AP United States History

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About the Exam

Important Update

Updated April 8 You can now download the digital testing application and take digital practice to prepare for the testing experience. See below for more information on digital practice and taking the digital exam.

2021 AP U.S. History Exams will be offered on paper in early May and as a digital exam in late May and early June. 

The paper and the digital versions of the AP U.S. History Exam will be full length and cover the full scope of course content, giving you the opportunity to qualify for college credit and placement.

There are differences between the paper and digital versions of some 2021 AP Exams, and those variations differ by course. The information below applies to AP U.S. History only. View a summary of all 2021 AP Exam formats.

Learn more about 2021 testing.


As the exam approaches, take advantage of AP Daily: Live Review sessions April 19–29.

Exam Overview
The AP U.S. History Exam will test your understanding of the historical concepts covered in the course units, as well as your ability to analyze primary and secondary sources and identify patterns and connections that can support a historical interpretation.

Exam Duration
3hrs 15mins

Digital Practice and Testing Information

Updated April 8

Digital Practice Now Available

Starting April 8, you can try out the test-day experience, by answering example questions in the digital testing application. See the Digital Practice page for general information about practice options.

AP United States History students will have two options to answer example questions in the digital testing application. Both provide approximately the same time limit per question as the full exam.

  • Digital Practice has a shortened multiple-choice section (12 questions, 12 minutes), a 1-minute pause, and full-length free-response sections. These consist of: 3 short-answer questions (SAQs) in 40 minutes, a shortened break of 5 minutes, and 1 document-based question (DBQ) and 2 SAQs in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
  • The App Demo is an even shorter subset of the questions in Digital Practice–3 multiple-choice questions, a 2-minute break, and 2 free-response questions (1 DBQ, 1 SAQ)

We highly recommend you take the Digital Practice, and strongly advise that if you can’t take the Digital Practice, at least take the App Demo. Both can be taken multiple times, and can be accessed directly in the digital testing application. You can access your answers and solution materials (MCQ answer key, FRQ scoring guidelines) for the Digital Practice. Note: Taking the App Demo after completing Digital Practice may override your answers from Digital Practice.

Taking the Digital Exam

You should be aware of some aspects of testing digitally that you’ll encounter–in the Digital Practice and on exam day:

  • As a reminder:
    • You will answer all multiple-choice questions and type all free-response answers directly in the digital exam application. Scratch paper is permitted for notes or planning, but you cannot handwrite or otherwise upload responses
    • You cannot go back to questions you’ve already answered, and cannot skip ahead. 
  • Please note that you will respond to the DBQs and the last 2 SAQs in the same combined time limit of 1 hour and 40 minutes. You must ensure you have enough time to answer all the questions in that section. This is equivalent to Section II on the paper and pencil exam. Similarly, you will answer the first three SAQs within the same 40-minute time limit, just as on the paper and pencil exam.
  • On the DBQ, you’ll view the Documents directly in the exam app. You can click on the tabs on the left side of the screen, numbered 1 through 7, to view one source at a time. You may need to scroll down to view the tabs and the complete documents.
  • Exam directions and section-specific directions will not be read by a proctor–they’ll appear entirely in the application. You’ll see them at the beginning of each section, and can access them at any time during the exam. Please note that the exam timer starts when the directions appear. While you should read the directions, be aware that the timer will be running while you do so. You can view the full text of the exam and section directions in advance of the exam.

Exam Dates

  • Thu, May 6, 2021,
    8 AM Local

    Paper, In School

    AP U.S. History Exam

    This is the Administration 1 date for the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • Wed, May 19, 2021,
    12 PM EDT

    Digital, In School and At Home

    AP U.S. History Exam

    This is the Administration 2 date for the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • Wed, Jun 2, 2021,
    12 PM EDT

    Digital, In School and At Home

    AP U.S. History Exam

    This is the Administration 3 date for the AP U.S. History Exam.

Exam Components

Note on 2021 Exams

There are differences between the paper and digital versions of some 2021 AP Exams, and those variations differ by course. The information below applies to U.S. History only. View a summary of all 2021 AP Exam formats.

Both the paper and digital versions of the AP U.S. History Exam will be full length and cover the full range of skills and knowledge specified in the course and exam description.

Early May Exam (Paper)

Late May and Early June Exams (Digital)

Section 1, Part A: Multiple Choice

55 Questions | 55 Minutes | 40% of Exam Score

 

The questions in the multiple-choice section come in sets of usually 3–4 questions based on the same stimulus. The questions will include one or more sources to respond to such as primary and secondary texts, images (for example, artwork, photos, posters, cartoons), charts, and maps.

