The Course

AP United States History

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Course Overview

AP U.S. History is an introductory college-level U.S. history course. Students cultivate their understanding of U.S. history from c. 1491 CE to the present through analyzing historical sources and learning to make connections and craft historical arguments as they explore concepts like American and national identity; work, exchange, and technology; geography and the environment; migration and settlement; politics and power; America in the world; American and regional culture; and social structures.​​​​​​

Rubrics Updated for 2023-24

We’ve updated the AP U.S. History document-based question (DBQ) and long essay question (LEQ) rubrics for the 2023-24 school year. 

This change only affects the DBQ and LEQ scoring, with no change to the course or the exam: the exam format, course framework, and skills assessed on the exam all remain unchanged.

The course and exam description (CED) has been updated to include: 

  • Revised rubrics (general scoring criteria) for the DBQ and LEQ.
  • Revised scoring guidelines for the sample DBQ and LEQ within the CED.

Course and Exam Description

Course Resources

Course Content

Influenced by the Understanding by Design® (Wiggins and McTighe) model, this course framework provides a description of the course requirements necessary for student success.

The AP U.S. History framework is organized into nine commonly taught units of study that provide one possible sequence for the course. As always, you have the flexibility to organize the course content as you like.


Exam Weighting

Unit 1: Period 1: 1491–1607


Unit 2: Period 2: 1607–1754


Unit 3: Period 3: 1754–1800


Unit 4: Period 4: 1800–1848


Unit 5: Period 5: 1844–1877


Unit 6: Period 6: 1865–1898


Unit 7: Period 7: 1890–1945


Unit 8: Period 8: 1945–1980


Unit 9: Period 9: 1980–Present


Historical Thinking Skills

The AP U.S. History framework included in the course and exam description outlines distinct skills that students should practice throughout the year—skills that will help them learn to think and act like historians.



1. Developments and Processes

Identify and explain historical developments and processes.

2. Sourcing and Situation

Analyze sourcing and situation of primary and secondary sources.

3. Claims and Evidence in Sources

Analyze arguments in primary and secondary sources.

4. Contextualization

Analyze the contexts of historical events, developments, or processes.

5. Making Connections

Using historical reasoning processes (comparison, causation, continuity and change), analyze patterns and connections between and among historical developments and processes.

6. Argumentation

Develop an argument.

AP and Higher Education

Higher education professionals play a key role in developing AP courses and exams, setting credit and placement policies, and scoring student work. The AP Higher Education section features information on recruitment and admission, advising and placement, and more.

This chart shows recommended scores for granting credit, and how much credit should be awarded, for each AP course. Your students can look up credit and placement policies for colleges and universities on the AP Credit Policy Search.

Meet the Development Committee for AP U.S. History

The AP Program is unique in its reliance on Development Committees. These committees, made up of an equal number of college faculty and experienced secondary AP teachers from across the country, are essential to the preparation of AP course curricula and exams.