Why Take AP® World History?

 When faced with the choice of whether or not to take AP® World History, the benefits often outweigh the costs for most students.

Many colleges require students to fulfill a history or social science course before they can graduate. However, if you take the AP® World History Exam and attain a high score while you are in high school, you may be able to qualify for credit toward that requirement and not have to take another history exam in college.

A more recent argument for taking AP® Exams, is that more colleges are going test-optional. This means that SAT® and ACT® scores are potentially holding less weight in college applications, and a good AP® score could help tip the scale in your favor when it comes to college admissions.

Besides creating the opportunity to earn college credit for the work you do, AP® courses also develop crucial skills, challenge you academically, and help round out your knowledge in ways you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. In addition to that, preparing for and taking the  AP® World History Exam provides excellent practice for college-level exams you may take in the future.

What can AP® World History Teach Me?

All too often, students in the United States and Canada have a limited understanding of the world around them. That’s not a knock on you. That’s simply the reality of the situation.

That’s why a course like AP® World History is so valuable. Young people in the U.S. and Canada now have an opportunity to broaden their worldview by learning the vibrant and consequential history of countries and cultures outside of their own. It can also develop those valuable, but more “unteachable” traits like empathy, openness, and experience that students will carry with them throughout their entire lives.

In doing so, they’ll be able to get a depth of knowledge about the world at large that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Moreover, the course is taught from a global perspective, with a balanced coverage of all regions. This will ensure that students get a basic understanding of geospatial awareness.

You also stand a chance to develop your critical thinking skills. AP® World History requires students to “analyze text, visual sources, and other historical evidence” along with penning essays regarding the political and social climates of modern world history—and if that doesn’t help develop critical thinking skills, we don’t know what does!

World History students must look at the wealth of global history from 1200 AD through to the present day and critically analyze it. They will also learn to craft arguments based on what they learn, as well as data about cultural and political developments in the modern world.

Essentially, the AP® World History course is an extensive, collegiate-level primer on global culture, politics, and history. That is a challenge worth taking up if you’re looking to learn some crucial histories about the greater world around you!

How to sign up for AP® World History

To register for the AP® World Exam, you need to contact your school’s AP® Coordinator, who can help facilitate your courses and exams.

Bear in mind you’ll likely need to complete requirements to be eligible to enroll in an AP® course. In order to register for the AP®World History Exam, you have to join your class section online, on College Board’s My AP® portal. Some schools will automatically register you for the exam if you’re enrolled in an AP® World History class, but others won’t and you will have to register online through the portal. If you are unsure whether or not you are registered for the AP® World History Exam, check wIth your AP® Coordinator.

There is also a deadline for exam registration, so make sure you register through your AP® Coordinator by then to avoid paying any late fees. The deadline to register for exams is in the fall, but specific deadlines may vary by the school—be sure to check with your teacher or AP® Coordinator.

How much does the AP® Exam cost?

Each AP® Exam costs a total of $95—if you’re in the mainland United States and its territories and commonwealths, Canada, or a U.S. Department of Defense Dependents School.

If you’re outside of those areas, the AP® Exam will cost $125 per exam.

College Board has a financial aid program that offers a $33 fee reduction in the exam. Read more about exam fees here.

You cannot use the My AP® portal to pay fees – they will be collected by your AP® Coordinator.

When you take into account the cost of a college course versus the cost of the exam, though, you’ll see that the AP® Exam is actually a bargain. With a passing score, you may be able to earn college credit and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

When can I take the AP® World History Exam?

The AP® World History Exam date in 2021 is Monday, May 10th. You can find more information about dates and late-testing schedules for the 2021 AP® World History Exam in our 2021 AP® Exam Dates article.

What’s on the AP® World History Exam?

Knowing what’s on the AP® World History Exam is the first step to nailing it. The exam will cover all of the topics that you cover in your coursework. You will have to write a long argumentative essay as well as a document analysis showcasing your knowledge on a specific topic.

