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Beth Gonzales

What to Expect on the APUSH Test

APUSH test

Research shows that students who prepare for an exam pass it at higher rates. Analyzing and understanding test format, content, timing, and verbiage will help you study smarter — and therefore more effectively. Keep reading to find out what to expect on the APUSH test.

What to expect on the APUSH test

APUSH tests measure two things: your overall knowledge of US history and your ability to think critically when presented with historical content. Since APUSH tests cover nine time periods and seven historical themes, make sure you give yourself ample time to review prior to taking your test.

Unlike many standardized exams, the APUSH exam is not a computerized test. When you sit down to take your APUSH test, you will be using good ol’ pencil and paper. Bring a few #2 pencils (with quality erasers) to your test site. A scantron form will be provided for you as an answer sheet.

APUSH test format

The APUSH test is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. The test itself is formatted into 4 sections. In addition to an individual time limit, each section also has a separate weighted score (more on this later). All sections test your APUSH knowledge in a variety of ways.

Section 1: Multiple-choice55 questions55 minutes
  • Respond to stimulus material: a primary or secondary source, such as texts, images, charts, graphs, maps

  • Analyze related primary and secondary source material

  • Make connections to thematically linked developments in other periods
  • Section 2:
    Short-Answer
    4 questions50 minutes
  • Directly address one or more of the thematic
    learning objectives for the course

  • Cite content and evidence from local curriculum prioritized for each concept statement

  • Use historical thinking skills to respond to a primary source, data or maps, or general propositions about U.S. history

  • Identify and analyze examples of historical evidence relevant to the source or question
  • Section 3: Document-Based1 question55 minutes
  • Formulate a thesis and support using relevant evidence

  • Analyze and synthesize historical data

  • Relate supplied documents to a historical period or theme

  • Assess verbal, quantitative, or visual materials as historical evidence
  • Section 4: Long Essay1 question35 minutes
  • Develop a thesis or argument supported by an analysis of specific, relevant historical evidence

  • Demonstrate historical thinking skills while explaining and analyzing significant issues throughout U.S. history
  • For a full review of the APUSH test, visit AP College Board.

    What to expect from APUSH scoring

    APUSH test scores range from 1-5, with 5 being the best. Most colleges award college credit for a score of 3 or above, but some require a 4 or 5. You should check your school’s individual APUSH scoring policy for information on credit acceptance. A more detailed explanation of scoring can be found here.

    As noted above, your final score reflects a composite of scores from all four test sections. Each APUSH test section is weighted differently: multiple-choice is 40% of your test score, short answer is 20%, document-based is 25%, and long essay is 15%.

    Why is this important? Knowing which sections are worth more can help you create a personalized study plan.
    Familiarize yourself with the scoring rubric to help better understand what the APUSH test is looking for. College Board provides Rubrics for AP Histories + Historical Thinking Skills information in the AP section of their site.

    Want to know what to really expect on the APUSH test?

    If you really want to know what to expect on APUSH, take a practice test! We recommend taking an official practice test at College Board. Not only are you given an accurate time limit, format, and content review, this practice test also provides you with a total composite score, just like the real APUSH test. Also, check out additional APUSH practice tests here!

    ACE your APUSH exam! Start here.
    About 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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