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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the AP European History Exam

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

The Ultimate Guide to Acing the AP European History Exam

If you are a student planning to take the AP European History Exam, this ultimate guide is here to help you ace the exam. This comprehensive article will cover everything you need to know about the AP European History exam, why it is essential, the topics covered, study tips, and test-taking strategies. So, let’s dive in!

What is the AP European History exam?

The AP European History exam is a standardized test offered by the College Board that allows high school students to earn college credit for their knowledge and understanding of European history.

This exam assesses students’ ability to analyze historical documents, interpret historical events, and demonstrate their understanding of key concepts, themes, and developments in European history from the Renaissance to the present.

Why is the AP European History exam important?

The AP European History exam is not just a test students take at the end of a course. It is a gateway to numerous opportunities and benefits that can impact their academic and professional future. Let’s explore some of the reasons why this exam holds such significance.

Firstly, one of the most compelling reasons the AP European History exam is essential is that it allows students to earn college credits. By scoring well on this exam, students can potentially skip introductory college courses and dive straight into more advanced coursework. This saves them time and reduces the financial burden of tuition fees. With the rising cost of education, the ability to earn college credits through the AP European History exam can be a game-changer for many students and their families.

Moreover, excelling on the AP European History exam can significantly strengthen a student’s college applications. Admissions officers recognize the rigor and depth of the AP curriculum, and a high score on this exam showcases a student’s ability to handle challenging coursework. It demonstrates their dedication, intellectual curiosity, and willingness to exceed the standard curriculum. This can give students a competitive edge when applying to selective colleges and universities.

However, the benefits of the AP European History exam extend far beyond college admissions. Studying for this exam helps students develop a wide range of valuable skills essential for success in college and beyond. The exam requires critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills transferable to various academic and professional pursuits.

Engaging with complex historical content teaches students to analyze primary and secondary sources, evaluate different perspectives, and construct well-reasoned arguments. These skills are crucial for success in history, other disciplines, and real-world situations.

Furthermore, the AP European History exam gives students a comprehensive understanding of European history and its impact on the world. It delves into the political, social, economic, and cultural developments shaping Europe over centuries.

By studying this rich tapestry of history, students gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities of the human experience and the interconnectedness of global events. They develop a broader perspective that allows them to understand better and navigate the complexities of the modern world.

The AP European History exam is not just a test but a transformative experience that opens doors to academic, professional, and personal growth. From earning college credits to enhancing college applications and developing critical thinking skills to gaining a comprehensive understanding of European history, the benefits of this exam are vast and far-reaching. So, embrace the opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of European history and reap the rewards that come with it.

How long is the AP European History Exam?

The AP European History exam is a comprehensive test that covers the history of Europe from 1450 to the present. The exam is three hours and fifteen minutes long and consists of two sections, each of which is further split into a Part A and a Part B.  Here’s an overview of each section of the AP European History exam:

Section 1:

  • Question Type: Multiple Choice and Short Answer
  • Number of Questions: 55 multiple-choice questions and 3 short-answer questions (choose 1 of 2 prompts)
  • Time: 55 minutes for multiple-choice and 40 minutes for short-answer
  • Percentage of Score: 40% for multiple-choice and 20% for short-answer

Section 2:

  • Question Type: Document-Based Question (DBQ) and Long Essay
  • Number of Questions: 1 DBQ and 1 extended essay (choose 1 of 3 prompts)
  • Time: 60 minutes (including a 15-minute reading period) for DBQ and 40 minutes for long essay
  • Percentage of Score: 25% for DBQ and 15% for extended essay

What is on the AP European History Exam?

The AP European History exam covers several topics spanning several centuries. It delves into the rich tapestry of European history, exploring the triumphs and challenges that have shaped the continent. By studying these topics, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the political, social, economic, and cultural developments that have influenced Europe throughout history.

The AP European History exam consists of two sections: multiple-choice and free-response. The multiple-choice section tests students’ content knowledge. In contrast, the free-response team assesses their ability to analyze primary and secondary sources, develop historical arguments, and write coherent and well-organized essays. The exam covers many historical periods and requires students to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts and historical events.

Multiple-Choice Section

In the multiple-choice section, students are asked about various European history topics. These questions may ask students to identify historical figures, events, or concepts, analyze primary and secondary sources, and conclude historical events. The questions test students’ knowledge of specific content and their ability to apply it to different historical contexts.

