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Advanced Placement

The Complete Guide to AP US History Exam [Updated for AP 2024 Exam]

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

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  • ​​The AP US History course is organized into 9 units: The Pre-Contact Era, European Colonization and Early National Development, the Early Republic and Antebellum America, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the Early 20th Century, the Great Depression and World War II, the Cold War and Post-War America and the 21st Century.
  • The AP US History exam is divided into two sections: Section I Part A multiple-choice (55 questions, 55 minutes), section I Part B (3 questions, 40 minutes), and Section II free-response (3 essays, 1 hour 40 minutes).
  • The mean score for the AP US History exam in 2022 was 2.57 out of 5. This is slightly lower than the mean score for all AP subjects in 2022, which was 2.92.
  • The pass rate of the AP US History Exam for 2022 was 48.2%. This is slightly lower than the pass rate for AP overall, which was 60.2%.
  • With AP US History, some majors that you could choose include history, political science, law, business, and education. Some of the career pathways that you could pursue include historian, lawyer, politician, business leader, and educator.

AP US History is one of the most popular AP courses offered by the College Board. In 2022, over 456,520 students took the AP US History exam.

In this AP US History Guide, we will discuss the format of the AP US History exam, the topics covered, and effective ways to study for the exam. We will also provide some resources that can help you prepare for the exam. So, let’s get started!

What is on the AP US History exam?

The AP US History exam covers a wide range of topics related to the history of the United States, from the pre-Columbian era to the present day.
These topics include the nature of history, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the 9/11 attacks. 

The exam also covers the following topics also political development, social change, economic growth, cultural diversity, and environmental change.

The AP USHistory Exam format includes two sections as below:

SectionNo. of questionsTime allocated to  each sectionWeightage
Section I (Part A)Multiple-choice  questions55 questions55 minutes40%
Section II (Part B)Short Answer3 questions40 minutes20%
Free response   questions2 questions 1 hour 40 minutes40% 
AP US History exam format

Now let’s understand everything about the AP US History exam like duration, structure, score distribution, etc.

How long is the AP US History exam?

The AP US History Exam is 3 hours 15 minutes long and is divided into two sections. Section one is further divided into two parts: Part A is multiple choice questions and Part B is short answers.

  • Section I Part A  consists of 55 multiple-choice questions and is 55 minutes long.
  • Section I Part B consists of 3 short answer questions and is 40 minutes long.
  • The second section is a free-response section with 2 questions and is 1 hour 40 minutes long.

The AP US History Exam will test your understanding of the historical concepts covered in the course units, as well as your ability to analyze primary and secondary sources, historical arguments, and more.

How many questions does the AP US History exam have?

The AP US History exam has 60 questions in total divided into 2 major sections. Section I Part A has 55 multiple-choice questions, section II Part B has 3 short answer questions, and section II has 2 free-response questions.

Topics for AP US History Review

UnitWhat’s includedWeight in exam
Unit 1: Period 1: 1491–1607
You’ll learn about Native American societies as well as how and why Europeans first explored and then began to colonize, the Americas.
-Native American societies before European contact
-European exploration in the New World
-The Columbian Exchange
-Labor, slavery, and caste in the Spanish colonial system
-Cultural interactions between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans
8%–10%
Unit 2: Period 2: 1607–1754
You’ll study the colonies established in the New World by the Spanish, French, Dutch, and British.


