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AP U.S. History Course and Exam Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why did the College Board redesign AP U.S. History?

AP U.S. History teachers were the major motivating factor in the course redesign process that the College Board began in 2006. Many AP teachers expressed frustration that the previous course did not provide sufficient time to immerse students in the major ideas, events, people, and documents of U.S. history, and that they were instead required to race through topics. The redesign was aimed at addressing this concern, resulting in a course framework that teachers and students began using in fall 2014.

Q: Why was the AP U.S. History CED updated in 2015?

The 2014 edition of the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description (CED) sparked significant public conversations among students, educators, historians, policymakers, and others about the teaching of U.S. history. The College Board gathered feedback over the past year — including through a public review period — and on July 30, 2015, released a new edition of the CED that includes improvement to the language and structure of the course.

Q: Who provided feedback?

We heard from and engaged with a wide range of stakeholders over the past year as part of our public review process. Teachers and historians, parents and students, and other concerned citizens and public officials from across the country all provided feedback.

The College Board used the thoughtful feedback gathered to inform the 2015 edition. Every statement in the 2015 edition has been examined with great care based on the historical record and the principled feedback we received over the past year.

Q: What are the main changes in the 2015 edition?

In response to feedback from teachers about the 2014 edition, the structure of the CED has been improved in the 2015 edition to better serve teachers as they move through the course. Key updates include:

  • The concept outline has been reformatted to be easier for teachers to use. Learning objectives are now printed alongside the corresponding content in the outline, and more blank space makes it easier for teachers to write in examples of the historical individuals, events, topics, or sources they use in their classrooms.
  • The 2015 edition streamlines and consolidates the learning objectives from 50 to just 19, making them broader in focus and ultimately more useful for teachers in structuring their courses.
  • Content at all levels (Key Concept, Roman numeral, and A-B-C levels) has been refined and clarified. The degree of change varies across different components of the outline.
    • Statements are clearer and more historically precise, written with particular attention to clarity and balance.
    • Some key individuals (such as James Madison, Jane Addams, and Martin Luther King Jr.) and documents (such as the Gettysburg Address and the Federalist Papers) are now explicitly mentioned.
  • A new section — AP U.S. History Instructional Approaches — provides recommendations and optional examples for teachers on how to implement the curriculum framework in practical ways in the classroom.
  • Rubrics for the document-based question and long essay question have been updated in a new AP history rubrics (.pdf/555KB) document. To align with the changes to the rubrics, minor adjustments have been made to the language of the historical thinking skills, which are now presented in an easier-to-read table layout.

Q: How will the 2015 edition affect teachers?

Teachers will begin using the 2015 edition of the CED in their classrooms for the 2015-16 school year.

  • The changes will not require AP U.S. History teachers to submit any new materials for the AP Course Audit.
  • The College Board will be updating existing AP Course Audit resources to ensure alignment with the new curriculum framework. In the meantime, new teachers who have not yet received AP Course Audit authorization can use the existing sample syllabi and any samples of evidence from the syllabus development guide (available on the AP Course Audit website) to complete the AP Course Audit for 2015-16 authorization.
  • Updated AP Course Audit resources will be available in advance of the 2016-17 school year. Existing AP Course Audit Authorized courses will continue to remain valid.
  • A free print copy of the 2015 edition will be mailed to all AP U.S. History teachers this fall.

Q: Who developed the 2015 edition?

The 2015 edition was developed by the College Board in partnership with the AP United States History Development Committee. The Development Committee is comprised of expert U.S. history teachers and professors who together represent diverse areas of expertise within the field of U.S. history.

Q: How have existing publications and online AP U.S. History resources other than the CED been updated to reflect these changes?

Almost all print and web content aligns with the 2015 CED, but over the next few months we will make any needed edits to ensure perfect alignment between all print and web content, including the practice exam, and this year’s CED. In particular, these edits will address the reduction from 50 to 19 learning objectives. Online resources are available at the AP U.S. History course page.

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