 

You'll be asked to:

  • Analyze the provided sources
  • Analyze the historical developments and processes described in the sources

Section 1, Part A: Multiple Choice

55 Questions | 55 Minutes | 40% of Exam Score

 

The questions in the multiple-choice section come in sets of usually 3–4 questions based on the same stimulus. The questions will include one or more sources to respond to such as primary and secondary texts, images (for example, artwork, photos, posters, cartoons), charts, and maps.

 

You'll be asked to:

  • Analyze the provided sources
  • Analyze the historical developments and processes described in the sources

Section 1, Part B: Short Answer

3 Questions | 40 Minutes | 20% of Exam Score

 

In the short-answer section, you’ll write answers to questions in your test booklet. Some questions include texts, images, graphs, or maps.

  • Question 1 is required, includes 1–2 secondary sources, and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1754 and 1980.
  • Question 2 is required, includes 1 primary source, and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1754 and 1980.
  • You can choose between Question 3 (which focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1491 and 1877) and Question 4 (which focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1865 and 2001) for the last question. No sources are included for either Question 3 or Question 4.

You'll be asked to:

  • Analyze the provided sources
  • Analyze historical developments and processes described in the sources
  • Put those historical developments and processes in context
  • Make connections between those historical developments and processes

Section 1, Part B: Short Answer

3 Questions | 40 Minutes | 21% of Exam Score

 

In the short-answer section, you’ll type answers to questions in the digital exam app. Some questions include texts, images, graphs, or maps.

 

You’ll answer 3 required questions, with each one focusing on a different time period:

  • Question 1 includes a primary source text(s), and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1491 and 1980.
  • Question 2 includes a map source, and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1754 and 1980.
  • Question 3 includes a primary source image, and focuses on historical developments or processes between the years 1491 and 2001.

At most one SAQ in Section 1B will focus primarily on historical developments or processes between the years 1491 and 1754 or between the years 1980 and 2001.

 

You'll be asked to:

  • Analyze the provided sources
  • Analyze historical developments and processes described in the sources
  • Put those historical developments and processes in context
  • Make connections between those historical developments and processes

Section 2: Document-Based Question and Long Essay

2 questions | 1hr 40mins | 40% of Score

In the free-response section, you’ll write answers to questions in your test booklet. There are two questions: one document-based question and one long essay.

 

Document-Based Question

Recommended time: 60 Minutes (includes 15-minute reading period) | 25% of Exam Score

 

The 60-minute recommended time for this section includes a 15-minute reading period.

  • You’ll be presented with seven documents that give various perspectives on a historical development or process.
  • You’ll be asked to develop and support an argument based on these documents and other evidence from your own knowledge.
  • The topic of the document-based question will include historical developments or processes between the years 1754 and 1980.

 

Section 2B: Long Essay

1 Question | 40 Minutes | 15% of Exam Score

  • You’ll have a choice of three questions; you’ll pick one to answer.
  • Each tests the same skills and reasoning process (e.g., comparison, causation, or continuity and change) but the questions focus on historical developments and processes from different time periods (either the period from 1491 to 1800, from 1800 to 1898, or from 1890 to 2001).
  • You’ll be asked to develop and support an argument based on evidence.

Section 2: Document-Based Question and Short- Answer Questions

3 questions | 1hr 40mins | 39% of Score

Please note that you will respond to the DBQs and the last two SAQs in the same combined time limit of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

 

In this section, you’ll type answers to questions in the digital exam app. There are three questions: one document-based question, and two short-answer questions.

 

Document-Based Question

Recommended time: 60 Minutes (includes 15-minute reading period) | 25% of Exam Score

 

The 60-minute recommended time for this section includes a 15-minute reading period.

  • You’ll be presented with seven documents that give various perspectives on a historical development or process.
  • You’ll be asked to develop and support an argument based on these documents and other evidence from your own knowledge.
  • The topic of the document-based question will include historical developments or processes between the years 1754 and 1980.

 

2 Short-Answer Questions

Recommended time: 40 Minutes | 14% of Exam Score

  • You’ll answer two required questions, each one assessing historical developments or processes between the years 1754 and 1980, with each one focusing on a different time period.
  • Question 5 includes a source with a data set (such as a chart, table or graph)
  • Question 6 includes secondary source texts
  • You’ll be asked to analyze historians’ interpretations, historical sources, and propositions about history.

As indicated above, the exam section weightings are slightly different on the digital exam as compared to the paper and pencil exam:

  • The multiple-choice section (40% of exam score) and the DBQ (25% of exam score) are weighted the same on the digital exam as on the paper exam.
  • On the digital exam, there is no LEQ and there are more SAQs. Each SAQ on the digital exam counts for 7% of the exam score.

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