The AP US History exam includes multiple-choice questions and a long essay question in Section II. The questions have consistent weighting and scoring guidelines each year. Students learn about nine time periods from 1491 to the present. They also gain historical thinking skills and analyze eight themes. The course emphasizes reading primary and secondary sources and using historical evidence to develop arguments.
Most students must work hard to achieve a high AP US History exam score. The course material is vast and building reading, writing, and analytical skills takes time. However, some strategies will help you succeed. Start by taking a full practice test under realistic conditions and scoring it. Analyze your results to identify topics that you struggle with. It will give you a starting point for your study plan. For example, if you missed a lot of multiple-choice questions, focus on those topics and try to figure out why you got them wrong. It is a great way to learn how to identify and analyze historical connections.
In addition to practicing with practice tests, you should also review the course material. Make a list in descending order of topics that you struggle with and review those areas first. You can also use your diagnostic test to identify areas you didn’t understand well and focus on those topics. One strategy that has worked for many students is using a whiteboard to diagram historical ideas and events. It allows you to think about the matter holistically and can be especially helpful for visual learners. You can also use an AP US history study sheet to help commit them to memory more effectively.
The exam is divided into two sections. The first is the multiple-choice section, which lasts 55 minutes and accounts for 40% of your score. The second section is the Document Based Question (DBQ) and Long Essay Question (LEQ). In the DBQ, you will be presented with several primary source documents and asked to create a historical argument. For the Long Essay Question, which accounts for 15% of your overall AP score, you have 40 minutes to prepare an essay on a subject. The multiple-choice questions on the AP US History exam are written in a way that can trick students. Many questions include answer options that accurately represent historical trends or events but don’t directly respond to the question. Try to identify these “trick” answers to avoid choosing them.
To prepare for the DBQ and LEQ:
- Practice writing free response essays using your notes and course material.
- Familiarize yourself with the scoring rubric for each question so you can understand how your paper will be evaluated.
- Once you’ve taken a few practice tests, analyze your errors—both missed multiple-choice questions and incorrect short-answer questions—to identify which areas of the course are most challenging for you. It will help you determine which parts of the AP course you need to review most.
One of the key skills for this exam is recognizing connections between different events and eras, so be sure to look for common themes in your notes as you study. The multiple-choice section of the AP US History Exam lasts about 55 minutes and accounts for 40% of your score. You’ll have four questions in this part, each with four possible answer choices. One raw point is awarded for each right response. In Part B of Section 1, the first short-answer question takes 40 minutes to complete, or about 13 minutes per question; this question is worth 20% of your score. The third and final section, the Document-Based Question (DBQ), is worth 15% of your overall score. You’ll be given a prompt, a set of historical documents, and 45 minutes to write your response. This question requires you to analyze the historical evidence presented in the sources, consider competing interpretations of the historical event or phenomenon, and develop a compelling argument based on your analysis of the documentary materials. The DBQ also tests your ability to recall outside knowledge, understand the passage’s context, and connect the major themes from 500 years of US history. AP exams change every year, but the general structure remains the same. You can find sample questions and learn more about the DBQ and long essay by downloading the AP US History Course and Exam Description.
Students must prepare for all parts of the exam, including multiple-choice questions, document-based questions (DBQs) and long-essay questions (LEQs). The College Board has compiled a sample course outline to use as a starting point. This outline can be adapted to each student’s study style and schedule. Taking good notes is essential, as is studying often. Cramming wastes time, and reviewing little bits of information is better than cramming everything right before the exam. Also, ask your teacher for clarification if you need help understanding something. It will help you recall the information later and save you from missing a question on the test. Pay close attention to the wording of each multiple-choice question. Many multiple-choice questions include answers that are accurate representations of historical events or trends but don’t directly respond to the question being asked. You must carefully read the question to avoid accidentally choosing an incorrect answer.