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

Questions about the Course


What is the focus of this course?

The AP U.S. History course focuses on developing students' understanding of American history from approximately 1491 to the present. Students investigate the content of U.S. history for significant events, individuals, developments, and processes in nine historical periods and explore seven themes throughout the course in order to make connections among historical developments in different times and places.

Course overview modules provide a guided tour of the curriculum framework, exam, instructional approaches, and more. For information about the redesign see the end of this page.

What is the equivalent college-level course?

AP United States History is the equivalent of a two-semester introductory college course in U.S. history.

Are there any student prerequisites?

There are no prerequisite courses, but students should be able to read a college-level textbook and write grammatically correct, complete sentences.

What's the best way to identify students who should take this course?

Any motivated student should be given the chance to benefit from an AP course. And if your school offers the PSAT/NMSQT, you should use AP Potential. This free online tool allows you to identify students who are likely to succeed in AP based on their PSAT or SAT scores. Such scores have been proven to be stronger predictors of AP success than high school grades or GPA.

Which textbooks does the College Board recommend?

The AP Program does not recommend specific textbooks. However, a list of example textbooks appropriate for the course appears on AP Course Audit.

How can I prepare myself to teach this course?

These resources will help:

How can I get this course started at my school?

It's easy. How to start an AP course gives you a full run-down on the steps and guidelines.

Have more questions?

The AP Teacher Community might be the best source for answers. You'll also find articles, tools, and resources to help you teach every aspect of the course on the course homepage.

Questions about the AP Course Audit


What is the AP® Course Audit?

The AP Course Audit is an authorization process that provides teachers and administrators with guidelines and requirements for offering AP courses. It also ensures that AP courses across high schools meet the same college-level criteria.

Is the course audit required?

Yes. Every school wishing to offer an AP course must participate in the AP Course Audit.

What's involved? Who needs to participate, and what do they need to do?

The AP Course Audit requires the online submission of two documents: the AP Course Audit form and the teacher's syllabus. The AP teacher and the school principal (or designated administrator) submit the Course Audit form, acknowledging the curricular and resource requirements. The syllabus, detailing how the AP course requirements will be met, is submitted by the AP teacher for review by college faculty.

Where can I get help preparing my course syllabus?

The AP Course Audit page for this course will give you the tools you'll need to create and submit your syllabus for authorization, including information and guidelines, sample syllabi, and a tutorial.

Have more questions?

Go to AP Course Audit for more FAQs, resources, and info about the whole course audit process.

Questions about the Exam


How can I prepare my students for the exam?

These resources will help:

  • There are several practice exams available, both on the course home page and by logging in to your AP Course Audit account.
  • Rubrics for the document-based question and long essay question are available. You can also watch a narrated presentation about the rubrics and historical thinking skills.
  • Free-response questions with student samples and scoring guidelines can be accessed from the exam information page.
  • The Student Performance Q&A describes how students performed on the FRQs, summarizes typical student errors, and addresses specific concepts that challenged students the most that year.

When is the AP U.S. History Exam administered?

The exam is given each year in early May. Go to the Exam Calendar for the most current exam dates.

What score do students need to get on the AP Exam to receive credit or advanced placement?

That depends on the college. Tell your students to use the AP Credit Policy Info tool to verify the credit/placement policies at the schools they are considering.

Have more questions?

Go to the AP United States History Exam Information page. You'll find specifics about the exam format and more.

Questions about the redesign of AP U.S. History


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 began in 2006. Many AP teachers had 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. The redesign aimed to address this concern and produced a course framework that teachers and students began using in fall 2014.

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, including through a public review period, and released a new edition of the CED in the summer of 2015 that included improvements to the language and structure of the course.

Who provided feedback during the public review?

Teachers, historians, parents, students, and other concerned citizens and public officials from across the country all provided feedback.

What were the main changes in the 2015 edition?

The structure of the CED was improved in the 2015 edition to better serve teachers as they move through the course. Key updates included:

  • Reformatting the concept outline 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.
  • Streamlining and consolidating the learning objectives from 50 to just 19, making them broader in focus and ultimately more useful for teachers in structuring their courses.
  • Refining and clarifying content at all levels (Key Concept, Roman numeral, and A-B-C levels). The degree of change varied 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.
  • Adding a new Instructional Approaches section that provides recommendations and optional examples on how to implement the curriculum framework in practical ways in the classroom.
  • Updating the rubrics for the document-based question and long essay question in a new AP history rubrics (.pdf/555KB) document. To align with the changes to the rubrics, minor adjustments were made to the language of the historical thinking skills, which are now in an easier-to-read table layout.

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