AP United States History
Advanced Placement United States History is a course and examination offered by College Board as part of the Advanced Placement Program. It was first offered as Advanced Placement American History in 1956.
The AP U.S. History course is designed to provide the same level of content and instruction that students would face in a freshman-level college survey class. AP U.S. History classes generally use a college-level textbook as the foundation for the course.
Commonly used textbooks that meet the curriculum requirements include:
- America's History (Henretta et al.)
- American History: A Survey (Brinkley)
- American Passages (Ayers et al.)
- The American Pageant (Bailey et al.)
- The American People (Nash et al.)
- The Enduring Vision (Boyer et al.)
- Give Me Liberty! (Foner)
- Liberty, Equality, Power (Murrin et al.)
- Out of Many (Faragher et al.)
- A People and a Nation (Norton et al.)
The AP U.S. History exam lasts 3 hours and 5 minutes and consists of two parts. Part I includes 80 multiple choice questions with each question containing five choices. Students have 55 minutes to complete this part of the exam. The questions cover American History from the colonial era to modern times. In addition to traditional-style questions, there are often a few political cartoons, maps, and charts to interpret. The questions in this part are not in chronological order.
Part II of the exam is the free-response section, composed of a document-based question (DBQ) and two thematic essays, commonly called free-response questions (FRQs). Part II begins with the DBQ, which provides an essay prompt and 8-10 short primary sources or excerpts related to the prompt. Students are expected to write an essay responding to the prompt in which they utilize the sources in addition to outside information. The remainder of Part II consists of four essay prompts — two are from the pre-Civil War period and two are from the post-Civil War period. Students must write two essays: one from each set. There is a mandatory fifteen-minute reading period for students to read the prompts and the documents, take notes, and brainstorm; they may not begin writing the essay until this period has ended. They then have 115 minutes to write the three essays. It is recommended that students spend 45 minutes on the DBQ and 35 minutes on each essay, since the DBQ counts for more points than either essay, but the only timing enforced is the full 115 minute period.
In May 2011, the AP U.S. History Test was taken by 402,947 students worldwide, no longer making it the most-taken AP test; it has been superseded by the AP English Language and Composition exam.
CollegeBoard has announced that beginning with the 2014-2015 school year and with the 2015 exam administrations, the AP United States History course and exam will be completely redesigned to accurately mimic a college level American History curriculum. The concepts learned will be more critical-thinking based. The new exam, scheduled to be administered for the first time in the Spring of 2015, will undergo a makeover as well. The exam will be divided into four parts. Part I will consist of 36 multiple choice questions under a time limit of 35 minutes, weighted at 30%. Part II of the exam will consist of four short answer questions. This part differs from the essay portion previously as a full essay will not be necessary to receive full credit. This portion of the exam will take 50 minutes and is weighted at 25%. Part III will consist of just the Document Based Question, which is mostly unchanged. Students will have 60 minutes to write it and will be weighted at 25%. The final part, Part IV, will consist of one long essay, similar to the essays student wrote after the DBQ on the previous exam, only students will have to only write one instead of two. Students will have 35 minutes to write this essay and it will be weighted at 20%. 
The multiple-choice section and the free-response section each account for 50% of the final score. For the former, each correct multiple choice earns 1.125 points. As of the 2011 exam, a wrong answer does not deduct from the overall test score. A perfect score on the multiple-choice section is 90. For the free-response, the DBQ is worth 45% of the section's total value, while the two thematic essays are each worth 27.5% (55% combined).
The grade distributions for 2007 - 2013 were:
Note: 2013 score distribution may shift slightly as late exams are scored.
Composite score range
|Final Score||Range (1996)||Range (2001)||Range (2002)||Range (2006)|
Note: The above composite score cut points reflect the pre-2011 grading formula which deducted .25 points for every incorrect multiple choice answer.
- "AP United States History: Example Textbook List". CollegeBoard. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
- "U.S. History: The Exam". CollegeBoard. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
- "AP United States History Student Score Distributions Global AP Exams - May 2011". 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
- AP: The Grade-Setting Process. Retrieved 9 May 2008.