-How different European colonies developed and expanded
-Transatlantic trade
-Interactions between American Indians and Europeans
-Slavery in the British colonies
-Colonial society and culture
6%–8%
Unit 3: Period 3: 1754–1800
You’ll explore the events that led to the American Revolution and the formation of the US and examine the early years of the republic.
-The Seven Years’ War
-The American Revolution
-The Articles of Confederation
-The creation and ratification of the Constitution
-Developing an American identity
-Immigration to and migration within America
10%–17% 
Unit 4: Period 4: 1800–1848
You’ll examine how the young nation developed politically, culturally, and economically in this period.
-The rise of political parties
-American foreign policy
-Innovations in technology, agriculture, and business
-Debates about federal power
-The Second Great Awakening
-Reform movements
-The experience of African Americans
10%–17%
Unit 5: Period 5: 1844–1877
You’ll learn how the nation expanded and you’ll explore the events that led to the secession of Southern states and the Civil War.
-Manifest Destiny
-The Mexican–American War
-Attempts to resolve conflicts over the spread of slavery
-The election of 1860 and Southern secession
-The Civil War
-Reconstruction
10%-17%
Unit 6: Period 6: 1865–1898
You’ll examine the nation’s economic and demographic shifts in this period and their links to cultural and political changes.
-The settlement of the West
-The “New South”
-The rise of industrial capitalism
-Immigration and migration
-Reform movements
-Debates about the role of government
10%–17%
1Unit 7: Period 7: 1890–1945
You’ll examine America’s changing society and culture and the causes and effects of the global wars and economic meltdown of this period.
-Debates over imperialism
-The Progressive movement
-World War IInnovations in communications and technology in the 1920s
-The Great Depression and the New Deal
-World War II
-Postwar diplomacy
10%–17% 
Unit 8: Period 8: 1945–1980
You’ll learn about the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, the growth of various civil rights movements, and the economic, cultural, and political transformations of this period.
-The Cold War and the Red Scare
-America as a world power
-The Vietnam War
-The Great Society
-The African American civil rights movement
-Youth culture of the 1960s
10%–17%
Unit 9: Period 9: 1980–Present
You’ll learn about the advance of political conservatism, developments in science and technology, and demographic shifts that had major cultural and political consequences in this period.
-Reagan and conservatism
-The end of the Cold War
-Shifts in the economy
-Migration and immigration
-Challenges of the 21st century
4%–6%
AP US History Course Content

For additional course resources such as classroom resources, formulae and equation sheets and lab manuals refer to the College Board AP US History course page.

How is the AP US History exam scored?

The AP US History exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score and 1 being the lowest. The exam is divided into two sections: Section I and Section II.

Section I is 1 hour and 35 minutes long and consists of 55 multiple-choice questions and 3 short-answer questions. Each multiple-choice question is worth 1 raw point, for a total of 55 raw points possible in this section.
There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so you should always answer every question, even if you have to guess.

The three short-answer questions are worth 3 points each, for a total of 9 raw points possible in this section.
The short-answer questions are scored holistically, meaning that your score will be based on the overall quality of your answers, not just the number of correct facts you provide.

Section II is 1 hour and 40 minutes long and consists of 2 free response questions. The free-response section is worth 13 raw points- Question 1 is worth 7 raw points and Question 2 is worth 6 raw points.
On the free response questions, points are taken off for errors only if they detract from the quality of the argument being made. Grammatical and other technical errors aren’t a big deal as long as they don’t inhibit the grader’s ability to understand what your answer is saying.

Your final score on the AP US History exam is a combination of your raw scores on Section I and Section II. The raw scores are first scaled to a 1 to 5 scale, and then your final score is determined. The scaling process is designed to ensure that students who take the exam in different years are evaluated fairly.

A score of 3 or higher on the AP US History exam is generally considered to be a good score. This means that you have demonstrated a solid understanding of the material and are likely to be successful in college-level U.S. history courses.

When is the AP US History exam in 2024?

The AP US History exam for 2024 will be held on Friday, May 10 2024 08:00 am local time. The 2024 AP Exams will be held over two weeks in May: May 6–10 and May 13–17. 

For the most recent information on exam dates and registration deadlines, students can check with their institution or the College Board website.

How to prepare for the AP US History exam?

Here are some tips on how to prepare for the AP US History exam:

  • Pay attention to the timelines in your textbook. These can be a great way to visualize the major events in American history.
  • Learn the different periods of American history. This is an important part of AP US History, and it will come up on the exam.
  • Be familiar with the major themes of American history. This is another important topic in AP US History, and it will also come up on the exam.
  • Be able to analyze primary sources. The AP US History exam will include questions that require you to analyze primary sources, such as historical documents, maps, and photographs.
  • Use outside sources. The AP US History exam allows you to use outside sources to support your essays. This can be a great way to add depth and complexity to your arguments.
  • Be able to write clear and concise essays. Your essays should be well-organized and well-supported by evidence.

How can Wiingy help with AP US History exam prep?

In 2022, only 10.6% of the 456,620 students who took the AP US History exam scored a 5. While 3 is considered the unofficial passing rate, most elite universities, such as Harvard or Princeton, offer AP credit only if you score 5 or higher. 

Getting a 5 is possible if you have the right support in your high school, but that’s rarely the case.