Three caucasian students talking to each other.

Tackling the Multiple-Choice Section

Preparing for the AP European History exam’s multiple-choice section can be challenging, but several strategies can help you tackle it successfully. Here are some tips from the search results:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the exam format and questions: The multiple-choice section makes up 40% of your exam score, so knowing what to expect is crucial. The questions are stimulus-based, requiring developed historical knowledge and the ability to interpret and analyze historical documents.
  2. Study primary and secondary sources: The exam is set up so that each group of questions will open with a stimulus. You should be familiar with the stimuli to do well on the test. Focus on primary and secondary sources, and pay attention to excerpts or artwork in your textbook. Visit a library or do a Google search for different historical materials to study.
  3. Read the title, key, and axes behind any charts: On the multiple-choice section of the AP European History exam, this will give you some background context behind the sorts of things that the test makers are asking of you.
  4. Group related questions together: One of the benefits of AP European History is that every single time period is weighted relatively the same. As a result, you’ll be able to segment out which four to seven questions are related and start grouping them into each other as you answer the multiple-choice section.
  5. Answer all questions: Monitor your time carefully and make sure not to spend too much time on any one question so that you have enough time to answer all of them. If you reach the end of the test with time to spare, go back and review your answers.
  6. Plan your responses before you start writing: After determining how to answer the question, consider what evidence you can incorporate into your reply. Decide on your thesis statement.
  7. Practice with past exams: Answering free-response questions from previous AP Exams is a great way to practice. It allows you to compare your responses with those already evaluated and scored.

Free-Response Section

The free-response section of the AP European History exam is divided into two parts: the document-based question (DBQ) and the long essay question (LEQ). In the DBQ, students are given a set of primary and secondary sources and are asked to analyze them to develop an argument or thesis statement. They must use evidence from the authorities to support their idea and demonstrate their ability to interpret historical documents.

The LEQ requires students to write a more extended essay responding to a specific prompt. They are expected to develop a clear and concise thesis statement and support it with evidence from their knowledge of European history. The LEQ prompts may ask students to analyze the causes and consequences of specific historical events, compare and contrast different historical periods or regions, or evaluate the impact of particular individuals or ideas on European history.

Throughout the exam, students must demonstrate their ability to think critically and analytically about European history. They must be able to identify and interpret primary and secondary sources, analyze historical events and processes, and develop persuasive arguments supported by evidence. The AP European History exam assesses students’ understanding of key concepts and their ability to think historically.

Overall, the AP European History class will allow students to look into the significant moments, eras, and events that have helped shape the modern history of the Western world. While learning, students will be asked to analyze and investigate historical data and evidence to fully understand the significance and value of moments in time throughout European history for the last 600-700 years.

Here are some sample questions and answers from a previous exam so you’d know what to expect:

samples from AP European History exam samples from AP European History exam samples from AP European History exam samples from AP European History exam samples from AP European History exam

Tackling the Free-Response Section

To tackle the free-response section of the AP European History exam, follow these tips:

  • Manage your time: Monitor your time carefully to ensure that you have enough time to answer all the questions. If you reach the end of the test with time to spare, go back and review your essays.
  • Plan your responses: Before writing, outline your thoughts and organize your ideas for a few minutes. This will help you stay focused and include all the necessary information in your response.
  • Pay attention to the task verbs: The task verbs used in the prompts direct you to complete a specific type of response, such as comparing, describing, or evaluating. Ensure you understand what each verb asks you to do and tailor your response accordingly.
  • Use evidence from your studies: Incorporate specific examples and evidence from your studies to support your arguments and analysis. This will demonstrate your knowledge of the subject matter and help you earn more points.
  • Follow a clear and organized structure: Start your essay with an introduction that ends with a clearly stated thesis. Then, use paragraphs to develop your arguments and provide supporting evidence. Finally, end your essay with a conclusion summarizing your main points and restating your thesis.
  • Practice with past exam questions: Answering free-response questions from previous AP European History exams is a great way to practice and familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions you may encounter. Review the scoring guidelines for these questions to understand how your responses will be evaluated.

AP European History Exam Scoring Breakdown

The AP European History exam is scored on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. The scoring breakdown is as follows:

  1. Multiple-Choice Questions: 40%
  2. Document-Based Question (DBQ): 20%
  3. Long Essay Question (LEQ): 15%
  4. Short Answer Questions (SAQs): 25%

To earn a top score on the exam, performing well in each section and demonstrating a deep understanding of the subject matter is essential.

