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The Ultimate Guide to the AP US History Exam

Jan 3, 2022

Have you heard of the AP US History exam? Are you wondering how long is the AP US History exam and how to prepare for it? This article briefly explains everything you need to know about the AP US History exam, its pattern, format, and preparation tips.

What is the AP US History exam?

The AP US History exam, often known as the APUSH exam, is a college-level exam given every year in May. This exam is conducted for students who have completed an Advanced Placement U.S. History course in high school. Critical reading, writing, and in-depth analysis are part of the AP US History test. It is not only about remembering people and dates. This exam is also about properly evaluating historical evidence, retaining knowledge on a topic, and combining your thoughts into a logical argument.


How long is the AP US History exam?

The AP, US History exam, lasts three hours and five minutes in total. It is one of the longest AP exams, with four separate question types: multiple-choice, short answer, document-based question (DBQ), and a lengthy essay.

Format of the AP US History exam

It is divided into two major and 4 broad sections.


1. Section-II Part-A: Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs): 55 questions in 55 minutes
The first half of the exam is a multiple-choice test. Each question will have five alternative answers (A-E), from which you must choose one. According to the College Board:

  • The historical themes covered by 45 percent of the multiple-choice questions range from 1790 to 1914.
  • From 1915 (World War I) to the present, 35% of the questions are covered.
  • Material from 1600 to 1789 accounts for 20% of the total questions.

2. Section I, Part B: Three short-answer questions- 40 minutes
On the AP US History exam, Part B of Section 1 requires you to complete three short-answer questions in 40 minutes, or roughly 13 minutes for each question. It accounts for 20% of your total score. The first two questions are essential; however, for your third question, you can select from questions 3 and 4.


3. Section II, Part A: Document-based question (DBQ): The Document-Based Question (DBQ) is the first essay, in which you will be given small excerpts from sources. You are required to create an argument with the help of these documents. Before you begin writing, you have fifteen minutes to study the documents and outline your essay. Three essays make up the second part of the exam: 1 essay – 60 minutes.

4. Section II, Part A: Long Essay: The Long Essay is the last section of the AP US History exam. It requires you to select one of three possible topics and write an essay about it. You will be given 40 minutes to write your response, worth 15% of your total AP score. You must build a coherent and logical argument and back it up with relevant historical evidence.


Tips for taking the AP US History exam

While completing the multiple-choice section and the essay section of your test, keep the following points in mind:

Read all the questions carefully: A few questions are written so that they may trick you. The responses in the multiple-choice selections often include two very similar solutions with minimal changes. Therefore, you should read the questions carefully.

  • Learn to eliminate answers: Actively read by checking out erroneous answers with your pencil as you answer the questions. You will not be overwhelmed by the incorrect answers or possibilities this way and able to concentrate on choosing the best of the two options.
  • Attempt all the questions: You must respond to all of the AP US History exam questions. Earlier, there was a format of negative marking on the incorrect answers. But that is no longer the case. There are no negative consequences if you guess incorrectly.
  • Make a plan before you start writing the essays: It is necessary to write well-organized and impressive essays for the AP US History exam. The first thing to do is to develop a coherent hypothesis. The rest of your essay must then portray your argument and present relevant proof throughout. If you rush into writing an essay without first organizing your thoughts, you are more likely to ramble or stray from the question’s core point. Even though you will have less time for the Long Essay, you should still take five minutes to write a quick outline before beginning your final answer.
  • Make judicious use of outside evidence: It is a good idea to provide some more background information in your DBQ section in addition to the information already provided. It demonstrates that you understand the content and relate themes to what you learned in class. Outside knowledge should only be used if it significantly strengthens your case. If you just add any information irrelevant to your essay, your essay will look disorganized, and you may lose points.

Multiple-Choice APUSH Exam Questions 

The questions are based on a primary source, secondary source, or historical subject and are organized into sets of three or four. Various pieces of source material serve as the foundation for each series of questions. You’ll be put to the test in this section as you attempt to study and interact with the sources while also recalling what you already know about American history. 


How is the AP US History exam scored?

● You receive one raw point for each question you answer correctly in the multiple-choice portion. This implies that the maximum score you may receive is 55 points. For erroneous answers replies, no points are deducted.
● The three short-answer questions are each worth three points, for a total of nine points in this section.
● The DBQ (third section) is scored out of seven points according to the scoring guide. It is based on the following criteria:
➢ 1 point for the thesis/claim
➢ 1 point for contextualization
➢ 2 points based on document evidence
➢ 1 point for evidence beyond the documents.
➢ 1 point for sourcing
➢ 1 point for complexity

● Finally, the Long Essay is graded on a scale of 6 points based on the following criteria:
➢ 1 point for the thesis/claim
➢ 1 point for contextualization
➢ 2 points of evidence
➢ 2 points for analysis and reasoning


AP US History Exam scoring
● 5 = Exceptionally Well Qualified for College Credit. This is the maximum possible score, corresponding to an A in a college-level subject.
● 4 = It indicates that the person is well qualified. This corresponds to a college course grade of A-, B+, or B.
● 3 = It means you are simply qualified for college credit. It corresponds to college grades of B-, C+, or C.
● 2 = It indicates that you may get qualified. But, the chances are low.
● 1 = No Recommendation.

Advantages of taking the AP US History exam

  • Complete choice over what you study: The AP Exam in US History is confined to the material on one country—the United States—between 1492 and 1990. Knowing the boundaries of what you should study greatly improves your chances of mastering the content and acing the exam. AP US History exam helps you in working on this skill. As the important events in these 500 years remain constant, you have complete choice over what you study for this exam.
  • Take the AP US history exam without enrolling in a class: Enrolling in the AP US History practice exam increases your chances of passing. You can sign up for this exam even if you are not enrolled in honors programs.
  • Scoring higher than 3 can help you get into college: Even if your SAT score is not as high as you want, AP subject examinations will help you get into college. Many institutions prefer AP Exam results because they demonstrate that you can think critically, write, and logically put knowledge together. Passing one AP Exam will undoubtedly benefit you, but you will be designated as an AP Scholar if you pass three examinations with a score of 3 or better.
  • Saving money on college tuition: One of the best benefits of the AP US History Exam is saving money if you get a score of 3, 4, or 5 on it. Most reputable colleges will enable you to bypass lower-division coursework, and subject prerequisites or remove all requirements if you score 3 or better. This implies that if you pass many AP Exams, you may graduate a year early from a public school and save thousands of dollars. If you do not want to graduate early, AP credits also allow you to pursue a more relaxed course schedule. For example, you can study abroad, do a double major, or intern somewhere.

How to prepare for the AP US History exam?

The emphasis on interpreting historical data and using outside information in context is a common thread running through this test. You will need to relate the course’s topics to events spanning 500 years of US history. As you study for the AP US History exam, keep the following study ideas in mind:

  • Always read excerpts with great caution.
  • Before you start writing your essays, make a plan in your head and structure your essay accordingly.
  • Make smart use of outside evidence.
  • Before you sit down to take the test, make sure you take an AP US History practice exam.

Taking a Full-Course AP US History Practice Exam can prove to be a great approach to assessing your ability and preparation for the exam. The thorough process allows you to measure your progress and learn the comprehensive syllabus and subjects covered in the course. The comprehensive AP US History Practice Exam has the added benefit of assisting you in tailoring your preparation by indicating the ideas you need to learn. After you have designed a study schedule that matches your needs, you may do an in-depth review using the other Learning Tools. You may complement your studies with the exact AP US History practice exams that you need and feel entirely secure before sitting down to take the actual test.

AP US History Exam


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