Published February 15, 2024

Everything You Need to get a 5 on AP US History

NP

Natasha Potter

MSU Alumni, Creative Advertising Major, Marketing Associate at Knowt 😃

This guide will go over a few of our tricks and AP US History exam tips to get a 5 and I’ll break them down in this article! With the right strategies and resources and AP US History test tips it’s definitely possible for you to know how to ace the AP US History exam

{contents and quick links to our study guides and flashcards}

Free AP US History Resources

If you’re cramming last minute for APUSH, don’t stress we’ve all been there! If you’re wondering how to pass AP US History on a time crunch, here are some of our student made AP US History exam tips and resources for a last minute cram.

What Do I Need to Memorize for the APUSH Exam?

If you aren’t sure how to study for the AP US History exam, know the exam is a memorization game and requires you to have a good understanding of the presidents, wars and dates. If you’re not sure where to start, you can start by memorizing these events and dates that show up the most often on the exam. Focus on the key events, the AP US History exam tips you’ve learned, and don’t get caught up on the finer details.

Check out our APUSH study guide that goes into all the key info for each of these dates and events!

Presidents : Make sure you really know your presidents from George Washington to Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln to Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt to our current president. For the presidents, you should know the approximate dates that they were in office and be able to order them, as well as their main accomplishments while in office. 

Wars : There’s a bunch of wars and battles covered in the curriculum but the one that show up the most are The Seven Years War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War , World War I &II, and Cold War (including proxy wars). For each of the wars, know how it started, events leading up, inflection points, how it ended and what came after.

Events : When you’re studying the main events, start with these cause they’re the most commonly tested on the exam : Jamestown (1607), Declaration of Independence (1776), Constitution (1787), Louisiana Purchase (1803), Era of Good Feelings (1816-1824), Monroe Doctrine (1823), Indian Removal Act/Trail of Tears (1830), Seneca Falls Convention (1848), Fugitive Slave Law (1850), Homestead Act (1862), Reconstruction Ends (1877), Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896), Stock Market Crashes (1929), Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), Civil Rights Act (1964), Watergate (1972), Roe vs. Wade (1973), and 9/11 (2001). 

What is on the AP US History Exam?

There are 9 units covered on the APUSH exam with the most emphasis placed on Units 3-8 on the exam. Each of these units represents a period and weighted as follows

Units

Exam Weighting

Unit 1: Period 1: 1491-1607

4-6%

Unit 2: Period 2: 1607-1754

6-8%

Unit 3: Period 3: 1754-1800

10-17%

Unit 4: Period 4: 1800-1848

10-17%

Unit 5: Period 5: 1844-1877

10-17%

Unit 6: Period 6: 1865-1898

10-17%

Unit 7: Period 7: 1890-1945

10-17%

Unit 8: Period 8: 1945-1980

10-17%

Unit 9: Period 9: 1980-Present

4-6%

APUSH Exam Format

What does the AP US History MCQ look like?

Section I, Part A: Multiple Choice

The multiple choice section comprises 55 questions that you will have 55 minutes to complete and makes up 40% of the total score. The typical show up in sets of 3 to 4 questions that require you to analyze historical texts, interpretations, and evidence. These questions will also include primary and secondary sources, images, graphs, and maps.

What does the AP US History FRQ look like?

Section I, Part B: Short Answer

The short answer section consists of four questions (of which you only need to do three) and has a time limit of 40 minutes, making up 20% of the total score. The first two questions are required and you can choose to answer either question three or question four. The first two required questions will cover 1754 to 1980, question three will cover 1491 to 1877 and question four will cover 1865-2001.

Section II: Document-Based Question and Long Essay

In this section, you will find the DBQ and the Long Essay which make up 40% of the total score, with 1 hour 40 minutes allocated to it. The Document-Based Question requires you to analyze 7 documents from 1754 to 1980, develop an argument based on historical evidence, and accounts for 25% of the exam score. In the Long Essay section, students have 40 minutes to choose from 3 options covering different time periods (1491-1800, 1800-1898, or 1890-2001), and develop an argument supported by historical evidence, accounting for 15% of the exam score.

When do APUSH scores come out?

Scores will typically come out in July every year, but you can also refer to the official CollegeBoard Annual calendar to monitor any chances.

Should I Self Study APUSH?

I wouldn’t recommend self studying APUSH because the material can be very dry and repetitive so simply reading through it won’t usually be enough to retain all of the information. Having more interactive activities in a classroom is the best way to study for the AP US History exam and make the process a lot more simple, plus your teacher will provide lots of practice material which you’ll need to get that 5.

Is the AP US History Exam Hard?

As someone who took APUSH not too long ago, I’ll be honest - AP US History was one of the hardest AP exams I’ve taken. It’s not because the material is hard to understand, it’s just that there is so much historical content you need to memorize to do well on the exam. The good thing about it is that once you understand the way that the AP US History exam is set up and exactly how much of what to study, as well as refer back to tips for the AP US History exam you have a way better chance of passing APUSH.

In terms of pass rates, the APUSH exam has a pretty low pass rate compared to most AP exams because it’s one of the most popular exams. In 2023, approximately 48% of students who took the exam achieved a passing score of 3 or better, with only 11% of students getting a 5. The exam typically has around 400,000+ test-takers each year, making it one of the more popular exams. Plus, many students take it as one of their first AP exams and do not prepare for it enough prior, resulting in many low scores. Gaining a deep understanding of the historical content and familiarizing yourself with the exam format are key to overcoming its difficulty.

Explaining the 2023 APUSH Scores

Out of the 473,000 students who took the 2023 AP US History Exam, only two have achieved a perfect score of 140/140 on their essays and questions. One of the big wins was, in the Unit 6 section focusing on the period 1865-1898, 23% of AP US History students earned full points. However, the most difficult section for test takers was Unit 2, covering the period 1607-1754, with an average score of 49% on the related questions. The performance on the APUSH DBQ, which explored the evolving definitions of US citizenship from 1865 to 1920, had the largest variation among students. Around 13% earned a near-perfect score of 6-7 out of 7 points, while 15% received 0-1 points. In terms of specific points awarded, 81% of students earned the thesis point, 54% received the contextualization point, 91% attained at least one evidence point, and 36% secured at least one analysis/reasoning point. Comparatively, AP World History and AP European History students achieved higher scores overall on both the short answer and long essay questions.

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