AP US History Exam

The AP ® U.S History exam, also known as APUSH, is a college-level exam administered every year in May upon the completion of an Advanced Placement U.S. History course taken at your high school. If you score high enough, you could earn college credit!

Check out our AP U.S History Guide for the essential info you need about the exam:

 Exam Overview

The APUSH exam takes 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete and is comprised of two sections: a multiple choice/short answer section and a a free response section. There are two parts (Part A and Part B) to each section.

Timing

Number of Questions


Section 1

Part A: 55 minutes


Parb B: 40 minutes

55 multiple-choice questions


3 short answer questions

Section 2

Part A: 60 minutes


Part B: 40 minutes

1 document-based question


1 long essay

Question Types

APUSH Multiple Choice Questions

Questions are grouped into sets of two to five questions and based on a primary source, secondary source, or historical issue. Each set of questions is based on a different piece of source material. This section will test your ability to analyze and engage with the source materials while recalling what you already know about U.S. history.

APUSH Short Answer Questions

The three questions in this section will be tied to a primary source, historical argument, data or maps, or general propositions of U.S. history. Students are required to answer the first and second questions and then answer either the third or the fourth question. You are not required to develop and support a thesis statement, but you must describe examples of historical evidence relevant to the source or question.

APUSH Document-Based Question (DBQ)

The DBQ question requires you to answer a question based on six or seven primary source documents and your knowledge of the subject and time period. All the documents will pertain to a single subject. Students should develop an argument about the question and use the documents to support this argument.

APUSH Long Essay Question

For the long essay question you’re given a choice of three essay options on the same theme, and you must choose one. You must develop and defend a relevant thesis, but there won’t be any documents on which you must base your response. Instead you’ll need to draw upon your own knowledge of topics you learned in your AP U.S. History class.

What topics should I review?

The College Board requires your AP teacher to cover certain topics in the AP U.S. History course. As you complete your APUSH review, make sure you are familiar with the following topics:

  • Pre-Columbian Societies
  • Transatlantic Encounters and Colonial Beginnings, 1492-1690
  • Colonial North America, 1690-1754
  • The American Revolutionary Era, 1754-1789
  • The Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • Transformation of the Economy and Society in Antebellum America
  • The Transformation of Politics in Antebellum America
  • Religion, Reform, and Renaissance in Antebellum America
  • Territorial Expansion and Manifest Destiny
  • The Crisis of the Union
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • The Origins of the New South
  • Development of the West in the Late 19th Century
  • Industrial America in the Late 19th Century
  • Urban Society in the late 19th Century
  • Populism and Progressivism
  • The Emergence of America as a World Power
  • The New Era: 1920s
  • The Great Depression and the New Deal
  • The Second World War
  • The Home Front During the War
  • The United States and the Early Cold War
  • The 1950s
  • The Turbulent Sixties
  • Politics and Economics at the End of the 20th Century
  • The United States in the Post-Cold War World

U.S. History Periods Covered on the Exam

  • 1491-1607
  • 1607-1754
  • 1754-1800
  • 1800-1848
  • 1844-1877
  • 1865-1898
  • 1890-1945
  • 1945-1980
  • 1980-Present

For a comprehensive content review, check our our line of AP books and quick guides.

What’s a good AP U.S. History Score?

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP U.S. History exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. Here’s how students scored on the May 2017 test:

APUSH Score

Meaning

Percentage of Test Takers

5

Extremely qualified

10.8%

4

Well qualified

17.7%

3

Qualified

22.3%

2

Possibly qualified

23.5%

1

No recommendation

25.6%

Source: College Board

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP U.S. History content and strategy, pick the  AP prep option  that works best for your goals and learning style. 

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