we show in detail in the next section.

Central Place Theory : an urban model that uses economic processes to explain hierarchical patterns of urban size and location across space.

Several assumptions are vital in understanding how Central Place Theory (CPT) works:

Central Place Theory Hexagons

In the hexagons that CPT is famous for, we can see the highest-order central place, a large city (Pittsburgh, Topeka, Omaha, Amarillo, etc.), surrounded by six second-order cities (where the villager dweller goes to Walmart). A line connecting these six outlines the first-order hexagon that encloses what Christaller calls a complementary region of a higher order . Each of these six is also surrounded by six towns, outlining second-order hexagons that encompass complementary regions of a lower order .

Imagine this pattern repeating endlessly across Christaller's abstract plane/plain. This is the spatial arrangement that results from the assumptions and economic activities we described above.

Central Place Theory, market hexagon, StudySmarter

The fundamental hexagonal structure of complementary regions that CPT produces is based on Christaller's principle of market dynamics. We won't do the math here, but suffice it to say that Christaller's empirical data from across southern Germany showed that the value of goods sold in a first-order central place was much higher than that in the second-order places, which in turn was far greater than that in the third-order places. More goods and services = more people = larger city.

What about the space beyond the hexagons shown? These are complementary regions for the surrounding first-order places.

Central Place Theory, Europe transport hexagon, StudySmarter

The transport hexagon approximates a map of an actual transport network connecting the different places. People use roads that connect them in straight lines, the most economical way, to the places where goods and services are found. Anyone who has traveled in the US can recognize this hierarchy: the quickest routes are often the direct highways between the most significant cities, and highways reduce in size and length as they form shorter segments connecting smaller places.

Central Place Theory, administrative hexagon, StudySmarter

The administrative or political-social principle recognizes that central places also have governmental functions. You may have wondered why the second-order places aren't connected to other first-order places since many people who live in them can quickly go to other first-order places to get what they need. The answer is that a central place is the center of government (in the model) for its complementary region, and all places in this hexagonal region are thus part of its administrative territory.

Translation: you will have to go to your administrative place anyway (you have no choice) for legal paperwork and other tasks involving the government, so you'll shop and take care of other business while you are there.

Central Place Theory Strengths and Weaknesses

Central Place Theory has been applied and misapplied more often than any other geographic model.

As with many theories, CPT's weaknesses were recognized by its originator but ignored by those who sought to apply it too widely. The conditions that produced roughly hexagonal regions in southern Germany were vastly different than those that produced spatial settlement patterns in other parts of the world.

One common complaint is that real landscapes don't resemble Christaller's landscape. But this is because he used an abstract space; he was the first to recognize, at the beginning of his work, that the model was based on an abstraction of reality and that conditions on the ground would be different. He even recognized that mail-order businesses would skew his model; imagine what online shopping is doing to it now!

A more serious charge is the tendency to explain human settlement patterns in terms of economics and secondarily in terms of political factors, with culture a distant third—and culture itself being primarily determined by economic and political factors. It is easy to imagine a scenario of a cultural phenomenon such as ethnic tensions or differences in religion that could outweigh economic factors in determining where people went for the goods and services they needed.

In AP Human Geography, central place theory is taught along with the gravity model, distance decay, the primate city, and the rank-size rule. You should know how these relate to each other, how they have been applied in real life, and how you might detect them at work in a landscape or on a map.

First, CPT has been enormously influential in retailing and the tertiary economic sector. Modifications of CPT are commonplace in economic models that tell retailers where to put stores, for example. Thus, based on a far more nuanced and complex CPT than we can present here, its predictive value has been one of its major redeeming features.

Second, CPT, because it became the standard for explaining spatial patterns of human settlements, inspired many variations, particularly among those who said "it doesn't fit the region I am concerned about" and proceeded to figure out a way to describe the particularities of other processes driving other patterns.

Central Place Theory Example

Photos taken by satellites at night provide some of the best visual evidence of hexagonal patterns of urban settlements on the Earth's surface.

Central Place Theory, Europe satellite photo, StudySmarter

The image in this section illustrates the hierarchy of urban sizes in Europe, particularly in the relatively physically homogeneous part of France in the lower right. CPT appears to best fit the central places in France, such as Rouen, Caen, and Le Mans, with over 100,000 people each, surrounded by second-order satellite towns, with the faintest dots being the third-order towns. Paris is a central place in its own right, the center of a hexagon comprising the entire country of France. In urban geography terms, it is the consummate primate city.

Central Place Theory - Key takeaways

Frequently Asked Questions about Central Place Theory

--> what is central place theory.

Central place theory is a theory in economic and urban geography that predicts a hexagonal pattern for human settlements in an abstract space governed by economic principles of markets.

--> Who made central place theory?

Walter Christaller, a German geographer, is the originator of central place theory.

