What to Expect from the AP US History Test

What to Expect from the AP US History Test

Knowing what to expect from the AP US History test can make a huge difference in your level of success. Being well prepared could mean the difference between scoring a 3, 4 or 5. By familiarizing yourself with aspects of the test such as content, timing and organization, you don’t have to leave your test score to chance. Don’t just hope your test goes well, make sure your test goes well!

About the AP US History test

The AP US History takes around 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. The AP US History test covers content from 9 different time periods and 7 historical themes. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of US History content in a variety of ways throughout the test. Look for multiple-choice, essay and short-answer questions. Some questions ask you to analyze and create claims based on supplied materials, such as graphs, letters, maps or other visuals.

AP US History test format

An important thing to remember when taking the AP US History test is that it is not a computerized exam! You are able to use strategies such as previewing an entire test section or flagging answers you are unsure about.There is also no penalty for guessing, so it is in your best interest to fill in an answer, even if you are not 100% sure.

AP US History test questions

There are 4 sections in every AP US History test: multiple-choice, short-answer, document-based and long essay. Each section asks you to demonstrate your knowledge of AP US History in a different way.

    Multiple-Choice: 55 questions, 55 minutes

    In this section, you need to make connections to thematically linked developments throughout the 9 time periods of AP US History. Related stimulus materials, such as texts, images, charts, maps or graphs may be provided for you to analyze and form a response.

    Short-Answer: 4 questions, 50 minutes

    In this section, you need to think critically and historically to respond to a provided primary source, such as data, maps, charts or general proposition about U.S. history. This section may ask you to identify and analyze examples of historical evidence relevant to the source or question, as well as cite content and evidence from your AP class.

    Document-Based: 1 question, 55 minutes

    In this section, you need to formulate a thesis and be able to support it using evidence relevant to the topic. Documents will be supplied, but it is up to you to analyze, synthesize and relate these documents to a specific historical time period or theme.

    Document-Based: 1 question, 55 minutes

    In this section, you need to analyze specific historical evidence, then develop a thesis or argument supported by this evidence. Throughout your essay, demonstrate your historical thinking skills by explaining and analyzing the issues presented in the prompt.

AP US History test scoring

AP US History test scores are rated on a scale of 1-5. 1 Each level indicates a different range of abilities, as well as indicates if you have sufficient knowledge to receive college credit for your course. For most colleges, a score of 3 or higher means you may qualify for college placement. But don’t just take our word for it! Visit College Board for the most current AP credit policy information.

    5 = extremely well qualified to receive college credit
    4 = well qualified for college credit
    3 = qualified
    2 = possibly qualified
    1 = no recommendation for college credit

Not all AP US History test scores are created equal. Your overall AP score is actually a composite of the four sections tested on the exam, each of which carries a different weighted amount. Notice that the multiple-choice section is worth 25% of your final score, while the long essay is only 15%. (Good news if you don’t like writing.)

    Multiple-choice = 40%
    Short-Answer = 20%
    Document-Based = 25%
    Long Essay = 15%

For more information on scoring, visit the AP section of College Board.

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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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