What Is AP World History? A Comprehensive Guide

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

AP World History Logo

What Is AP World History? A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in studying world history, the Advanced Placement (AP) World History course is an excellent option for high school students. This comprehensive guide will give you an overview of what the course entails and why it’s an important subject to study.

Why Study AP World History?

Studying AP World History has many benefits. One of the primary reasons to study the subject is to gain a deeper understanding of how different historical events, societies, and cultures have shaped the world we live in today. Additionally, studying AP World History can improve critical thinking and research skills, and help students to develop a better understanding of how to analyze and evaluate complex information.

Furthermore, studying AP World History can also provide students with a global perspective and a greater appreciation for diversity. By learning about the histories and cultures of different regions, students can develop empathy and understanding for people from different backgrounds. This can be especially important in today’s interconnected world, where understanding and respecting different cultures is essential for success in many fields, including business, politics, and diplomacy.

AP World History Logo

The Evolution of AP World History: A Brief History

AP World History has changed over the years since it was first introduced by the College Board in 2002. Originally, the course was focused on world history from 8000 BCE to the present day. In 2019, the College Board revised the course and exam to focus more on the period from 1200 CE to the present, while still incorporating events and concepts from earlier periods.

The changes to AP World History were made in response to feedback from educators and students, who felt that the previous version of the course was too broad and difficult to cover in one academic year. The revised course now allows for a more in-depth exploration of key historical events and themes, such as the rise of global trade networks, the spread of religions, and the impact of colonialism and imperialism. Additionally, the new exam format includes more short-answer questions and fewer multiple-choice questions, which better assesses students’ critical thinking and analytical skills.

Understanding the AP World History Exam: Format & Content

The AP World History exam tests students on their knowledge of historical events, concepts, and themes. The exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice and essay. The multiple-choice section consists of 55 questions, while the essay section requires students to write three essays based on prompts provided by the College Board.

It is important for students to prepare for the AP World History exam by studying a variety of historical periods and civilizations. The exam covers topics ranging from ancient civilizations, such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, to modern events, such as the Cold War and globalization. In addition to studying content, students should also practice their essay writing skills and time management strategies to ensure they can effectively complete the exam within the allotted time frame.

AP European History Exam

How to Prepare for the AP World History Exam: Tips & Strategies

Preparing for the AP World History exam requires dedication and hard work. Some tips and strategies include reviewing the course material regularly, practicing multiple-choice and essay questions, and creating study guides or flashcards that cover the most important information.

Another important strategy for preparing for the AP World History exam is to participate in study groups or review sessions with classmates or a tutor. This can help you to better understand the material and gain new insights from others. Additionally, taking practice exams under timed conditions can help you to build your test-taking skills and improve your ability to manage your time during the actual exam.

It is also important to take care of your physical and mental health during the exam preparation period. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly. Taking breaks and engaging in stress-reducing activities such as meditation or yoga can also help you to stay focused and calm during the exam.

AP World History Course Overview: Themes & Concepts

The AP World History course covers six major themes that provide a framework for understanding world history. These themes include globalizing networks, industrialization and global capitalism, nationalism, imperialism and colonialism, decolonization and nationalism, and the globalization of culture.

One of the key concepts covered in the AP World History course is the idea of cultural diffusion. This refers to the spread of cultural beliefs, practices, and technologies from one society to another. Throughout history, cultural diffusion has played a significant role in shaping the development of different civilizations and regions.

Another important theme covered in the course is the impact of religion on world history. From the spread of Christianity and Islam to the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism, religion has played a major role in shaping the beliefs, values, and practices of societies around the world.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Major Historical Periods Covered in AP World History

The AP World History course covers several major historical periods, including the classical period (600 BCE to 600 CE), the post-classical period (600 CE to 1450 CE), the early modern period (1450 CE to 1750 CE), the modern period (1750 CE to 1900 CE), and the contemporary period (1900 CE to present day).

