The Greatest Predictor of Success on the AP History Exam May Not Be Knowledge of History
Boluo School | 2023-04-07 | 6 min read

All AP tests require students to possess deep college-level understanding as well as an ability to synthesize, apply and convey that understanding. Given their depth, there is no doubt that all AP exams present a challenge for American high school students. Perhaps surprisingly; however, is that social studies exams account for 4 out of 5 of the tests that are passed the least often. 

Inarguably, the AP history exams require deep and thorough historical knowledge spanning hundreds of years of events. The US history exam can feature questions about events anywhere from pre-Columbian civilizations to the present, while the World History exam might ask about any significant historical events from 1200 AD on. AP History courses are about far more than simply remembering and regurgitating historical events, however. These classes and their associated tests require students to apply their understanding of historical events and be able to demonstrate how the events of the past are interconnected. 

The real challenge for many students on these exams is how the College Board requires students to demonstrate this understanding. Multiple choice questions on both US and World History account for only 40% of a student’s total score. The rest of the questions require written response answers. In order to achieve the coveted 5, students must be well-versed in history, but they must also be excellent writers

One of the more challenging question types found on the AP history exams are called “Document-Based questions.” These questions ask students to read and analyze historical documents and then provide written responses about them. The student submission below is a response to the prompt, “Evaluate the extend of change in United States political parties in the period 1791 to 1833.”

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This submission demonstrates not only a deep understanding of the answer to the prompt, but also highly advanced writing skills. 

When students are preparing for either AP History exam (US or World), it is important that they are focusing as much on writing skills as on historical understanding. History can largely be memorized, but writing is a skill that requires much practice in order to achieve mastery. 

Our AP history tutors are not only experts on all things history, but they have years of experience helping students develop the writing skills necessary for AP mastery. Contact us today to see how our instructors can help you or your student achieve the coveted 5 on their exam this spring.