The multiple-choice section of the AP European History exam consists of 55 questions that assess a student’s knowledge of European history from the Renaissance to the present day. These questions require students to analyze primary and secondary sources, identify historical trends, and make connections between different events and concepts. Students must fully grasp the major themes and developments in European history to excel in this section.

The document-based question (DBQ) is a central component of the AP European History exam. In this section, students are presented with a historical question and a set of primary and secondary sources. They must analyze these sources and construct an argument responding to the question. The DBQ assesses students’ ability to analyze and interpret historical documents, evaluate different perspectives, and support their arguments with evidence. It requires critical thinking skills and a deep understanding of the historical context.

The long essay question (LEQ) is another crucial part of the exam. Students are given a choice of three essay prompts and must write an essay that develops an argument and supports it with evidence from the course material. The LEQ assesses a student’s ability to construct a coherent and persuasive argument, analyze historical evidence, and demonstrate knowledge of specific historical events and developments. It is an opportunity for students to showcase their writing skills and historical understanding.

The exam’s short answer questions (SAQs) section consists of four questions requiring students to provide concise and focused responses. These questions assess a student’s knowledge of historical events, concepts, and developments. Students must accurately demonstrate their information recall and provide clear and concise explanations. The SAQs require students to think quickly and effectively communicate their understanding of the subject matter.

Topics Covered in the AP European History Exam

The AP European History exam covers several topics spanning several centuries. It delves into the rich tapestry of European history, exploring the triumphs and challenges that have shaped the continent. By studying these topics, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the political, social, economic, and cultural developments that have influenced Europe throughout history.

One of the key topics covered in the exam is the Renaissance and Reformation. This period marked a significant shift in European thought and culture, with a renewed interest in art, literature, and science. Students will explore the works of influential figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Martin Luther and analyze the impact of their ideas on European society.

The Age of Exploration and Expansion is another crucial topic. During this era, European nations embarked on voyages of discovery, exploring new lands and establishing colonies worldwide. Students will examine the motivations behind these expeditions, the encounters with indigenous peoples, and the consequences of European expansion on the colonizers and the colonized.

The Enlightenment, often called the “Age of Reason,” is a period of intellectual and philosophical growth that will be explored in depth. Students will study the ideas of influential thinkers such as John Locke, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and analyze how these ideas shaped political and social thought in Europe.

The French Revolution and Napoleon are also critical topics covered in the exam. Students will examine the causes and consequences of the revolution, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the impact of these events on European politics and society. They will delve into the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity that emerged during this period and analyze their lasting legacy.

The Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid industrialization and technological advancement, is another crucial topic. Students will explore the social and economic changes brought about by the rise of factories and the mass production of goods. They will analyze the impact of industrialization on the working class, urbanization, and the emergence of new social and political ideologies.

Nationalism and Imperialism are also significant topics covered in the exam. Students will examine the rise of nation-states, the quest for national identity, the scramble for colonies, and the exploitation of resources in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They will analyze the consequences of imperialism on both the colonizers and the colonized and the role it played in shaping European power dynamics.

The World Wars and the Cold War are pivotal moments in European history that will be explored in detail. Students will study the causes and consequences of World War I and World War II and analyze the ideological and political struggles that defined the Cold War era. They will examine the impact of these conflicts on European society, politics, and global relations.

European Integration and Post-War Europe is the final topic covered in the exam. Students will explore the European integration process, from establishing the European Union to the challenges and benefits of a united Europe. They will analyze the impact of the European Union on member states and the evolving dynamics of European politics and identity in the post-war era.

These topics, while diverse, are interconnected and provide a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and nuances of European history. By studying these themes, students gain a deeper appreciation for the forces that have shaped Europe and the world as we know it today.

