Mastering the AP World History Exam

November 11, 2020
By AdmissionSight

Mastering the AP World History Exam

When it comes to AP courses and exams such as the AP World History Exam, there are many fantastic reasons for students to invest their time and energy in enrolling and succeeding in them! AP courses are a way for high schoolers to expand their knowledge on topics that they are passionate about, and it is a way to improve their GPA and chances at admission at many of the country’s top colleges or universities.

Here at AdmissionSight, we are committed to helping all high school students succeed, which is why we have spent a lot of time breaking down each and every AP course and exam in our blog. When it comes to the AP World History Exam, there is a lot of great material that high school students can take a look at to get a better idea of whether or not it is the right course and exam for them.

Before we do that, however, let’s break down three of the primary reasons why high school students continue to take advantage of all that AP courses and exams offer.

Why high schoolers take AP courses

AP courses have been developed by the College Board specifically to help advanced high school students prepare for their coming years at university. For those reasons, AP courses closely replicate intro college courses of the same topic.

Here are three major reasons why high schoolers should consider taking an AP course:

  1. College admission officers love seeing AP courses on college applications: The reason why college admissions officers often look for AP courses on a high school student’s transcript is that merely taking the course can say quite a lot about a student. First off, it tells admissions officers that a student is looking to dive deep into a tough subject by signing up for an AP course. On top of that, it also proves that students are capable of dealing with the high course load and pressures of a typical college course. AP courses help students gain acceptance to even the most challenging of schools.
  2. AP courses enable high school students to earn college credits and placement: One of the top benefits of taking and excelling in an AP course is that score of 3 and higher can actually help high school students get a head start on their college education and degrees. It varies from university to university, but students who are able to score a passing grade on an AP exam are eligible to earn credits and/or placement at a college or university. Of course, colleges have different policies regarding how much credit a high school can earn through AP exams, so it Important to check the policy of a given school if that is indeed the school of your dreams.
  3. AP courses allow students to dive deep into a topic they are passionate about: In college, students are able to handpick which classes they take and what major or majors they pursue. That means that they get the chance to dive deeply into topics that excited and engage them. AP courses are a great way to take advantage of that same ability while still in high school. Some AP courses are quite challenging and advanced, but if a student is especially interested in the topic that AP course covers, then that is likely exactly what they are looking for!

About the AP World History Exam

The AP World History Exam is one of the most popular exams for high schoolers to take, with over 300,000 students taking the AP World History Exam last year alone.

One thing that is important to mention before we continue going over the AP World History Exam is that the 2019-20 school year was the first year in which the College Board changed the format of the exam for this course. The exam is now formally known as the AP World History: Modern exam, with a still unreleased course, still being created that, will cover ancient history. Because of this change, the new AP World History Exam will only cover history from the year 1200 AD and onward. For that reason, when you are studying material using practice exams and past real exams, make sure that you only focus on questions that deal with information from the year 1200 and onward.

When it comes to your chances of gaining that coveted perfect 5 out of 5 scores on the exam, it is important for you to know that this is one of the toughest exams offered for students who want to take AP courses.

While over 55 per cent of students who took the exam last year got a 3 out of 5 or higher, well under 10 per cent of students who took the exam. Here is the breakdown of the scoring from last year’s exam:

Breakdown of scoring of AP exam

Overall, the only AP exams that have fewer students scoring a perfect 5 out of 5 are Physics I, English Literature, Italian Language and Seminar.

About the AP World History Course

While students can of course self-study for the AP World History Exam just like they can for all other AP exams, the difficulty of the exam makes the course quite popular with high school students.

In the course, students will get the chance to learn about the events, individuals, technological developments and processes that helped shape the history of the world from the year 1200 AD to the present. Not only that, but students will also get the chance the develop their ability to critically understand and analyze historical sources in order to develop historical arguments. Students will do this by fine-tuning their historical thinking skills to gain success in the course and on the exam. These include the following:

  • Developments and processes: Identifying and explain historical developments and processes.
  • Sources and situation: Analyzing primary and secondary sources.
  • Claims and evidence in sources: Understanding arguments in primary and secondary sources.
  • Contextualization: Seeing the bigger picture of historical events, developments, or processes.
  • Making Connections: Using comparison, causation, continuity and chance to analyze patterns and connections between historical developments and processes.
  • Argumentation: Developing a sound argument and clear thesis based on sources and other outside knowledge.

On top of that, students will also explore six primary themes of the course which will help them understand specific facts and events as well as overarching themes that bind the information that they will learn in the course together.

  • Humans and the environment: Students will learn how the environment has shaped human societies and how human societies have shaped their environment.
  • Cultural developments and interactions: ideas, beliefs, and religions illustrate a group’s self -perception, along with influencing political social and cultural life.
  • Governance: the creation and destruction of States and the workings of government.
  • Economic systems: the way in which societies create, exchange, and consume goods and services.
  • Social interactions and organization: societal grouping and the influence is that interactions between two or more groups have on politics, economics, and cultural institutions.
  • technology and innovation: the intended and unintended consequences of human adaptation and innovation.

Beyond what we just went over, there are nine total units in which the AP World History course is broken into. Below is a common structure in which the course is presented as well as the range of percentage that each unit may take upon the AP World History Exam:

Unit of Exam score of AP History

About the AP World History Exam

When it comes to mastering any AP course an exam, the best way to approach it is actually quite similar to the best way to approach standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. What that means, is that students want to not only study the information and subject matter that they will face on the exam, they also want to study and prepare for the format of the exam itself.

