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.

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 55 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 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 has underwent a major rehaul (beginning of implementation is in 2017) and will now have the same format as APUSH and AP Euro. The exam will feature a new part (Section II Part B) that will involve four short answer questions. Students have fifty minutes to answer these and they count for twenty percent of the exam score.

Section II begins with a ten-minute reading period where students are advised to read both the DBQ and LEQ, however, a student may begin writing whenever they feel it is necessary. It is very important to take careful notes and plan the essays during these 10 minutes. Students are advised to pace themselves well during these essays and spend 55 minutes on the DBQ and 35 minutes on the LEQ. Students are required to exert proper analysis and synthesize the documents to the larger scope of world history during the DBQ which will eventually count for 25% of the exam score and be scored on a seven-point scale. The second essay is the Long Essay, students are given two prompts to respond to and must choose one. This requires analysis as well as a large amount of outside information. The Long Essay is scored on a six-point scale and is worth 15% of the total exam score.

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 2.62 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.[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]