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Home > AP Courses and Exams > AP Exam Information > AP U.S. History Course and Exam Frequently Asked Questions

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

We are thrilled to announce significant changes to the AP U.S. History course and exam. These changes focus on maintaining AP U.S. History's strong alignment with college credit requirements, while providing teachers with greater flexibility to focus on specific historical topics, events, and issues in depth.

These changes take effect in the 2014-15 academic year and with the May 2015 administration of the AP U.S. History Exam. College Board President and CEO David Coleman wrote a note discussing the changes to the new course. You can view that letter here.

General Questions

Who wrote the AP U.S. History framework?
The professors and teachers listed by name and institution on page v of the AP U.S. History framework (.pdf/2.2MB). Read an explanation of the framework from its authors in Education Week here.

When was the AP U.S. History framework written?
The framework was written, sent out for public review, and revised based on that feedback from 2007–2011.

Why did the College Board revise the AP U.S. History program?
The College Board does not make independent curricular decisions; instead, we are a membership organization comprised of 6,000 school districts and colleges/universities. The teachers and professors participating in the AP U.S. History program expressed strong concerns that the course required a breathless race through American history, preventing teachers and students from examining topics of local interest in depth, and sacrificing opportunities for students to engage in writing and research. The following table conveys the need for the AP U.S. History redesign project, and its successes:

American teachers' perspectives on AP U.S. History:

Survey Question Prior AP U.S. History Course Revised AP U.S. History Course
The course covers too many topics in not enough depth



The course has the right balance of breadth and depth



The course is appropriately paced



Can teachers align their AP U.S. History syllabi with their state standards?
Yes. While the course framework specifies some required topics and practices that college history departments mandate for granting credit, teachers and districts retain most of the discretion for selecting the texts and specific content for productive exploration of these topics with their students. This approach gives teachers the flexibility to meet existing state and local requirements for American history courses.

Does the new AP course framework sideline important events and figures in American history?
No. The course is designed to focus on an in-depth examination of American founding documents, the Constitution, and important leaders and citizens from American history. Far from sidelining important people and events, the new AP U.S. History course puts them at the center of a student's investigation of our nation's past. Prior to 2014, the AP U.S. History framework was a four-page document that listed a bare minimum of required content. The previous framework did not specify that students should study the writings and actions of specific Americans, nor did it specify that close examination of historical documents should be the focus of the course. In fact, the prior course did not require students to read the founding documents and it did not even mention the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights.

To illustrate this shift, the table below demonstrates a significant increase in focus on key American leaders and their work:

Required Reading In: "Old" Framework "New" Framework
Thomas Paine's Common Sense  

The Declaration of Independence  

The Articles of Confederation

The Constitution

The Bill of Rights  

George Washington's Farewell Address  

The Kansas-Nebraska Act

The Emancipation Proclamation  

The 13th Amendment  

The 14th Amendment  

The 15th Amendment  

Plessy v. Ferguson  

The Treaty of Versailles

Brown v. Board of Education  

The Civil Rights Act of 1964  

Note: the table above is not a complete listing of the documents that AP U.S. History teachers will use in their course; instead, it shows the baseline requirements from which the teacher develops a much more expansive list of readings.

Does the new AP U.S. History program usurp local control by mandating high school course content?
No. The College Board respects and supports local control over course and instruction, and the essential role of the individual teacher in effectively providing instruction that meets the needs of his or her own students. To that end, the AP U.S. History course seeks to strike a balance – specifying a limited number of events, figures, and texts that are an essential part of any college-level U.S. history course, while leaving broad teacher discretion in the development and selection of the materials and resources they will use to meet the content and rigor demands laid out in the course framework.

Is the AP U.S. History framework the only resource teachers have to guide their planning and instruction?
The AP U.S. History framework, while far more detailed than what teachers had in the past, is a guide for the construction of a comprehensive U.S. history curriculum by districts and teachers. In addition to the framework, teachers have access to the following resources:

  • A Curriculum Framework Evidence Planner that helps teachers customize the framework by specifying the historical content selected for student focus
  • Sets of secure sample exam questions — multiple-choice, short answer, and long essay questions — available through their AP Course Audit accounts
  • The Free-Response Performance System, featuring free online videos, practice questions, and student samples

For more information about other resources and professional development opportunities available to AP U.S. History teachers, visit AP U.S. History Professional Development, AP U.S. History Teacher Resources, and Tips for AP U.S. History Teachers.

Additionally, we will now release the full AP U.S. History Exam to teachers each summer, rather than only once every 58 years.

Does the AP U.S. History course present a balanced picture of American history?
Yes. Ensuring historical accuracy and balance was a primary concern in our development of the new AP U.S. History course and exam.

Feedback was also solicited from more than 400 AP teachers who worked to ensure that the course framework was flexible enough to allow them to meet their states' standards while also providing enough information to guide course development and instruction. In addition, 58 college and university U.S. history professors from both large state universities and smaller, liberal arts colleges reviewed each element of the framework to ensure the required content was essential for college credit, and to ensure that the framework provided teachers with the same flexibility college professors have to tailor course work to reflect priorities.

Of these external reviewers, 98 percent attested that the framework provided a balanced picture of U.S. history.

Within the document, there are requirements that students study examples of American heroism, courage, and innovation as well as opportunities to study events, incidents, or actions that did not achieve the ideals of our nation. These requirements were carefully identified by quantifying the topics that college survey courses nationwide demanded that students examine in order to qualify for credit and placement into a sophomore-level college history course.

While anyone can point to an isolated statement within the document as an example of a positive or negative depiction of a specific topic in American history, we ask reviewers to examine the full document as a way of experiencing the balance that external reviewers found.

Who has publically supported the framework?

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