AP United States History

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Advanced Placement United States History (also known as AP U.S. History or APUSH) is a course and examination offered by College Board as part of the Advanced Placement Program.


The AP U.S. History course is designed to provide the same level of content and instruction that students would face in a freshman-level college survey class. AP U.S. History classes generally use a college-level textbook as the foundation for the course.


Commonly used textbooks that meet the curriculum requirements[1] include:


American conservatives have criticised the curriculum for downplaying American exceptionalism and failing to foster patriotism. In 2014, there were protests against it in the Jefferson County Public Schools district in Colorado. In 2015, a bill to replace the curriculum was passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Education Committee, but later withdrawn.[2][3]


The AP U.S. History exam lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes and consists of two sections; additionally, each section is divided into two parts. Section I, part A includes 55 multiple choice questions with each question containing four choices. The multiple choice questions cover American History from just before European contact with Native Americans to the present day. Moreover, section I, part B includes four short-answer questions. In total, students are given 105 minutes (55 for the multiple choice section and 50 for the four short-answer questions) to complete section I.

Section II of the exam is the free-response section, composed of a document-based question (DBQs) and one thematic essay. Section II, part A is composed of the DBQ, which provides an essay prompt and seven short primary sources or excerpts related to the prompt. Students are expected to write an essay responding to the prompt in which they utilize the sources in addition to outside information. Section II, part B consists of two essay prompts. Each thematic essay question on the AP exam may address any one of four possible historical thinking skills: patterns of continuity and change over time, comparison, causation, or periodization. Students must respond to only one of the two essay prompts. Both of the essay questions will address the same historical thinking skill. In addition, neither essay's time frame will be exclusively before 1607 (the founding of Jamestown) or after 1980 (President Reagan's election). There is a mandatory fifteen-minute reading period for students to read the essay prompts, take notes, and brainstorm; they may not begin to write the essays until this period has ended. Students will then have 90 minutes to write the two essays (60 for the DBQ and 30 for the thematic essay).[4]

In May 2011, the AP U.S. History Test was taken by 402,947 students worldwide,[5] no longer making it the most-taken AP test; it has since been superseded by the AP English Language and Composition exam.[6]


The AP U.S. History exam is divided into two sections. Section one consists of the multiple choice and short answer questions, while section two consists of the document-based question (DBQ) and a long essay question. Section one is worth 60% of the total AP exam score, with 40% of the total exam score derived from the student's performance on the multiple choice section and 20% of the total exam score derived from the student's performance on the short answer questions. The remaining 40% of the total exam score is derived from section two; the document-based question is worth 25% of the total exam score, while the long essay question is worth 15% of the total exam score.[4]

Grade distribution

The score distributions between 2007–2016 were:

Score 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015[7] 2016[8]
5 11.1% 8.5% 11.0% 11.0% 11.0% 11.8% 10.6% 11.0% 9.3% 11.7%
4 19.9% 18.2% 19.3% 18.8% 20.8% 21.4% 21.5% 21.3% 17.8% 17.9%
3 22.2% 21.4% 22.1% 22.9% 21.0% 21.7% 21.8% 20.1% 23.6% 22.5%
2 26.2% 25.4% 25.2% 25.9% 26.7% 26.5% 27.2% 28.0% 25.0% 23.4%
1 20.6% 26.5% 22.2% 21.4% 20.5% 18.6% 18.9% 19.6% 24.3% 24.5%
Mean 2.75 2.57 2.72 2.72 2.75 2.81 2.77 2.76 2.63 2.69

Composite score range

The College Board has released information on the composite score range (out of 180) required to obtain each grade:[9][10]

Final Score Range (1996) Range (2001) Range (2002) Range (2006)
5 117-180 114-180 115-180 106-180
4 96-116 92-113 94-114 85-105
3 79-95 74-91 76-93 68-84
2 42-73 46-75 47-67 47-67
1 0-50 0-41 0-45 0-46

Note: The above composite score cut points reflect the pre-2011 grading formula which deducted 0.25 points for every incorrect multiple choice answer.


  1. "AP United States History: Example Textbook List". CollegeBoard. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
  2. Lerner, Adam B. (21 February 2015). "AP U.S. History controversy becomes a debate on America -". Politico. Politico. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  3. "Oklahoma Board of Education targets US History course for being "negative"".
  4. 1 2 "AP US History: Course and Exam Description" (PDF). CollegeBoard. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  5. "AP United States History Student Score Distributions Global AP Exams - May 2011" (PDF). 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  6. "AP Data – Archived Data 2011". Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  7. Total Registration. "2015 AP Exam Score Distributions". Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  8. Registration, Total. "2016 AP Exam Score Distributions". www.totalregistration.net. Retrieved 2016-07-01.
  9. "AP Central". 1 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  10. AP: The Grade-Setting Process. Retrieved 9 May 2008.

External links

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