All AP US History Resources
Free AP US History Diagnostic Tests
All AP US History Resources
Note: The structure of AP U.S. History courses is changing in Fall 2014, but the following discussion reflects the current organization of the course and its exam.
Have you arrived at this page because you, like many other students, are thinking about taking an AP United States History course and are attempting to figure out what you’re signing up for? After all, it would be impossible to cover all of U. S. History in a single year—what topics does it focus on, and what does it expect you to learn? Or, perhaps you are currently taking AP United States History and are in search of the resources that can let you study what you need to study when you need to study it, so that you don’t fall behind. No matter which of these categories you fall into, this guide will help you out, first by giving a brief overview of the topics AP U. S. History stresses, then taking a look at the structure and formatting of the AP U. S. History exam, and finally introduce some great resources that you can use to bolster your historical knowledge. Armed with a combination of information and resources, you will feel less apprehensive about AP U. S. History and hopefully see it as an exciting challenge instead of an overwhelming endeavor.
AP U. S. History classes are not just about memorizing facts and dates. The course aims to develop students’ abilities to think and reason historically. It does this by challenging them to analyze primary historical sources while considering how reliable each document is, how relevant it is to a given historical problem or topic, and how important it is in consideration of other available sources. Students are also expected to engage with previous scholarship in a similar fashion.
AP U.S. History courses aim to cover the same amount of content as the average college-level introductory U. S. History course. Introductory college U. S. History courses do not use a standardized curriculum, so AP U. S. History takes a general view of U. S. history, instead of focusing on a particular branch of history such as economic history or intellectual history. Due to this, AP U. S. History may appear unfocused and overwhelming, so the College Board has recommended that AP U. S. History courses be constructed around one or several of the following themes:
- American Diversity
- American Identity
- Demographic Changes
- Economic Transformations
- Politics and Citizenship
- Slavery and Its Legacies in North America
- War and Diplomacy
Keeping these themes in mind when learning new information in class, reading, or reviewing can help you, as each one can function as a “lens” that lets you view historical information from a specific perspective when a glut of available information may seem overwhelming.
Every U. S. History course is expected to discuss certain topics, beginning with a discussion of Pre-Columbian societies before covering the European discovery of the Americas and the ensuing settlement and colonization. The class then explores different aspects of colonial North America before covering the events of the American Revolutionary era, during which the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the founding of the United States are each covered in detail. After spending time learning about the organization and development of the new government, the War of 1812 is covered. The growth of slavery and the economy, politics, religion, and social reforms of Antebellum America are each discussed, as well as the expansion of the United States and its consequences, including how American Indians were forced off of their land, and the Mexican War. The causes of the American Civil War, its events, and the period of Reconstruction that followed are then covered in detail. Western expansion, industrialization, and urban society are discussed, and the political movements of Populism and Progressivism are considered. The class then looks at World War I, and considers the state of the United States in the 1920s, details the Great Depression and the New Deal before discussing WWII, both its military and civilian aspects. The early Cold War is covered, and the class continues to follow the state of the United States in the 1950s, 1960s, and concludes by looking at the United States in the post-Cold War world.
AP U. S. History classes culminate with students taking the AP U. S. History exam, a three-hour-and-five-minute test that determines whether or not they will receive college credit for their efforts. Half of a student’s exam score is derived from a 55-minute multiple-choice section containing 80 questions, and the other half of his or her score is determined from essay responses the student composes during the QQ-minute free response portion of the exam. The free response section includes prompts of three types: a Documents-Based Essay Question, which asks students to synthesize the provided primary historical sources with their historical knowledge when responding; an evaluative prompt, which asks students to recall and analyze a particular historical period or event; and a comparative prompt, which asks students to compare and contrast two historical periods or events.
If quantized according historical period, approximately 20% of the AP U. S. History exam covers events that occurred before 1789, 45% of the exam focuses on events that occurred between 1790 and 1914, and 35% of the exam focuses on events that happened after 1915. If organized by content, approximately 35% of the exam focuses on political institutions, behavior, and public policy; about 40% focuses on cultural and intellectual developments and social change; about 15% focuses on diplomacy and international relations; and about 10% focuses on economic developments.
If all of this information has you feeling a bit overwhelmed, you can start tackling AP U. S. History right now with Varsity Tutors’ free AP U. S. History Practice Tests! Each AP U. S. History Practice Test contains between ten and twelve problems; think of each one as being like a little quiz which you can use to test your skills. If you want to study broadly or focus on one particular topic, either option is available. After finishing an AP U. S. History Practice Test, you receive detailed statistics about how well you did in comparison to other students who took the same test, full explanations of the logic that was used to arrive at the correct answer, and an analysis of how much time you took to answer each question. By making use of AP U. S. History Practice tests as well as the other AP U. S. History resources offered by Varsity Tutors, you can be sure that you’ve studied what you need to know and feel completely prepared for the AP U. S. History exam!