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Allena Berry

4 APUSH Practice Multiple Choice Questions

If you have read any of my other blog posts, you know that there is one thing that I say consistently: if you want to do well on the APUSH exam, you have to practice taking the APUSH exam.

You want me to develop a strategy for Multiple Choice Questions? Don’t you just pick the right answer?

Well, yes and no. The APUSH exam is designed for you to demonstrate your historical thinking skills; in that sense, if you have prepared well throughout the year, you should be ready to take the exam. Sweet!

But it’s also a test, and just like the SAT and the ACT, the more you practice with sample questions and get familiar with the format of the exam, the better you are likely to do.

So, while just practicing the test without knowing the content of US History won’t do you much good, neither will just learning the content and never practicing taking the APUSH exam.

But you can’t just practice taking the test if you never develop a strategy for tackling the test. In this blog post, I will outline some strategies for approaching the multiple choice portion of the APUSH exam. At the end of the blog post, you should practice these strategies with the example questions I provide. Ultimately, it will be the time you put into studying that will help you feel comfortable with any strategy you decide to use but know this: it is possible to knock the APUSH exam out of the park!

So what’s your strategy for Multiple Choice questions?

I’m so glad you asked!

Here are some of the most important stats for the Multiple Choice portion of the APUSH exam:

  1. You have 55 minutes to answer 55 questions. You don’t have to be taking AP Calculus to know that you have approximately 1 minute per question – and that’s without checking your work.
  2. The Multiple Choice portion of the test will make up nearly half – 40% – of your total exam score.

You might be saying right now, “This is impossible! That’s way too fast.” While I’m not arguing that time will be tight, try practicing taking the multiple choice exam with the following strategies in mind.

1. Know the question type.

Generally speaking, the APUSH exam will have you read, or analyze, a document, map, or photograph and answer several questions about it. Check out this example from the 2017 APUSH Practice exam as an example of this.

4 APUSH Practice Multiple Choice Questions

Once you understand that nearly all the multiple choice questions will all be grounded in analysis of a specific text, you have a better idea of how to practice for this portion of the exam.

2. Read with a purpose.

Let’s take the example above as our guide for this strategy.

You could read the entire passage before you read the questions; however, you are likely to have to go back and read the passage again to be able to answer the question.

Remember: you only have 55 minutes to finish this thing, so use your time wisely. Read the questions first, and then tackle the passage.

Let’s practice with question #50.

1. Which of the following actions by the Clinton administration best reflects the ideas about the scope of government expressed in the excerpt?
A. The decision to pursue military peacekeeping interventions in the Balkans and Somalia
B. The enactment of welfare reform to restrict benefits and encourage self-reliance
C. The negotiation of new free trade agreements among North American countries
D. The effort to enact universal health care legislation

After reading the question, and the four potential answers, we know that we have a limited scope to choose from: (1) military action (which I would place under the bucket of foreign policy), (2) welfare reform (domestic policy), (3) free trade agreements (foreign policy), and (4) universal health care (domestic policy).

OK, now let’s look at the excerpt:

“The era of big government is over but we can’t go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves. We will meet them by going forward as one America, by working together in our communities, our schools, our churches and synagogues, our workplaces across the entire spectrum of our civic life.
President Bill Clinton, radio address to the nation, 1996

As I read that passage, I bolded several words that imply that President Clinton was speaking to citizens of the United States, such as “our citizens” and “one America.” This means I can automatically disregard options A and C, which deal with foreign policy – President Clinton wasn’t talking about America’s place in the world, but rather, how citizens interact with each other.

As I decide between B and D, I am noticing that there’s nothing specific about this speech discussing universal health care, but there are general statements about the end of “big government” but acknowledging that Americans can’t be “left to fend for themselves.” Here, President Clinton is talking about entitlements broadly, which would be under a welfare program. The best option (and the correct answer) for this question would be B.

By reading with a purpose, I can eliminate erroneous answer choices quickly and efficiently.

3. Answer the question that is being asked

This seems like a no brainer. Why would anyone ever answer a multiple choice question that they weren’t being asked?

Well, it’s easier to do than you might think.
Take, for example, question #51 from above.

