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

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Questions about the course


In AP U.S. History, students investigate significant events, individuals, developments, and processes in nine historical periods from approximately 1491 to the present. Students develop and use the same disciplinary practices and reasoning skills employed by historians.

For a bit more detail on AP U.S. History, download this two-page course overview (.pdf/77KB).

For a lot more detail, course overview modules provide a guided tour of the course framework, exam, instructional approaches, and more.

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

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

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

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

These resources will help:

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 home page.

Questions about 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.

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

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.

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.

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

Questions about the Exam


These resources will help:

  • A full practice exam is available in the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.66MB).
  • Secure exams for classroom use are available on the AP Course Audit website. Log in to your account and then click on the Secure Documents link within the Resources section of your Course Status page. 
  • Teaching and Assessing AP U.S. History is a set of online professional development modules featuring sample free-response questions, along with interactive scoring practice using real student responses. 
  • Free-response questions (FRQs) with student samples and scoring guidelines from the 2015 exam and later can be accessed from the exam page. 
  • Scroll down the Scoring column in the free-response questions table to find the Chief Reader Report, a resource previously known as the Student Performance Q&A. In it, the Chief Reader describes how students performed on the FRQs, typical student errors, and specific concepts that challenged students the most that year.
  • The Past Exam Questions page features questions and scoring information from the 2014 exam administration and earlier. Note that these questions do not reflect the content, scope, or design specifications of the redesigned AP U.S. History Exam, which was administered for the first time in May 2015.

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

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

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

Questions about the 2015 redesign of 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.

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.

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

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. To align with the changes to the rubrics, minor adjustments were made to the language of the historical thinking skills, which were presented in an easier-to-read table layout.