Here at AdmissionSight, we know that our job is to help high schoolers who want to get ahead succeed in any way possible. For that reason, we have broken down the specifics of the AP World History Exam so that you can know what kind of exam to expect before you even enrol in the class.

When it comes to the exam itself, it is one of the longer AP exams that high school students can take. It clocks in at a fairly astounding three hours and 15 minutes total. Within that time, students will tackle the information that they have learned in the course in three different sections that make up the total score of an exam. the first section is multiple choice. The second section on the exam is the short answer. And the final section for the AP World History Exam is the challenging free-response long essay known as well as a DBQ or document-based question.

Let’s go over what you can expect in all of these sections.

Multiple Choice

The first section of the exam is a multiple-choice section that contains 55 total multiple-choice questions and accounts for 40 per cent of a student’s total score on the exam. these questions are supposed to test a student’s ability she’ll analyze and interpret historical texts and evidence.

Examples of questions that students may face on the exam are below:

Sample question of exam

Short Answer

The next section of the exam Is the short answer section, which students are given 40 minutes to complete, in which accounts for 20% of a student’s final score. In this section, students will be expected to answer three different questions. The format of each question is as follows:

  1. the first short answer question will focus on a historical process and development that occurred between the years 1200 and 2001. Students will be able to call on one included secondary source.
  2. the second short answer question is still aimed at the same time frame (the years 1200 to 2001) but includes one primary source.
  3. the final short answer question gives students the option to answer one of two different prompts. The first prompt is focused on historical development and processes from the year 1200 to the year 1750. The second prompt is focused on historical developments and processes from 1750 to 2001. Students will not be given source material for either question and will be expected to call upon. information and facts that they have learned through the course to make their argument and defend their claim.

Examples of a question that students may face on the exam are below:

Sample Question of Exam

Sample Question of Exam

Sample Question of Exam

Free Response

The third and final section of the AP World History Exam is a free-response section that students will have one hour and 40 minutes to complete and accounts for 40 per cent of the exam’s total score.

in this section, students will be expected to answer 2 questions. Students will receive one hour (including 15 minutes of reading time) to complete the data-based question otherwise known as the DBQ. This DBQ accounts for 25 per cent of the total score of the exam. As for the long essay, students will be given two choices of prompts of which they must choose one to complete but the remaining 40 minutes left on the exam. This long essay accounts for 15 per cent of the total score of the exam.

When it comes to understanding the specifics of the DBQ, it is actually quite simple. Students will be provided with seven documents of various perspectives of historical development or process between the years 1450 and 2001. From there, students will be asked to assess the sources in order to develop an argument that is supported by an analysis of the historical evidence.

A few examples of sources that students may encounter while writing their DBQ are below:

silk factory

sample free question

For the long essay, students will get the choice to write about historical developments from one of three different time periods (1200 to 1750, 1450 to 1900 and 1750 to 2001) and must be able to demonstrate historical thinking skills such as causation, continuity, comparison and change.

An example of a long essay question that students may face on the exam is below:

Essay question on AP History

The Best Way to Prepare for the AP World History Exam

Here at AdmissionSight, we have made it our jobs to help high school students all over the country succeed in every way they can so that they can get into the college or university of their dreams. Part of finding success in that goal may very well be based on their ability to study and prepare for AP exams. For that reason, we want to break down the very best way to prepare for this, and any other, AP exam.

Here is how to best prepare for the AP World History Exam:

Analyze your knowledge and ability

The very first step to preparing for the AP World History Exam is to take a sample exam that you can either find online or in one of the many great study guides for sale. while you do not have to time yourself during this first practice exam, make sure that you do take the time to cross-check your answers with the answers that are provided. This will not only serve as a learning opportunity for you, but it will also help you identify the areas in which you need to pay special attention to if you want to score that perfect 5 out of 5.

Study the material

The next step to preparing the exam will be to study the material. This will be especially helpful after you take your practice exam and identify the areas in which you need to improve most. All memorizing important periods, events, people and more is very important, you will also want to make sure that you have total mastery over the six themes of the class. Those include:

  • developments and processes
  • sourcing and situation
  • claims and evidence and sources
  • contextualization
  • making connections
  • argumentation

Some of the best ways to learn the material for this exam includes purchasing one of the many fantastic study guides, working with the teacher that taught the course at your school, or forming a study group with some of your fellow classmates and friends who are also looking to ace the exam.

Practice questions

Once you feel comfortable with the material that will be covered on the exam, it is time to gain mastery all of the kinds of questions that you may face on the day of the actual exam. This means that you will want to spend quite a lot of time studying multiple choice questions, short answer questions as well as the long answer and document-based questions. the more sample questions you are able to face the more likely you will be able to answer the real questions that you face on the actual exam.

Take timed practice exams

The very final step to preparing for the AP World History Exam is to take fully timed practice exams. It is important that your mind is prepared for the arduous task of the long exam. It is also imperative that you know what it feels like to answer all of the questions at hand within the time that is given to you. Quite simply, the only way to achieve both of those things is to take as many full practice exams as possible within the actual time that you will be given on the day of the exam.

Remember, as the actual day of the exam approaches, it is important to put away your practice exams and study material and give your brain the rest it needs to perform its best on the day of the actual exam.

Good luck!






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