AP World History: Modern Exam Tips

The following strategies for answering the free-response questions were developed by faculty consultants to help you on exam day.

Keep an eye on your time.

Monitor your time carefully. Make sure not to spend too much time on any one question so that you have enough time to answer all of them. If you reach the end of the test with time to spare, go back and review your essays. And don’t waste time restating the question in your answers: that won’t earn points.

Plan your answers.

Don’t start to write immediately: that can lead to a string of disconnected, poorly planned thoughts. Carefully analyze the question, thinking through what is being asked and evaluating the points of view of the sources and authors. Identify the elements that must be addressed in the response. For example, some questions may require you to consider the similarities between people or events, and then to think of the ways they are different. Others may ask you to develop an argument with examples to support it. Be sure to answer exactly what is being asked in the question prompt!

Integrate evidence.

After you have determined how to answer the question, consider what evidence you can incorporate into your response. Review the evidence you learned during the year that relates to the question and then decide how it fits into the analysis. Does it demonstrate a similarity or a difference? Does it argue for or against a generalization that is being addressed?

Decide your thesis statement.

Begin writing only after you have thought through your evidence and have determined what your thesis statement will be. Once you have done this, you will be in a position to answer the question analytically instead of in a rambling narrative.

Support your thesis statement.

Make your overarching statement or argument, then position your supporting evidence so that it is obviously directed to answering the question. State your points clearly and explicitly connect them to the larger thesis, rather than making generalizations.

Elaborate on the evidence.

Don’t just paraphrase or summarize your evidence. Clearly state your intent, then use additional information or analysis to elaborate on how these pieces of evidence are similar or different. If there is evidence that refutes a statement, explain why. Your answer should show that you understand the subtleties of the questions.


Answering free-response questions from previous AP Exams is a great way to practice: it allows you to compare your own responses with those that have already been evaluated and scored. Go to the Exam Questions and Scoring Information section of the AP World History: Modern Exam page on AP Central  to review the latest released free-response questions and scoring guidelines. Older questions and scoring information are available on the Past Exam Questions page.

Task Verbs

Pay close attention to the task verbs used in the free-response questions. Each one directs you to complete a specific type of response. Here are the task verbs you’ll see on the exam:

  • Compare: Provide a description or explanation of similarities and/or differences.
  • Describe: Provide the relevant characteristics of a specified topic.
  • Evaluate: Judge or determine the significance or importance of information, or the quality or accuracy of a claim.
  • Explain: Provide information about how or why a relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome occurs, using evidence and/or reasoning; explain “how” typically requires analyzing the relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome; whereas, explain “why” typically requires analysis of motivations or reasons for the relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome.
  • Identify: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.
  • Support an argument: Provide specific examples and explain how they support a claim.

AP Short-Answer Response Booklets

Important reminders for completing short-answer responses.

Write each response only on the page designated for that question.

  • 1 lined page is provided for each short-answer question.
  • The question number is printed as a large watermark on each page, and also appears at the top and bottom of the response area.

Keep responses brief–don’t write essays.

  • The booklet is designed to provide sufficient space for each response.
  • Longer responses will not necessarily receive higher scores than shorter ones that accomplish all the tasks set by the question.