7 APUSH Themes You’ll Be Tested On

apush themes

The APUSH exam measures knowledge of US History by testing your ability to “think historically.” The intent is for you to create connections across historical content and themes. Therefore, APUSH themes focus on major historical US issues and changes. You should be able to discuss the historical developments and processes that have helped configure the United States into the country it is today.

APUSH exams cover 9 historical time periods, beginning with the year 1491 and continuing through present day. Each time period is broken down into 7 different themes. That is a lot of information to know! AP College Board provides a more detailed complete course and exam description on their site, but we’ll also identify each of the main themes below.

APUSH Theme 1: American and National Identity

The emphasis of this theme is the formation of American national identity and values. How and why did each of these concepts develop in the way that they did? You must be able to explain how cultures, identities and values have been preserved or changed throughout different time periods of US History. Gender, race, class and ethnicity all play a role in this theme, so make sure you pay attention to these subgroups.

APUSH Theme 2: Politics and Power

The focus of this theme is on how varying social and political groups influence society and government in the United States. How have political beliefs and institutions shifted over time? Think also about why changes have taken place and what concept was catalyst to each change.

APUSH Theme 3: Work, Exchange and Technology

This theme focuses on factors that led to development of systems and economic exchange. What role did technology, economic markets and government play in this development? How did this shape the development of American economies? You must be able to discuss ways in which labor systems, advances in technology and government policies help shape American society.

APUSH Theme 4: Culture and Society

This theme looks at the social aspects that led to the cultural shaping of the US. What ideas, beliefs and customs change the way we view ourselves as a nation? What cultures and values have prevailed or were modified? Consider each of these ideas across different contexts of US History.

APUSH Theme 5: Migration and Settlement

The focal point of this theme is how and why various people moved to and within the US. How were these people transformed by their new social and physical environments? How and why have they adapted? Think about how both newcomers and natives transform the US with their beliefs, traditions and ideas.

APUSH Theme 6: Geography and the Environment

This theme takes a look at geography across the United States. How have natural and human-made environments helped shape US social and political developments throughout history? Think about the historical contexts of environmental interactions such as preservation, exploitation and management.

APUSH Theme 7: America in the World

This theme focuses on the interactions between nations around the world, and what role they play in North American history. Specifically study the colonial period for this one! Also look at the influence the United States has on world affairs, both in the past and currently.

Each of these themes span the years 1491-2017! Remember to incorporate major concepts from all APUSH time periods into your study plan! For more information on APUSH, visit our engaging blogs at Magoosh.

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  • Beth Gonzales

    Beth is an educator and freelance creative designer who devises innovative and fun-loving solutions for clients. She works with families, students, teachers and small businesses to create and implement programs, campaigns and experiences that help support and maximize efforts to grow communities who critically think, engage and continue to learn.

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