Here at Wiingy, we work with vetted AP US History tutors with demonstrated expertise and experience in helping students score a 5 on AP exams

Unlike tutor marketplaces, every Wiingy tutor is screened individually and undergoes a comprehensive assessment. Less than 3% of applicants are selected to become tutors on Wiingy’s platform, ensuring tutors are highly qualified and experienced in teaching AP courses.

Our tutors will work with you 1-on-1 to master the content and skills you need to succeed. Experienced tutors can provide you with curriculum-specific guides and practice questions and familiarize you with the exam format to help you ace the test.

We know that sometimes you don’t want to pay for private tutoring because it is too expensive. It’s common to see tutoring costs between $100 to $150 per hour. Wiingy’s rates are very affordable, starting from just $28 per hour, much lower than the average AP tutoring offered by other platforms.

One more advantage of studying with us is that we don’t require you to sign up for any packages or yearly subscriptions. You can sign up for as little as a single lesson and add more lessons as per your requirements.

While we try to match you with the perfect tutor as per your needs, we know that sometimes even the best tutors might not be the right fit for you. That’s why we offer you the Perfect Match Guarantee, which means that if you are not satisfied with your tutor for any reason, you can request a free replacement at any time

Sign up with Wiingy AP US History Tutoring today and achieve your goal of scoring a 5 on your AP Test!

Why take AP US History?

Here are some of the benefits of taking the AP US History exam:

  • College credit: Depending on your score and the policies of the college you plan to attend, a high score on the AP US History exam can earn you college credit. This can save you time and money on tuition costs, as you may be able to skip introductory US history courses in college. You can major in History, Political Science, Law, Government, International Relations, or Public Policy.
  • Advanced Placement: In addition to college credit, a high score on the AP US History exam can also earn you advanced placement in higher-level US history courses in college. This can give you a head start and allow you to take more advanced courses earlier in your college career.
  • Career prospects: Taking the AP US History exam and earning a high score demonstrates to colleges and future employers that you have mastered college-level US history concepts and skills. This can be an impressive addition to your college application or resume if you are looking to make your career as a Historian, Political Scientist, Lawyer, Government Official, Journalist, or Educator.
  • Interest in US history: Finally, taking the AP US History exam can be a way to pursue your interest in US history and deepen your understanding of the American past. By exploring advanced US history concepts and practicing critical thinking skills, you can gain a greater appreciation for the complexity and diversity of American society.

Conclusion

Students who are interested in majoring in history, political science, law, government, international relations, or public policy will find the skills learned in AP US History to be essential. Additionally, the skills learned in this course can be applied to a wide range of careers, such as teaching, consulting, and research.

The AP US History exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice (55 questions, 1 hour and 35 minutes) and free-response (2 questions, 1 hour and 40 minutes).

The mean score for the AP US History exam in 2022 was 2.57 out of 5, which is slightly lower than the mean score for all AP subjects in 2022 (2.92). The passing rate for AP US History in 2022 was 48.2%, which is slightly higher than the pass rate for AP overall (60.2%).

The AP US History exam is challenging, but it is also rewarding. By learning about the history of the US and applying your critical thinking skills, you can gain a deeper understanding of the American past and how it has shaped the present.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

How hard is the AP US history exam?

The AP US History exam is considered to be a moderately difficult exam. The pass rate for the exam in 2022 was 48.2%, which is slightly lower than the average pass rate for all AP exams. The exam covers a wide range of material, from the pre-contact era to the 21st century, and requires students to have a strong understanding of historical concepts and analytical skills.

How many credits do you get for AP U.S. History?

The number of credits you earn for AP U.S. History varies depending on the school and your exam score. Generally speaking, colleges give credit for a score of 4 or 5, although some colleges offer credit for a score of 3 as well. Students typically receive 3-6 credits, but this, too, can vary.

On top of that, schools sometimes offer different credits based on exam scores. At the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, for instance, students who receive a score of 3 can earn three credits for one history course. However, test-takers who score 4 or 5 can receive six transfer credits that count for two history courses.

What is the difference between AP World History and AP US History?

AP World History is an AP course that covers world history from 1200 CE to the present day. It is a broad course that covers a wide range of historical topics, including the rise and fall of civilizations, the development of major religions, and the impact of technology on society.
AP US History is an AP course that covers the history of the US from the pre-contact era to the present day. It is a more specific course that focuses on the history of the United States, including the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement.
The main difference between AP World History and AP US History is the scope of the material covered. AP World History is a more general course that covers a wide range of historical topics, while AP US History is a more specific course that focuses on the history of the United States.

Reviewed by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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