--> What does central place theory explain?

Central place theory explains the pattern of urban area locations where fewer larger places dominate many smaller places.

--> How is central place theory used today?

Central place theory is used today to determine the best locations for retail stores and other tertiary sector economic goods and services.

--> What are some strengths of central place theory?

Central place theory is the most influential geographic theory and is useful for describing and explaining why places are located where they are. It has inspired many variations and offshoots that explain human settlement patterns.

Final Central Place Theory Quiz

Which geographic region formed the basis of Christaller's work?

Show answer

Southern Germany

Show question

The geometric form most associated with central place theory is the:

Central place theory is most closely associated with the relationship between _____ and _____


In central place theory, what types of goods and services do people travel to first-order cities to buy?

Goods and services that are expensive, they don't need very often, and they can only find there: concerts, surgeries, large stores, etc.

Why isn't there a Walmart in every small US town?

To be economically viable, a Walmart needs a certain number of guaranteed customers within a certain radius of where it is located.

(True or False) the Great Plains can be predicted as a good place to apply central place theory because it is flat and relatively homogeneous in physical and human geography.

True. CPT works best when applied to flat, homogeneous regions.

Why is central place theory like the honeycomb in a beehive?

Because both divide space into hexagons, which maximizes efficient use of space.

Which is the process and which is the pattern?

The pattern is people's rational behavior, and the process is hexagons

In central place theory, what is a complementary region?

A complementary region is the area inside a hexagon.

Pittsburgh, PA is likely to be a:

First-order city

of the users don't pass the Central Place Theory quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

More explanations about Urban Geography

Discover the right content for your subjects, business studies, combined science, english literature, environmental science, macroeconomics, microeconomics, no need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed packed into one app.

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Have all your study materials in one place.

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Join millions of people in learning anywhere, anytime - every day

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

This is still free to read, it's not a paywall.

You need to register to keep reading, get free access to all of our study material, tailor-made.

Over 10 million students from across the world are already learning smarter.


StudySmarter bietet alles, was du für deinen Lernerfolg brauchst - in einer App!


  1. Definition Of Cultural Divergence

    convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

  2. 2. Changing Space

    convergence hypothesis example ap human geography


    convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

  4. Cultural Convergence Example Ap Human Geography

    convergence hypothesis example ap human geography

  5. PPT

    convergence hypothesis example ap human geography


    convergence hypothesis example ap human geography



  2. Long-term analysis of persistence and size of swallow and martin roosts in the US Great Lakes

  3. PYC3704 Hypothesis Testing: Comparing Two Groups 20 Jul 2021

  4. Population Ecology Questions 2


  6. Preference similarity Hypothesis (Linder Hypothesis)


  1. AP Human Geography Unit 3 Part 1 Flashcards | Quizlet

    Highly localized knowledge about enviromental conditions and sustainable land-use practices convergence hypothesis a hypothesis holding that cultural differences among places are being reduced by improved transportation and communications systems, leading to a homogenization of popular culture. cultural imperialism

  2. AP Human Geography Course – AP Central | College Board

    AP Human Geography is an introductory college-level human geography course. Students cultivate their understanding of human geography through data and geographic analyses as they explore topics like patterns and spatial organization, human impacts and interactions with their environment, and spatial processes and societal changes.

  3. Cultural Convergence Overview & Examples - Study.com

    The spread of the English language is the largest example of cultural convergence. Because of the economic impact of the United States and Great Britain, people around the world learn English....

  4. AP Human Geography Language Flashcards | Quizlet

    Examples: Spanish and Portuguese, Czech and Slovakian, Spanish and Italian, Finnish and Swedish How many languages are in India? ~More than 600 languages. How many languages are in Africa? ~More than 1000 languages. Standard Language and Example ~A language that is published, widely distributed, and purposefully taught. Example: Quebec and French.

  5. Cultural Divergence & Convergence - AP HUMAN GEOGRAPHY

    There are examples of American cultural convergence in other countries. McDonald's serves food that is considered American, but the menu changes in other countries to appeal to the tastes of each countries' cultures. Example 2 – McDonald's Restaurant

  6. Convergence Theory: Definition & Examples - Study.com

    An example of this would be the People's Republic of China, which went from being one of the poorest countries in the world during the 1970s to having the world's highest GDP in 2015, according...

  7. Convergence Theory | Definition, Discussion and Examples

    Some examples of convergence theory include Russia and Vietnam, formerly purely communist countries that have eased away from strict communist doctrines as the economies in other countries, such as the United States, have burgeoned.

  8. Central Place Theory: Definition & Example | StudySmarter

    In AP Human Geography, central place theory is taught along with the gravity model, distance decay, the primate city, and the rank-size rule. You should know how these relate to each other, how they have been applied in real life, and how you might detect them at work in a landscape or on a map.