AP World History

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Advanced Placement World History (also known as AP World History, WHAP, AP World or APWH) is a college-level course that is offered through the College Board's Advanced Placement Program designed to help students develop a greater understanding of the evolution of global processes and contacts as well as interactions between different types of human society. The course advances this understanding through a combination of selective factual knowledge and appropriate analytical skills. Students study all prehistory and history, especially from 8000 BCE to present-day.

Course structure[edit]

The course is organized around six eras/periods and nineteen "Key Concepts":

  • Period 1 - Technological and Environmental Transformations, c. 8000 BCE to c. 600 BCE

Key Concept 1.1 Big Geography and the Peopling of the Earth
Key Concept 1.2 The Neolithic Revolution and Early Agricultural Societies
Key Concept 1.3 The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral, and Urban Societies

  • Period 2 - Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, c. 600 BCE to c. 600 CE

Key Concept 2.1 The Development and Codification of Religious and Cultural Traditions
Key Concept 2.2 The Development of States and Empires
Key Concept 2.3 Emergence of Transregional Networks of Communication and Exchange

  • Period 3 - Regional and Transregional Interactions, c. 600 CE to c. 1450 CE

Key Concept 3.1 Expansion and Intensification of Communication and Exchange Networks
Key Concept 3.2 Continuity and Innovation of State Forms and Their Interactions
Key Concept 3.3 Increased Economic Productive Capacity and Its Consequences

  • Period 4 - Global Interactions, c. 1450 CE to c. 1750 CE

Key Concept 4.1 Globalizing Networks of Communication and Exchange
Key Concept 4.2 New Forms of Social Organization and Modes of Production
Key Concept 4.3 State Consolidation and Imperial Expansion

  • Period 5 - Industrialization and Global Integration, c. 1750 CE to c. 1900 CE

Key Concept 5.1 Industrialization and Global Capitalism
Key Concept 5.2 Imperialism and Nation-State Formation
Key Concept 5.3 Nationalism, Revolution, and Reform
Key Concept 5.4 Global Migration

  • Period 6 - Accelerating Global Change and Realignments, c. 1900 CE to present

Key Concept 6.1 Science and the Environment
Key Concept 6.2 Global Conflicts and their Consequences
Key Concept 6.3 New Conceptualizations of Global Economy, Society, & Culture

Test format[edit]

The first section of the AP World History exam consists of 70 multiple choice questions with a 55 minute time limit.

Period/Era Dates  % of Multiple Choice Questions
Technological and Environmental Transformations 8000 B.C.E. to c. 600 B.C.E. 5%
Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies c. 600 B.C.E. - c. 600 C.E. 15%
Regional and Transregional Interactions c. 600 - c. 1450 C.E. 20%
Global Interactions c. 1450 - c. 1750 C.E 20%
Industrialization and Global Integration c. 1750 - c. 1900 C.E. 20%
Accelerating Global Change and Realignments c. 1900–Present 20%

The Multiple Choice section is weighted as 50% of one's total score.

While previously the exam deducted 1/4 of a point for every incorrect answer, starting from 2011 on, the penalty for incorrect answers had been removed. It is to one's advantage to attempt every question possible within the time limit. Note also that the number of multiple choice options is being reduced from five to four at the same time.[1]

The second section, the free-response section, consists of 3 essays which may be answered in any order. However, it is recommended that students answer the DBQ first to get it out of the way as it requires little to no prior knowledge of historical background.

This section begins with a mandatory 10-minute reading period, during which students are instructed to read the DBQ, (including the documents) CCOT, and Comparative questions. It is vitally important to take careful notes and plan one's essays during these 10 minutes. After the reading period, students are given 120 minutes to write all 3 essays, though they may continue to take notes before starting to write their essays; notes taken during the reading period may be used. Each essay is out of 7 points (a detailed rubric can be found in the AP World History course description), but students can earn up to two points of extra credit after receiving 7 points by going above and beyond what is expected. Therefore, students can receive a maximum of 27 points on these essays. Students are encouraged to pace themselves.

Grade distribution[edit]

AP World History Test Grade Distribution:[2]

Final Score 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
5 11.2% 8.9% 11.1% 9.8% 9.4% 6.9% 5.9% 6.4% 6.6% 6.5%
4 16.9% 16.1% 16.0% 15.5% 16.0% 15.7% 13.7% 15.8% 14.2% 15.5%
3 26.1% 23.4% 23.4% 23.8% 23.1% 30.5% 29.4% 31.7% 31.4% 29.2%
2 24.3% 25.7% 24.6% 24.2% 25.7% 29.4% 30.2% 27.9% 29.9% 21.5%
1 21.5% 25.8% 24.9% 26.7% 25.8% 17.4% 20.9% 18.2% 18.0% 19.9%
Mean Score 2.72 2.56 2.64 2.57 2.57 2.65 2.53 2.64 2.61

In 2012 Trevor Packer, the head of AP Grading, stated that the reason for the low percentages of 5s is that "AP World History is a college-level course, & many sophomores aren't yet writing at that level." 10.44 percent of all seniors who took the exam in 2012 received a 5, while 6.62 percent of sophomores received a 5.[3]


  1. ^ "AP World History Course and Exam Description" (PDF). College Board. 
  2. ^ "AP Data". Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "Trevor Packer". Twitter. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 

External links[edit]