Directions for the 2021 Digital AP United States History Exam

Exam and section directions will appear in the testing application

Unlike on paper and pencil exams, students taking digital exams will receive directions primarily from the digital testing application, not from a proctor, whether they take the digital exam at school or at home.

On the digital exam, directions will be shown on a pop-up in the digital exam application when the clock starts at the beginning of each section. Students will have a chance to read them before starting to answer questions, and can view them at any time by clicking the Directions link in the upper left corner of the application. 

Please note that the exam timer starts when the directions appear at the beginning of each section. While students should read the directions, they should be aware that the timer will be running while they do so, both at the beginning of each section and while they’re working during the exam. 

General Exam Directions will appear in the left column of the directions pop-up, and will be the same for all sections of that exam. Section Directions will appear in the right column, and will be specific to each section of the exam.

When you answer digital practice questions in the digital testing application, these same directions will appear along with a note when practice has a different number of questions than the actual exam.

The following is the full text of the directions that will appear on the digital AP United States History Exam.

Exam Directions

The AP United States History Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. Section I, Part A lasts 55 minutes and has 55 multiple-choice questions. Section I, Part B lasts 40 minutes and has 3 short-answer questions. Section II lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes, and has 1 document-based question (DBQ) and 2 short-answer questions (SAQs).

Please note that you are responsible for pacing yourself. The clock will turn red when 5 minutes remain, but the proctor or app will not give you any other time updates. 

Do not spend too much time on any one question, but remember that you cannot go back to a question once you’ve moved on to the next question.

You may use scratch paper for notes and planning, but credit will only be given for responses entered in this application.

Please note: Source materials may have been edited for the purpose of this exam.

The inclusion of source material in this exam is not intended as an endorsement by College Board or ETS of the content, ideas, or values expressed in the material. The material has been selected by the history faculty who serve on the AP United States History Development Committee. In their judgment, the material printed here reflects various aspects of the course of study on which this exam is based and is therefore appropriate to use to measure the skills and knowledge of this course.  

Section Directions–Section I, Part A

Section I, Part A: 55 minutes, 55 multiple-choice questions.

Each of the questions or incomplete statements in this section is followed by four suggested answers or completions. Select the best answer to each question.

Section Directions–Section I, Part B

Section I, Part B: 40 minutes, 3 short-answer questions.

Please note: All questions in this section are required.

In your responses, be sure to address all parts of each question. Use complete sentences; an outline or bulleted list alone is not acceptable.

You are advised to spend an equal amount of time, approximately 13 minutes, on each question.

Section Directions–Section II

Section II: 1 hour and 40 minutes, 1 document-based question (DBQ) and 2 short-answer questions (SAQs).

Please note: All questions in this section are required.

You are advised to spend:

  • Question 1 (DBQ): approximately 15 minutes reading the question, evaluating the documents, and planning your answer, and 45 minutes writing your answer
  • Question 2 and 3 (SAQs): approximately 40 minutes writing your answers

The DBQ requires your response in essay form.  

In your responses to SAQs, be sure to address all parts of each question. Use complete sentences; an outline or bulleted list alone is not acceptable.

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