Unit Exam Weighting
Unit 1: Renaissance and Exploration 10%–15%
Unit 2: Age of Reformation 10%–15%
Unit 3: Absolutism and Constitutionalism 10%–15%
Unit 4: Scientific, Philosophical, and Political Developments 10%–15%
Unit 5: Conflict, Crisis, and Reaction in the Late 18th Century 10%–15%
Unit 6: Industrialization and Its Effects 10%–15%
Unit 7: 19th-Century Perspectives and Political Developments 10%–15%
Unit 8: 20th-Century Global Conflicts 10%–15%
Unit 9: Cold War and Contemporary Europe 10%–15%

The AP European History course and exam description provide a framework that outlines specific skills for students to practice throughout the year. These skills are designed to help students learn how to think and act like historians:

Skill Description
1. Developments and Processes Identify and explain historical developments and processes.
2. Sourcing and Situation Analyze sourcing and situation of primary and secondary sources.
3. Claims and Evidence in Sources Analyze arguments in primary and secondary sources.
4. Contextualization Analyze the context of historical events, developments, or processes.
5. Making Connections Using historical reasoning processes (comparison, causation, continuity, and change), analyze patterns and connections between and among historical developments and processes.
6. Argumentation Develop an argument.

How hard is the AP European History Exam?

The difficulty of the AP European History exam is subjective and can vary from student to student. However, many students and experts consider it to be a challenging exam. Here are some factors that contribute to its difficulty:

  • Reading and Analytical Skills: AP European History requires strong reading, analytical, and composition skills. Students are expected to critically analyze historical events and develop a deep understanding of the past.
  • Writing Skills: Students need to learn how to write Short Answer Questions (SAQs), Long Essay Questions (LEQs), and Document-Based Questions (DBQs) effectively. The multiple-choice section of the exam can be challenging due to the limited time given to answer the questions.
  • Course Material: The course covers over 550 years of European history, which can overwhelm some students. However, as students learn more about the subject, they can identify connections and themes, which are the most critical takeaways from the course in preparation for the AP exam.
  • Passing Score: To pass the AP European History exam, students must score 3 or higher. While this may seem achievable, many colleges require a score of 4 or higher for students to receive credit toward their degree.
  • Comparison to Other AP History Exams: AP European History and AP US History are considered among the hardest AP classes, and many students find the exams in both courses challenging. The difficulty between the two exams depends on individual factors.

Despite its difficulty, AP European History is not impossible to pass. Many students have found the course manageable and enjoyable with consistent study, suitable methods, and an excellent big-picture overview.

How to study for the AP European History Exam

There are great ways to prepare yourself when scoring the elusive 5 out of 5 on the AP European History Exam. Of course, doing well in an AP exam is based on more than just mastering the material. It is also crucial to master the actual format of the AP Euro History exam.

To do that, there are some great ways to ensure you will get the most out of it. Here are the significant steps that you can take to maximize the chances you have at success.

Analyze your skills and knowledge

Before you begin studying for the AP European History Exam, you will want to sit down and take a sample test to get a good idea of your mastery of the material. You can use several valuable resources to test yourself and see where you stand.

Another great thing to consider is to take a practice exam and use it as a learning experience. After you have completed the exam, put your exam and the sample answers side-by-side and see where you are at your most vital and where you are at your weakest.

Study the material

As you well know, the AP European History Exam will test a student’s ability to not only memorize the significant events in European history but also test the student’s ability to analyze information in many different forms to form novel arguments and points of view.

There are a few fantastic ways to improve your chances of success. Some of the best tips deal with how students choose to approach and study the material related to the AP European History Exam, and those are as follows:

  • Think analytically as much as possible: One of the best ways to prepare for a better understanding of the material for the AP European History Exam is to find your inner historian and think like one, too. Strengthen your ability to analyze the primary and secondary sources, making comparisons across history and chronological reasons and sharpening your ability to develop an argument.
  • Refer to the most popular study guides: One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the content that you want to improve your knowledge and understanding of is to take advantage of some of the best study guides and booklets that are focused on mastering the topics related to the AP European History Exam. You can choose from several excellent options, so make sure you research to find out which study guides will help you improve the aspects of the exam that you are looking to work on.
  • Take advantage of available online resources and apps: As the world continues to shift online, AP exams have followed, and there is a fantastic option that you can utilize online. You can even use a free smartphone application to study for the AP European History Exam while on the go.

Practice the format of the exam

As previously mentioned, one of the most important parts of mastering the AP European History Exam is understanding the material and memorizing essential dates, names, periods, eras, facts, and more. It is also necessary to remember the exam format so that when the exam day arrives, your mind will be ready to tackle the arduous task of the over-three-hour-long exam.

Find a few grand and up-to-date resources to take multiple-choice and free-response questions you could encounter in the exam.