The course itself covers nine units, and each of the units will be weighted slightly differently in terms of exam coverage. They are:

Unit Exam Weighting
 Unit 1: The Global Tapestry  8%–10%
 Unit 2: Networks of Exchange  8%–10%
 Unit 3: Land-Based Empires  12%–15%
 Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections  12%–15%
 Unit 5: Revolutions  12%–15%
 Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization  12%–15%
 Unit 7: Global Conflict  8%–10%
 Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization  8%–10%
 Unit 9: Globalization 8%–10%

You should anticipate that the AP® World Exam will cover ALL these topics. As such, you should make sure that you’ve studied all that you can.

What is the test format for the AP® World History Exam?

The test format of the AP® World History Exam is split up into two sections, and includes a variety of question types including multiple choice, short answer, document analysis, and long essay.

Students will have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam. The exam is made up of a 95-minute section of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, and a 100-minute writing section where students will answer two essay prompts.

Here is what the format of the AP® World History exam looks like—along with how much of the exam score depends on each section:

SECTION I SECTION II
Part A: Multiple-Choice (55 minutes) Part A: Document-Based Question [DBQ] (60 minutes, including 15 minutes for reading)
  • 55 questions
  • 40% of total exam score
  • One question
  • 25% of total exam score
Part B: Short-Answer Questions (40 minutes) Part B: Long Essay Question [LEQ] (40 minutes)
  • Three questions
  • 20% of total exam score
  • One question
  • 15% of total exam score

For the three Short-Answer questions, students must answer Questions 1 and 2, and then make a choice whether to answer EITHER Question 3 OR Question 4.

Question 1 includes one secondary source, and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1200 and 2001.

Question 2 also includes one primary source, and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1200 and 2001.

Question 3 focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1200 and 1750 and includes no source material.

Question 4 focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1750 and 2001 for the last question and includes no source material.

In Section II, students are expected to write two essays:

  1. A document analysis
  2. A long essay based on an essay prompt

Here’s an overview of the two essay questions students will face:

Document-Based Question (DBQ)

Length: 60 minutes

Worth: 25% of score

This section includes a 15-minute reading period. The exam presents students with seven documents that provide different perspectives on a historical development or process between the years 1450 and 2001.

Students must then develop an argument based on the documents as well as their own knowledge.

Long-Essay Question (LEQ)

Length: 40 minutes

Worth: 15% of score

In this section, students have a choice of three different questions/essay prompts. They must pick one of them to answer.

The questions cover varying time periods. They are:

  • 1200-1750
  • 1450-1900
  • 1750-2001

Students must develop their argument and support it with evidence.

What is a DBQ?

If you’ve come across the term ‘DBQ’, but don’t know what it means, don’t worry – the world of AP® tends to come with quite a few of its own acronyms. AP® World History, for example, is often referred to as ‘AP® World’, or ‘WHAP’, for short.

DBQ simply stands for Document-Based Question. This is the first of the two essay questions you will have to answer in Section II of your AP® World History Exam.

For the DBQ, you will have one hour, including 15 minutes of reading time, to analyze a set of historical documents (usually 6 or 7), which you should use to help you answer the essay prompt.

The documents provided could either be in text or image format. Past examples of DBQ documents include, but are not limited to:

  • Historical texts
  • Diary excerpts
  • Political cartoons
  • Speech transcripts
  • Maps

You will be expected to use information from as many of the documents as you can to answer the question to the best of your ability.

How is the AP® World History Exam Scored?

The AP® Exam’s scoring system is on a scale of one to five—with five being the best and one being the worst.

Here’s a good table that breaks down the score you could get and what it means.

AP® Score What it means

5

Best. The highest score you can get on your AP® World History Exam. This score typically guarantees college credit or placement out of a required course at colleges that accept AP® Exams.

4

Good. While not the highest, this is still a very good score. You’ll usually get college credit with it.

3

Okay. Not the worst, but plenty of room for improvement. This is the usual threshold for colleges to give you credit, though not at the most competitive colleges.

2

Bad. Not a good score at all. If you can, you’ll want to retake the exam, as schools will rarely ever give credit for it.

1

Worst. If you really want to perform well on this exam, you would probably need to do a lot of studying before taking the exam a year later.

When it comes to AP® World History, you’ll want to aim for a score of 3 or higher. Most colleges will give you college credit if you score within that range.

