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The AP United States History Exam

AP U.S. History Updates

The 2015 edition of the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description (.pdf/1.58MB) (CED) and updated AP history rubrics are now available. For more information, visit the AP U.S. History course page.

Exam Overview


The AP Exam questions measure students’ knowledge of U.S. history and their ability to think historically. Questions are based on key and supporting concepts, course themes, and historical thinking skills.

The U.S. History Course and Exam Description (.pdf/1.83MB) provides details about the exam. Information about the rubrics, which have been updated for the May 2016 exam, is now included in a separate AP history rubrics document (.pdf/555KB). To learn more about the rubrics and historical thinking skills changes, watch this narrated presentation.

Format of Assessment

Section I - Part A: Multiple Choice | 55 Questions | 55 Minutes | 40% of Exam Score

  • Questions appear in sets of 2-5.
  • Students analyze historical texts, interpretations, and evidence.
  • Primary and secondary sources, images, graphs, and maps are included.

Section I - Part B: Short Answer | 4 Questions | 50 Minutes | 20% of Exam Score

  • Questions provide opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know best.
  • Some questions include texts, images, graphs, or maps.

Section II - Part A: Document Based | 1 Question | 55 Minutes | 25% of Exam Score

  • Analyze and synthesize historical data.
  • Assess written, quantitative, or visual materials as historical evidence.

Section II - Part B: Long Essay | 1 Question | 35 Minutes | 15% of Exam Score

  • Students select one question among two.
  • Explain and analyze significant issues in U.S. history.
  • Develop an argument supported by an analysis of historical evidence.

Multiple-Choice Questions

For sample multiple-choice questions, refer to the Course and Exam Description (.pdf/891KB).

Free-Response Questions

If you require an accessible version of any documents on this page, please e-mail Accessibility@collegeboard.org. We will respond to your e-mail within 3 business days.

Free-Response Questions 2015

Updated Samples and Commentary for 2015 Free-Response Questions

The sample response PDFs in this section were updated to reflect changes to the rubrics that will take effect with the 2016 AP U.S. History Exam.

Samples, Scoring Guidelines, and Commentary

Introduction and Preface
Short Answer Question 1
Short Answer Question 2
Short Answer Question 3
Document-Based Question 1
Long Essay Question 2
Long Essay Question 3

2015: Free-Response Questions

The sample responses, scoring guidelines, and commentary below do not reflect the changes to the rubrics that will take effect with the 2016 exam. Updated versions reflecting these changes are available above.

Questions Scoring Samples and Commentary Score Distributions
Free-Response Questions

Scoring Guidelines— used on the 2015 exam

Student Performance Q&A

Scoring Statistics
Short Answer Sample Responses Q1
Short Answer Sample Responses Q2
Short Answer Sample Responses Q3
Short Answer Sample Responses Q4

Sample Responses Q1
Sample Responses Q2
Sample Responses Q3
Score Distributions

Past Free-Response Questions

The College Board provides free-response questions from past AP U.S. History Exams. These questions do not reflect the content, scope, or design specifications of the redesigned AP U.S. History Exam, which was administered for the first time in May 2015. Included with the questions are scoring guidelines, sample student responses, and commentary on those responses, as well as exam statistics and the Student Performance Q&A (Chief Reader's Report) for the May 2014 administrations and before.

More About U.S. History

See Also...

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