AP World History Exam

The AP®  World History: Modern exam covers historical developments from c 1200 to the present. It will test topics and skills discussed in your Advanced Placement World History: Modern course.  If you score high enough, your AP score could earn you college credit!

Check out our AP World History Guide for what you need to know about the exam:

AP World History Exam Overview

The AP World History: Modern exam takes 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete and is composed of: a multiple-choice, short answer, and free response section.


Number of Questions

% of Exam Score

Section 1, Part A

55 minutes

55 multiple choice questions


Section 1, Part B

40 minutes

3 short answer questions


Section 2, Free Response

60  minutes

1 document-based question


Section 2, Free Response

40 minutes

1 long essay


AP World History Question Types


AP World History: Modern multiple-choice questions are grouped into sets of usually 3-4 questions. They are based on primary or secondary sources, including excerpts from historical documents or writings, images, graphs, and maps. This section will test your ability to analyze and engage with the source materials while recalling what you already know about world history.

Short Answer

The AP World History: Modern short answer questions require you to respond to a secondary source for Question 1 and a primary source for Question 2, both focusing on historical developments between 1200 and 2001. Students will choose between two options (Questions 3 or 4) for the final required short-answer question, each one focusing on a different time periods of 1200 to 1750 and 1750 to 2001.

For all short answer questions, you’ll be asked to:

  • Analyze the provided sources
  • Analyze historical developments and processes described in the sources
  • Put those historical developments and processes in context
  • Make connections between those historical developments and processes

Document-Based Question (DBQ)

The AP World History DBQ presents a prompt and seven historical documents that are intended to show the complexity of a particular historical issue. You will need to develop a thesis that responds to the prompt, and support that thesis with evidence from both the documents and your knowledge of world history. To earn the best score, you should incorporate outside knowledge and be able to relate the issues discussed in the documents to a larger theme, issue, or time period.

Long Essay Question

The AP Long Essay Question is similar to the DBQ in that you must develop a thesis and use historical evidence to support your thesis, but there will not be any documents on which you must base your response. Instead you will need to draw upon your own knowledge of topics you learned in your AP World History class. You’ll be given a choice of three essay options, each focusing on a different range of time periods.

For a comprehensive content review, check out our book, AP World History Prep

AP World History Review

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in his or her AP World History course. They explain that you should be familiar with world history events from the following nine units that fall within four major time periods from 1200 to the present.

  • Unit 1: The Global Tapestry
c. 1200 to c. 1450
  • Unit 2: Networks of Exchange 
c. 1200 to c. 1450
  • Unit 3: Land-Based Empires
c. 1450 to c. 1750
  • Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections
c. 1450 to c. 1750
  • Unit 5: Revolutions
c. 1750 to c. 1900
  • Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization
c. 1750 to c. 1900
  • Unit 7: Global Conflict 
c. 1900 to the present
  • Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization 
c. 1900 to the present
  • Unit 9: Globalization
c. 1900 to the present

How to Interpret AP World History Scores

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Here’s how students scored on  AP World History exam in May 2020:

AP World History Score


Percentage of Test Takers


Extremely qualified



Well qualified






Possibly qualified



No recommendation


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 World History: Modern content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.  You can also check out our AP World History: Modern test prep book here.

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