Within each of these major historical periods, AP World History also covers specific events, movements, and themes that shaped the world during that time. For example, during the classical period, students will learn about the rise and fall of empires such as Rome and Han China, the development of major religions like Buddhism and Christianity, and the growth of trade networks like the Silk Road. In the post-classical period, students will study the spread of Islam, the rise of feudalism in Europe, and the impact of the Mongol Empire. The early modern period covers topics such as the Age of Exploration, the Scientific Revolution, and the Atlantic slave trade. The modern period includes the Industrial Revolution, imperialism, and World War I and II. Finally, the contemporary period covers topics such as the Cold War, globalization, and the rise of technology.

Key Figures in AP World History

There are numerous important figures in AP World History spanning different eras and regions. Some of the most well-known figures include the philosopher Confucius, the warrior queen Cleopatra, and the political leader Nelson Mandela. These figures and their actions provide insight into the cultural, social, and political context of different periods.

Another important figure in AP World History is the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang. He is known for unifying China and creating the first centralized government in the world. His reign also saw the construction of the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army.

In the Islamic world, the scholar and philosopher Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes, made significant contributions to the fields of medicine, law, and philosophy. His works were influential in both the Islamic and European worlds, and he is considered one of the most important thinkers of the medieval period.

map of europe

The Role of Geography in AP World History

Geography plays a crucial role in understanding AP World History. It influences the distribution of resources, migration patterns, and trade routes, among other factors. Understanding geography is essential to understanding how societies have developed over time, and how different societies have interacted with one another.

One example of how geography has influenced AP World History is the development of civilizations along major river systems such as the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, and the Yellow River. These river systems provided fertile land for agriculture, which allowed for the growth of complex societies and the development of early civilizations.

In addition, geography has also played a role in shaping the outcomes of wars and conflicts throughout history. For example, the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan has made it difficult for invading armies to conquer and control the region, leading to a long history of resistance against foreign powers.

How to Succeed in the AP World History Course

To succeed in AP World History, students need to be dedicated, committed, and willing to put in the work. It’s important to stay organized, attend class regularly, participate in discussions, and complete all assignments on time. Additionally, seeking help when needed, whether from teachers, tutors, or classmates, can provide valuable support and assistance.

Another important aspect of succeeding in AP World History is to actively engage with the material. This means not only reading the assigned texts, but also taking notes, asking questions, and making connections between different concepts and themes. It can also be helpful to supplement class materials with additional resources, such as documentaries, podcasts, or online articles, to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. By actively engaging with the material, students can develop a stronger grasp of the content and be better prepared for exams and assignments.

AP United States History

Comparing AP World History with Other Social Studies Courses

AP World History is just one of several social studies courses available to high school students. Other courses include US History, European History, and Comparative Government and Politics. Comparing and contrasting these courses can provide insight into the unique features and benefits of each subject, and can help students make an informed decision about which course best fits their interests and goals.

While US History focuses primarily on the history of the United States, AP World History takes a global perspective, covering the history of civilizations from all over the world. European History, on the other hand, focuses specifically on the history of Europe. Comparative Government and Politics explores the different forms of government and political systems around the world. Each course offers a unique perspective and set of skills that can be valuable for students pursuing different career paths or interests.

Careers and Opportunities for Students of AP World History

AP World History can open doors to a variety of careers and opportunities. Some potential career paths include historians, archivists, professors, and writers. Additionally, students who excel in AP World History may be eligible for scholarships or other academic opportunities.

Overall, AP World History is a comprehensive course that provides students with a thorough understanding of world history and its impact on society today. By studying this subject, students can develop critical thinking skills, improve research abilities, and gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse cultures and societies of our world.

Furthermore, students who take AP World History may also have the opportunity to participate in study abroad programs or internships that focus on global issues. These experiences can provide valuable hands-on learning opportunities and help students develop a global perspective that is highly valued in today’s job market.

Another potential career path for students of AP World History is in international relations or diplomacy. The knowledge and understanding gained from studying world history can be applied to careers in government, non-profit organizations, or international businesses that require a deep understanding of global issues and cultures.


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