51. The ideas expressed by Clinton in the excerpt were most similar to those of which twentieth-century president?
A. Lyndon Johnson
B. Ronald Reagan
C. Franklin Roosevelt
D. Woodrow Wilson

For this question, it’s really easy to get stuck because Clinton was a Democratic and this question lists three Democrats – Johnson, Roosevelt, and Wilson. But the question isn’t asking about party affiliation; instead, it’s asking about ideas.

Let’s go back to the passage.

“The era of big government is over but we can’t go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves. We will meet them by going forward as one America, by working together in our communities, our schools, our churches and synagogues, our workplaces across the entire spectrum of our civic life.”
President Bill Clinton, radio address to the nation, 1996

I bolded the portions of the text that will help you answer this question. Clinton is talking about a limited government and increasing the role of private life. Johnson, who advocated for the Great Society program, wouldn’t agree with that philosophy. Neither would FDR of “the New Deal” fame. And Wilson definitely believed the government should be big. The best (and correct) answer on this list is the only Republican – (B) Reagan.

Make sure you know what the question is asking you to do and answer that question only.

Wow. That’s a lot to think about; can I practice the APUSH multiple choice questions now?

I thought you’d never ask.

These 4 APUSH practice multiple choice questions will give you enough of an opportunity to practice the strategies above, but you should look for multiple exams to practice on this Magoosh blog.

  1. Know the question type
  2. Read with a purpose
  3. Answer the question that’s being asked

Alright; now get to crushing the APUSH exam!

Questions 1-2 refer to the picture below.

1. This newspaper most directly reflects
A. The hysteria of the “Lavender Scare” of the 1950s
B. Anti-gay rhetoric that was common in publications
C. Worries about communism
D. The overreach of the FBI into everyday life

2. This headline was most likely intended to
A. Alert the Soviets that the United States had uncovered secret soviet spies
B. Convince the public of a connection between homosexuality and anti-Americanism
C. Warn the public about potential spies
D. Show the public that the FBI had top-notch surveillance systems

Questions 3-4 refer to the passage below

“Along the eastern coast of the United States, where the numbers of Americans of Japanese ancestry is comparatively small, no concentration camps have been established. From a military point of view, the only danger on this coast is from Germany and Italy. . . .But the American government has not taken any such high-handed action against Germans and Italians – and their American-born descendants – on the East Coast, as has been taken against Japanese and their American-born descendants on the West Coast. Germans and Italians are “white.” Color seems to be the only possible reason why thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry are in concentration camps. Anyway, there are no Italian-American, or German- American citizens in such camps.”
Harry Paxton Howard, “Americans in Concentration Camps,” The Crisis, NAACP magazine, September 1942

3. In the passage above, Howard is arguing that
A. Japanese-Americans are being put in concentration camps because they are not white
B. German and Italian-Americans pose a greater threat on the East coast than Japanese Americans
C. German- and Italian-Americans should be placed in internment camps, in addition to Japanese-Americans
D. Internment is a bad political decision

4. Howard’s critique that the United States was fighting foreign powers based on their human rights abuses while committing the same abuses at home most closely aligns with which protest movement?
A. The Vietnam War protests of the 1970s
B. The Double V campaign during the early 1940s
C. The second-wave feminism of the 1960s
D. The unionization movement of the 1890s

Correct Answers:
1. A; on April 27, 1953, President Eisenhower signed an executive order that demanded all gay and lesbian government workers be fired from their jobs, starting what is known as the Lavender Scare. It was largely justified using articles and publications like the newspaper headline printed above.
2. B; see reasoning above.
3. A; as Howard makes clear in his writing, “Germans and Italians are “white.” Color seems to be the only possible reason why thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry are in concentration camps.” He even makes sure to continuously refer to the camps as concentration camps – and not internment camps – to point out the hypocrisy of such an action.
4. B; the Double V campaign during World War II was called such because of the desire to have two victories – at home and abroad – for African Americans. Abroad, black soldiers would fight for the United States. Domestically, black (and some white) citizens would fight for equal rights.

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About Allena Berry

Allena Berry loves history; that should be known upfront. She loves it so much that she not only taught high school history and psychology after receiving her Master's degree at Stanford University, she is now studying how students learn history at Northwestern. That being said, she does not have a favorite historical time period (so don't bother asking). In addition to history, she enjoys writing, practicing yoga, and scouring Craigslist for her next DIY project or midcentury modern piece of furniture.


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