Take a timed practice test

As the day of the AP European History Exam arrives, you are going to want to not only take practice exams in their entirety; you are also going to want to make sure that you are timing yourself when you take the test exams just as you will be timed during the day of the actual exam.

After you take these timed practice exams at home, make sure that you go back to your answers and the solutions that are offered in the practice exam so that you can learn from the mistakes that you have made to increase the chances of success when the day of the actual AP Euro History exam comes.

While taking practice exams is very important, one thing to remember is that as the exam day approaches, and we’re talking a few days away, it is time to start giving the major preparations a bit of a break. At this point, you must trust that you have prepared as best you can and focus on providing your brain the rest and fuel it needs to succeed.

Test-Taking Tips for the Day of the Exam

On the day of the AP European History exam, it is essential to stay calm and focused. Here are some tips to help you perform your best:

  • Get a good night’s sleep: Ensure you are well-rested and energized for the exam.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast: Fuel your brain with a healthy meal before the exam.
  • Arrive early: Give yourself plenty of time to locate your exam room and get settled.
  • Read the instructions carefully: Pay close attention to the instructions for each exam section to avoid any mistakes.
  • Manage your time wisely: Pace yourself during the exam to ensure enough time to answer all the questions.
  • Stay positive and focused: Maintain a positive mindset and concentrate on the task.

When is the AP European History Exam in 2024?

The AP European History Exam 2024 will be held on Friday, May 10, 2024, at 8 AM local time. The exam will be a full-length paper-and-pencil exam, lasting 3 hours and 15 minutes. For a complete list of the 2024 AP Exam dates, here’s a full list:

Week 1 Morning 8 a.m.

Local Time

Afternoon 12 p.m.

Local Time

Monday,

May 6, 2024

United States Government and Politics Art History

Chemistry

Tuesday,

May 7, 2024

Human Geography

Microeconomics

Seminar

Statistics

Wednesday,

May 8, 2024

English Literature and Composition Comparative Government and Politics

Computer Science A

Thursday,

May 9, 2024

Chinese Language and Culture

Environmental Science

Psychology
Friday,

May 10, 2024

European History

United States History

Macroeconomics

Spanish Literature and Culture

Art and Design: Friday, May 10, 2024 (8 p.m. ET), is the deadline for AP Art and Design students to submit their three portfolio components as final in the AP Digital Portfolio.
Week 2 Morning 8 a.m.

Local Time

Afternoon 12 p.m.

Local Time

Afternoon 2 p.m.

Local Time

Monday,

May 13, 2024

Calculus AB

Calculus BC

Italian Language and Culture

Precalculus

Tuesday,

May 14, 2024

English Language and Composition African American Studies

Physics C: Mechanics

Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
Wednesday,

May 15, 2024

French Language and Culture

World History: Modern

Computer Science Principles

Music Theory

Thursday,

May 16, 2024

Spanish Language and Culture Biology

Japanese Language and Culture

Friday,

May 17, 2024

German Language and Culture

Physics 1: Algebra-Based

Latin

Physics 2: Algebra-Based

When do AP scores come out?

AP scores are typically released in early to mid-July of the year the exams were taken. The exact release date may vary slightly from year to year, but students who took their AP exams in May can generally expect their scores to become available.

You can check for updates on the College Board’s official AP scores website if you are waiting for your AP scores. They will also email you when your scores are added to your score report. If you haven’t received your scores by mid-August, contacting AP Services for Students is recommended for assistance.

Post-Exam Tips

Once the AP European History exam is over, it is essential to reflect on your performance and take steps to develop your understanding of European history further. Here are some post-exam tips:

  • Review your answers: Take some time to review your exam answers and identify areas for improvement.
  • Seek feedback: If possible, request feedback from your teacher or exam proctor to gain insights into your performance.
  • Continue learning: European history is a rich and complex subject, so continue exploring it through books, documentaries, and online resources.
  • Stay engaged in current events: Connecting historical events and current affairs will deepen your understanding of the subject.

Incorporating these post-exam tips into your learning journey can build upon your knowledge and enhance your understanding of European history.

Conclusion

Preparing for and succeeding on the AP European History exam requires dedication, hard work, and a solid understanding of the subject matter. The tips outlined in this guide will equip you to ace the exam and reap its benefits. Remember, effective studying and innovative test-taking strategies will set you on the path to success. Best of luck on your AP European History journey!

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