Update on AP World History

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The current AP World History course and exam attempt to cover 10,000 years of human history—from the Paleolithic Era to the present. In contrast, colleges manage the unique breadth of world history by spreading the content across multiple courses. Because AP World History does not do so, a majority of AP World History teachers have told us that they were teaching too little about too much. Students’ essay scores on the end-of-year AP Exam have reflected that overwhelming challenge.

Since our recent announcement about changes to AP World History, which were meant to alleviate that problem, we’ve received thoughtful, principled feedback from AP teachers, students, and college faculty. This feedback underscores that we share the same priorities: engaging students in the rich histories of civilizations across the globe and ensuring that such important content is given the time it deserves.

The AP World History: Modern course will begin in 1200 CE, rather than 1450 CE, starting in the 2019-20 school year. This change will ensure teachers and students can begin the course with a study of the civilizations in Africa, the Americas, and Asia that are foundational to the modern era.

In addition to the AP World History: Modern course, for schools and students interested in AP coursework that covers the full sweep of world history, we are committed to offering a second AP world history course—AP World History: Ancient. To develop an AP World History: Ancient course, exam, and accompanying resources, we first must confirm the willingness of colleges to award credit for an additional AP world history exam and the interest among high schools to offer two full, separate AP world history courses. 

For students who do not pursue a college-level AP world history course in 10th grade, we continue to recommend the Pre-AP World History and Geography course, a curriculum that gives teachers the flexibility to sample topics across the full sweep of world history. Students who take a Pre-AP course can stand out in college admissions. In Florida, for example, students receive GPA bonus points for taking Pre-AP classes.

These various solutions cover the civilizations, societies, and individuals of world history in a way that provides students the time to learn essential content and master critical analysis and writing skills fundamental to college success. In addition, these changes align to what’s offered at most colleges, where the uniquely voluminous content of world history is divided across 2-3 courses.

We’re grateful for the principled feedback from the world history community. We believe this new approach will best serve students and educators, balance course breadth and depth, and honor the full, essential story of human history.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is wide agreement that the status quo—keeping the existing course, which covers 10,000 years of world history—is not a sustainable option.

The College Board collected extensive data from higher education institutions and secondary schools on how they manage the unique breadth of world history as a discipline. Colleges consistently divide the survey of world history across two or three courses. Colleges that offer a two-course world history survey overwhelmingly divide courses at the beginning of the modern era.

To ensure that the AP World History course qualifies a student for specific course credit in college, AP World History must align to an amount of content similar to that found in a specific college course. As most colleges only award credit to AP World History students for one college course, frequently modern world history, the immediate need is to move forward in the 2019-20 school year with an AP World History: Modern course and exam—now starting with 1200 CE—that will adequately measure the content and skills required for college credit in that course, while working with colleges and high schools to establish a new AP World History: Ancient course, designed to adequately address content and skills from those time periods.

This also ensures that AP World History teachers and students can access the same free, new resources and supports available for other AP courses starting in fall 2019. AP World History teachers will also have access to a confidential question bank containing 500 never-released exam questions (a minimum of 6 new practice questions for each possible topic on the AP World History: Modern Exam), and, for each topic in the course, a suite of online resources for each AP student to practice reading primary and secondary sources and writing evidence-based essays.

After careful evaluation, the College Board decided to begin the AP World History: Modern course at 1200 CE as opposed to the original proposal of 1450 CE. A 1200 CE start date ensures teachers and students can begin the course with a study of civilizations in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe that are foundational to the modern era.

