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 and examination offered to high school students 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. The AP World History exam was first administered in 2002.

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]

Section Number of Questions Number of Minutes Percent of Exam Score
Section I Part A: Multiple Choice 55 questions 60 minutes 40%
Section I Part B: Short-Answer Questions 3 questions (choice of 1 of 2) 50 minutes 20%
Section II Part A: Document-Based Question 1 question suggested 55 minutes 25%
Section II Part B: Long Essay Question 1 of 2 questions suggested 40 minutes 15%

The first section of the AP World History exam consists of 55 multiple choice questions with a 55-minute time limit. The questions are not divided up evenly between the six periods.

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 40% of one's total score (Section I Part A). It consists of 55 questions to be answered in 55 minutes based on the accompanying sources.

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]

This exam underwent a major re-haul for the 2017 exam,[2] and it will now have the same format as APUSH and AP Euro. The exam features a new section (Section I Part B) that involves four short answer questions. Each question has three parts, making for a total of 12 parts within the SAQ section. Students have fifty minutes to answer these, and they count for twenty percent of the exam score.

Section II lasts for a total of 100 minutes, and it includes a document-based question (DBQ) and a long essay question (LEQ). Students are allowed to work on either essay within this total time period. The section begins with a 15 minute reading period where students are advised to read both the documents for DBQ. However, students may begin writing during this time; most students take notes on the documents in order to plan out the DBQ. Students are advised to spend 45 minutes writing the DBQ and then 40 writing the LEQ, but there are no rules on when each essay must be worked on. There are three prompts for the LEQ, but only one needs to be chosen. Each LEQ prompt addresses a different period, with one addressing periods 1 & 2, another addressing periods 3 & 4, and a third adressing periods 5 & 6. .

The DBQ counts for 25% of the total exam score, and the LEQ is 15%. The essays are out of seven points and six points, respectively. Students are required to analyze and synthesize the documents of the DBQ, but some outside information is still needed. The LEQ only provides a prompt and no sort of stimulus, so a large amount of outside information is necessary.

Grade distribution[edit]

AP World History Test Grade Distribution:[3]

Final Score 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017[4]
5 11.2% 8.9% 11.1% 9.8% 9.4% 6.9% 5.9% 6.4% 6.6% 6.5% 8.5%
4 16.9% 16.1% 16.0% 15.5% 16.0% 15.7% 13.7% 15.8% 14.2% 15.5% 20.1%
3 26.1% 23.4% 23.4% 23.8% 23.1% 30.5% 29.4% 31.7% 31.4% 29.2% 27%
2 24.3% 25.7% 24.6% 24.2% 25.7% 29.4% 30.2% 27.9% 29.9% 21.5% 29.5%
1 21.5% 25.8% 24.9% 26.7% 25.8% 17.4% 20.9% 18.2% 18.0% 19.9% 14.9%
Mean Score 2.72 2.56 2.64 2.57 2.57 2.65 2.53 2.64 2.62 2.45

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.[5]


  1. ^ "AP World History Course and Exam Description" (PDF). College Board. 
  2. ^ http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/ap-world-history-course-and-exam-description.pdf
  3. ^ "AP Data". Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Total Registration. "2017 AP Exam Score Distributions". www.totalregistration.net. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  5. ^ "Trevor Packer". Twitter. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 

External links[edit]