AP History

What are the AP History exams?

College Board offers AP History exams in three sup-topics: World History, U.S. History, and European History. Because the format of all of these exams is the same, we thought we’d present them all in one big article. A great score on an AP History test, of course, looks good if you’re declaring a History major. In fact, if you’re planning on declaring a History major on your apps, then having a 5 on all three of these exams would look very good to a college.

Alternatively, a History AP test is also a nice supplement to a social science major, like economics or sociology. In contrast, this test could also serve as a foil for a student declaring a hard-science major who already has courses like Calculus AB and one of the many Physics options under her belt. Indeed, a 5 on this test shows admissions that you are a flexible learner and able to master material from lots of fields.

These three exams are all broken up into 2 sections. Section 1 Part A asks 55 multiple choice questions. A student has 55 minutes to complete this section and it makes up 40% of the total exam score. Section 1 Part B, on the other hand, contains 3 short-answer questions; questions 1 and 2 are required, and the test-taker can then choose between questions 3 and 4. You must complete this part of the exam in 40 minutes and it composes 20% of your total score.

Then, Section 2 Part A is 1 document-based question which must be completed in 75 minutes. Finally, Section 2 Part B is a long-essay question; here, a student can select 1 question from 3 options has has 40 minutes to complete it. Altogether, Section 2 makes up 40% of the final exam score.

World History

The content of the AP World History course is broken down into 6 distinct periods, according to College Board:

  • Topic: Technological and Environmental Transformations. Range: 8,000 BCE to 600 BCE
  • Topic: Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies. Range: 600 BCE to 600 CE
  • Topic: Regional and Transregional Interactions. Range: 600 CE to 1450 CE
  • Topic: Global Interactions. Range: 1450 CE to 1750 CE
  • Topic: Industrialization. Range: 1750 CE to 1900 CE
  • Topic: Accelerating Global Change and Realignments. Range: 1900 to present.

U.S. History

Similarly, the content of the AP U.S. History course is broken up into 9 periods:

  • General Topics: Columbus, settlement, and early colonialism. Range: 1491 to 1607.
  • General Topics: Competition among colonizers. Range: 1607 to 1754.
  • General Topics: French and Indian War, the colonies before the Revolutionary War, and the formation of the U.S. as a nation. Range: 1754 to 1800.
  • General Topics: Early American history, the forming of American democracy, and America before the Civil War. Range: 1800 to 1848.
  • General Topics: Civil War and Reconstruction. Range: 1844 to 1877.
  • General Topics: Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age. Range: 1865 to 1898.
  • General Topics: America before World War I, World War 1, and the Great Depression. Range: 1890 to 1945.
  • General Topics: America before World War 2, World War 2, the post-war order, and American empire. Range: 1945 to 1980.
  • General Topics: Ronald Reagan and American involvement across the world. Range: 1980 to the present.

European History

Finally, the content of the AP European History course is broken up into 4 periods:

  • General Topics: Europe before the Renaissance, the Renaissance, late-Medieval reform, the early formation of capitalism, the early formation of democracy. Range: 1450 to 1648
  • General Topics: Enlightenment. Political shifts including the French Revolution. Range: 1648 to 1815
  • General Topics: Europe before World War 1. Range: 1815 to 1914
  • General Topics: Europe after World War 1, World War 2, and the formation of the European Union. Range: 1914 to the present

Furthermore, for all 3 AP History courses, students should be able to employ a common set of skills: putting historical events into context using primary and secondary sources, making historical comparisons, determining the causation of events, and recognizing continuity and changes over time.

There are no major prerequisites to these courses; although it helps to take a course in, say, World History, a hardworking student studying on her own from a World History textbook could still do well on this exam.

What’s next?

If you need a general review of what the AP exams are all about, click here! Or, if you’re still looking to supplement your college resume, you might consider taking some SAT Subject Tests – check out our Ultimate Guide here!