Below is a sample of essential content that students will learn within these additional centuries:

  • Trade networks (examples: the Silk Roads, Trans-Saharan, and Indian Ocean)
  • State building in the Americas (examples: Maya, Mexica, Inca, Chaco, Cahokia)
  • State building in Africa (examples: Great Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and the expansion of Mali)
  • The ways Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism shaped societies in Africa, Asia, and Europe
  • The emergence of new Hindu and Buddhist states in South and Southeast Asia (examples: Rajput Kingdoms; Khmer Empire)
  • The fragmentation of the Abbasid Caliphate and emergence of new Islamic entities
  • Intellectual, scientific, and technological innovations and transfers across states and empires (examples: algebra, gunpowder, medicine, paper)
  • The rise and expansion of the Mongol Empire
  • Agricultural societies, feudalism, and the manorial system in Europe
  • Political and economic developments in the Song Dynasty
  • Global travelers (examples: Ibn Battuta; Marco Polo)

To reduce the level of effort associated with AP course changes, we will not require AP World History teachers to revise and submit their course syllabus. Schools will not need to replace their textbooks. By mid-January 2019, we’ll provide AP World History teachers with an optional scope-and-sequence planning document that illustrates how to organize the course content and skills across a typical academic year. This resource is designed to provide teachers with a time-saving road map they can modify and adjust rather than having to build from scratch. Specific curricular decisions will continue to belong to teachers, just as they always have.

In addition, AP World History teachers and students will have access to the same free, new resources and supports available for other AP courses starting in fall 2019. AP World History teachers will have access to a confidential question bank containing 500 never-released exam questions (a minimum of 6 new practice questions for each possible topic on the AP World History: Modern Exam), and, for each topic in the course, a suite of online resources for each AP student to practice reading primary and secondary sources and writing evidence-based essays.

The College Board is eager to develop an AP World History: Ancient course and exam. As with any new AP course, we first have to confirm the support of colleges and the interest of high schools.

We will need a majority of colleges that receive AP scores to agree to offer credit for an additional AP world history exam. From September 1, 2018, interested colleges will be able to download, sign, and submit a form attesting to their willingness to award such credit. (The AP Program will post regular updates on our website of the names of institutions that have agreed to provide credit.)

We’ll also need to confirm interest from a small proportion of high schools, typically 15% of those that offer AP, to offer 2 full, separate AP world history courses. From September 1, 2018, interested schools will be able to download, sign, and submit a form outlining the approach they would use to offer 2 AP world history courses.

Similar standards were most recently met by higher and secondary education communities interested in a new AP Computer Science Principles course and exam, which supplements and typically precedes the AP Computer Science A course and exam. Advocates of other disciplines are currently pursuing such credit policies and secondary school interest for new AP courses (e.g., engineering).

The majority of colleges only award AP World History credit for one course or an elective. However, we’re proactively reaching out to the small number of colleges that currently award AP world history credit for both their ancient and their modern world history courses. We expect these colleges to be among the first to confirm credit policies for an AP World History: Ancient course, and in the meantime, will appropriately only award AP credit for the modern world history course equivalent on their campuses.

Pre-AP courses are designed to give all students the opportunity to learn the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful in AP and other college-level coursework. Pre-AP courses offer schools instructional frameworks and resources, student practice, and formative assessments in motivating, engaging courses that give all students the chance to become AP ready.

Students who take a Pre-AP course can stand out in college admission. In Florida, for example, students receive GPA bonus points for taking Pre-AP classes.

The Pre-AP World History and Geography course will be available for the 2019-20 school year, at the same time the College Board introduces the AP World History: Modern course. The Pre-AP course includes a course framework and instructional materials that give teachers the flexibility to select topics across the full scope of world history.

As with AP courses, the Pre-AP course framework is freely available on our website (.pdf/2.38MB) for schools to download and use. Schools that use the free framework can designate that course Pre-AP through the 2021-22 school year.

Beginning in 2022, following several years of work with college admission offices to evaluate the degree of consistency they expect to see when schools label courses “Pre-AP,” there will be specific requirements for schools that wish to use “Pre-AP” designation on student transcripts, but schools that don’t elect to use the official Pre-AP designation can continue to use the free course framework to structure their own local courses.

Schools that wish to be official Pre-AP Program participants can apply for teacher professional development and implement through-course assessments, final exams, and performance tasks in each Pre-AP course.

For these official Pre-AP programs, there is a cost to the school or district of approximately $10–$15 per student, in comparison to the cost of $94 per AP exam. There is no cost to students.