It varies from college to college though. So, if you want to know the score that a specific college will accept in exchange for credit, you’ll need to check with the college’s registrar’s office to find out information about AP® credit for the AP® World History Exam. Often, you can find this information on the school’s website. You can also check out College Board’s search tool for AP® credit policies.

NOTE: Colleges sometimes change their requirements for awarding college credit or offering placement out of required courses. So always check in with the college to make sure you have the most relevant and recent information.

Bottom line: You’re going to want to score as high as you possibly can. Sure your dream school only requires a 3—but you should always be aiming for the highest possible score regardless.

When you get that credit, you will effectively be walking into college with part of the requirements already completed. It means you could skip a history requirement and take whatever class you wanted to. Or, you could even save money on college tuition by spending less time getting credits. Either way, getting that college credit before college is a great way to set yourself up for the next four years. Read more about how AP® exams helped Marco Learning’s tutors earn college credits.

What can I bring to the AP® World History Exam?

Below is a list of all the things you can bring with you into the exam room. Note: It’s possible that not all of the items will apply to you (e.g., the Student Accommodations Letter).

  • Two No. 2 pencils with erasers. These will be used on the multiple-choice portion of the exam.
  • Two black or dark blue ink pens. These will be used for the free-response questions. Be sure to bring black or dark blue ink pens only. Leave your gold glitter pens at home.
  • A watch. This is a simple analog or digital watch with no internet access or alarms. Don’t even try to bring your smart watch in the room.
  • The AP® Student Pack. This is given to you just before you take your exam and contains a label that you need to place on your exam. Follow the labeling instructions carefully.
  • Government- or school-issued ID. If you don’t attend the school where you’re taking the AP® World History Exam, you must also bring a government- or school-issued ID.
  • College Board SSD Student Accommodation Letter. If you require accommodations beyond the regular exam, you’ll receive a letter that verifies this (e.g., you need a braille or large-type exam).
  • Remember, you won’t have to bring all these things—but it’s in your best interest to be as prepared as you can for the exam.

Take a look at our Test Day Checklist to make sure you are 100% prepared to take your AP® World History Exam when the time comes!

How do I study for AP® World History?

Here are the best study tips for AP® World:

#1: Connect the themes

One thing that the AP® World History course wants you to do is be able to connect historical events to the broader themes covered in the course. Not only that, but you need to be able to show that you know how the themes impact each other. That means connecting the broad themes together and showcasing how they relate to one another using specific examples.

#2: Take practice tests

Be prepared! You don’t want to take your first AP® World History Exam on test day. To that end, take as many practice tests as you can before the big day. Take note of the areas you performed the weakest in and dedicate extra study time to those areas. Only by practicing over and over again can you expect to be better at any skill—including test-taking. If you don’t have much experience taking practice tests, check out John Moscatiello’s Step-by-Step Guide to taking a practice test like a pro.

#3: Write as much as you can

The free-response section of the AP® World History Exam is the most difficult part of the entire test. To prepare, you should be writing and practicing for the document-based question (DBQ) and long-essay question (LEQ) in the weeks leading up to the exam. College Board’s website has a page dedicated to past exam questions. Read them and start to craft essays around them. You can have your AP® teacher read them and provide feedback as to which areas you can improve. If you’re looking for ways to improve your writing skills, our Free AP® World History Writing Workshop is designed specifically to teach you fundamental and advanced skills about how to tackle and formulate essay responses. All sessions are recorded and will be sent to you via email if you miss or want to review a session later.

#4: Find resources that work

When it comes to studying for your exam, there is no “one size fits all”. Just because your friend studied best with mind maps doesn’t necessarily mean that mind-mapping is right for you. We encourage you to take some time to figure out what study methods you are most comfortable with; it could be a mixture of everything!

We know it can be overwhelming starting from scratch. If you feel stuck, we suggest downloading our free AP® World History study guide as a jumping off point and going from there.

If you’re looking for live video reviews before the AP® Exams, we will host live AP® review sessions on our YouTube channel. As well as live sessions, you can review content and run through essay techniques for the AP® World History Exam here:  AP World Playlist. In addition to excellent video content on her YouTube channel, Marco Learning teacher, Emily Glankler, runs a fantastic podcast called Anti-Social Studies which you can listen to when you’re on the go!