The AP exam written and administrated by the Education Testing Service and overseen by the College Board is three hours and five minutes in length and consists of two sections:

  1. a 55 multiple choice section of 80 questions (which counts for 50% of the grade),
  2. AND

  3. A 130 minute "free response" section which is divided into

  1. a mandatory 15 minute reading period of documents associated the first question which is document-based:
  2. 45 minutes to organize and write the document-based question (DBQ); and
  3. 70 minutes wherein students are required to write responses to TWO standard essays questions.

This second section is also worth one-half of the total grade. The DBQ counts for 45% of this half of the grade while the two standard essays count for 55% of it.

Final scores on the AP test run 1-5, with 3 being the minimum passing grade.

Fee for the AP exam is $77

The United States History AP exam will be on May 11, 2001 morning session.


The 80 questions in the Multiple Choice section measure your knowledge of subject matter commonly covered in introductory college courses in U.S. History. You must answer 60% correctly to receive a grade of "3". For each incorrect response, subtraction of 1/4 of a point from your total score transpires. Your strategy for this test is that if you can narrow down the given possible answers to two, go ahead and guess. Approximately 1/6 of the questions deal with America through the year 1789, one-half deal with the period 1790-1914, and one-third with the period 1915 to the present.

Political institutions and behavior and public policy account for approximately 35% of the questions and social change for approximately another 35%. The remaining questions divide between the areas of diplomacy and international relations, approximately 15%; economic developments, approximately 10%; and cultural and intellectual developments, approximately 5%.

Unlike other AP subjects, the College Board maintains the secrecy of the Multiple Choice questions from previous exams. Over the last 20 years the College Board published three multiple-choice exams.

NOTE: Although the Multiple Choice section counts "only" 50% of your grade, studying for Multiple Choice-type questions should comprise a large portion of your studies. Why? Because you will use the factual material to assist your DBQ and standard essay answers. Keeping this in mind, the combination of factual material for both sections of the exam-is another important strategy for success on the APUSH exam.

PART B: ESSAYS - 130 minutes

You will not be watched as to how you divide your time during these essays.

The Document Based Question (DBQ)

The DBQ differs from a standard essay in its emphasis on the ability to analyze and synthesize historical data and assess verbal, quantitative, or pictorial materials as historical evidence. This means that the student must come up with an interpretation of the material and write an essay on his/her thesis, backed up by the documents and by facts outside of the documents and question. (This is where the information from the Multiple Choice Section us helpful.)

The documents are unlikely to be familiar classics, but their authors may be major historical figures. The material might include charts, graphs, cartoons, and pictures, in addition to written materials. The question (prompt) and the documents will be diverse, calling upon a broad spectrum of historical skills. The DBQ requires students to relate the documents to historical periods, themes, and issues. The Educational Testing Service stresses very much the use of outside information in the essay.

There are usually about eight to ten documents. Preparing for the DBQ receives a great deal of time in AP classes. Many "primary sources" will be assigned and studied. Writing a thesis that is incorporated into a clear and knowledgeable introduction will be very important. Good writing and organizational skills are very important

Standard Essays

Since the two essays are to be written in a 70-minute period, you will not have time to develop a lengthy introduction and essay. However, you must develop a thesis and support it in each one. You must argue a historical point, and use factual information to support it. It is recommended that students spend 5 minutes planning each of their answers and 30 minutes writing each response. Students will be given two groups, each containing two topics, and must write on one topic from each group. The first group will cover the colonial period through the civil war. The second group will cover the reconstruction period through the 1975s. References to the mid 1970s- 1990s may be given but topics in the second group will not deal exclusively with that time frame.

Other points to remember: most essay responses should emphasize relationships, for example the political implications of an economic issue; or, the concepts of "national interest" in foreign policy; or, how group experiences reflect socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, or gender differences. Be sure all your examples are relevant. Also, when architecture, literature, art etc…are used either as documents, or as part of the questions, or in your examples in your answer, the emphasis is not on literature itself but rather its relation to politics, social, economic life, or intellectual movements.


There are about 150,000 United States History exams graded each year. The grading committee or Table Leaders outline the "standards" or rubric for each question. This means the standards change each year depending on the question.

Each grader averages 500-800 exams over several days of reading. The readers are divided into small groups called "tables"; there are usually 7-8 readers per table. Readers come from all over the United States and consist of about 2/3’s college professors and 1/3 high school history teachers. Each reader is encouraged to give each paper "a fair read" and keep scoring uniforms. Table leaders will "back check" readers by reading alternate packets scored by the readers.

Readers read eight hours a day for seven days straight. As you can guess some essays may all begin to look the same after a while. It is a good idea for the students to write an introduction that is both informative and interesting in order to "grab" or wake up the reader. If possible, try not to repeat the question as your thesis. Show the readers your expertise and analytical skills; do not be funny or clever in an attempt to grab attention. Readers are interested in what you know so be sure to tell them. Support your answer and remember, JUST BECAUSE YOU SAY IT DOES NOT MAKE IT SO!