• Changes to AP US History  - Course and Test Format

    The College Board initiated changes to the AP US History Exam starting in the 2014-2015 school year, and has mandated changes in the way the course is taught as well.  A greater emphasis has been placed on "historical thinking skills" and learner objectives have become more thematic in nature.   Below are the basics:
    Skill type Emphasized:

        Historical Thinking Skill:

    I.                   Chronological Reasoning

    1. Causation

    2. Patterns of continuity and Change over Time

    3. Periodization

    I.                   Comparison and Contextualization

    4. Comparison

    5. Contextualization


    II.                Crafting Historical Arguments from Historical Evidence

    6. Historical Argumentation

    7. Appropriate Use of Relevant Historical Evidence

    III.             Historical Interpretation and Synthesis

    8. Interpretation

    9. Synthesis


    ThematicLearner Objectives:

    ·       Identity

    ·       Work, exchange,and Technology

    ·       Peopling

    ·       Politics andPower

    ·       America in theWorld

    ·       Environment andGeography – Physical and Human

    ·       Ideas, Beliefs,and Culture

           New APUSH Exam Format:
             The new test format continues to use the AP grading scale of 1 (worst) - 5 (best)



    Exam Description

    The AP U.S. History Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and includes both a 105-minute multiple-choice/short-answer section and a 90-minute free-response section. Each section is divided into two parts, as shown in the table below. Student performance on these four parts will be compiled and weighted to determine an AP Exam score.



    Question Type

    Number of Questions


    Percentage of Total Exam Score



    Part A: Multiple-choice questions



    55 questions



    55 minutes





    Part B: Short-answer questions


    4 questions









    Part A: Document-based question



    1 question



    45 minutes





    Part B: Long essay question


    1 question (chosen from a pair)


    35 minutes





    Multiple-Choice Questions

    ·         The multiple-choice section will contain a number of sets of questions, with between two and five questions per set, that ask students to respond to stimulus material — a primary or secondary source, including texts, images, charts, graphs, maps, etc.

    ·         This stimulus material will reflect the types of evidence that historians use in their research on the past. The set of multiple-choice questions about the material will draw upon knowledge required by the curriculum framework, and each question will address one of the learning objectives for the course.

    ·         While a set may focus on one particular period of U.S. history, the individual questions within that set may ask students to make connections to thematically linked developments in other periods.

    ·         Multiple-choice questions will assess students’ ability to reason about the stimulus material in tandem with their knowledge of the historical issue at hand. 


    Short-Answer Questions

    ·         Short-answer questions will directly address one or more of the thematic learning objectives for the course.

    ·         All four questions are mandatory, but at least two of the four questions will have elements of internal choice, providing opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know best. All of the short-answer questions will require students to use historical thinking skills to respond to a primary source, a historian’s argument, non-textual sources such as data or maps, or general propositions about U.S. history.

    ·         Each question will ask students to identify and analyze examples of historical evidence relevant to the source or question; these examples can be drawn from the concept outline or from other examples explored in depth during classroom instruction.


    Document-Based Question


    ·         The document-based question measures students’ ability to analyze and synthesize historical data and to assess verbal, quantitative, or visual materials as historical evidence.

    ·         As with the long essay, responses to the document-based question will be judged on students’ ability to formulate a thesis and support it with relevant evidence.

    ·         The documents included in the document-based question are not confined to a single format, may vary in length, and are chosen to illustrate interactions and complexities within the material.

    ·         Where suitable, the documents will include charts, graphs, cartoons, and pictures, as well as written materials.

    ·         The document-based question will typically require students to relate the documents to a historical period or theme and, thus, to focus on major periods and issues.

    ·         For this reason, outside knowledge beyond the specific focus of the question is important and must be incorporated into the student’s essay to earn the highest scores.


    Long Essay Question


    ·         Students will be given a choice between two comparable long essay options.

    ·         The long essay questions will measure the use of historical thinking skills to explain and analyze significant issues in U.S. history as defined by the thematic learning objectives.

    ·         Student essays must include the development of a thesis or argument supported by an analysis of specific, relevant historical evidence.

    ·         Questions will be limited to topics or examples specifically mentioned in the concept outline but framed to allow student answers to include in-depth examples of large-scale phenomena, either drawn from the concept outline or from topics discussed in the classroom.

Last Modified on July 11, 2016