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- How Will AP Scores Impact My College Chances?
- Overview of the AP U.S. History Exam
- 10 Hardest AP U.S. History Questions
With only 13% of test takers scoring a 5 in 2020, the AP U.S. History Exam is notorious for its length and difficulty. The test requires you to analyze text and visual information in order to answer corresponding questions—all while under a time crunch. This means you’ll need to learn how to answer these questions quickly and correctly. In this post, we’ll cover some difficult AP U.S. History practice questions (with detailed explanations), along with some tips on how to approach this exam.
How Will AP Scores Impact My College Chances?
When it comes to AP courses, your scores are less important than you may think. The scores themselves are optional, rather than required to report on most applications. Colleges usually look to AP classes as a demonstration of your high school course rigor. If you’re curious, we’ve broken down the impact of your AP scores in college admissions.
Though most colleges don’t take AP scores heavily into account, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try on your AP exams. Some colleges will waive requirements or even give you credit for certain AP scores! This will save you time and money, and might even mean that you can graduate early.
If you’re wondering what your chances are of getting accepted at your dream schools, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing calculator. It takes into account stats like GPA and standardized test scores, along with more holistic factors like extracurricular activities to predict your odds of admission at more than 500 colleges and universities.
Overview of the AP U.S. History Exam
The AP U.S. History Exam will be offered on paper on May 6th and as a digital exam on May 19th and June 2nd.
The paper administration of the AP U.S. History exam consists of two sections:
- Section I:
- Part A: 55 multiple choice questions (55 minutes), 40% of exam score
- Part B: 3 short answer questions (40 minutes), 20% of exam score
- Section II: 1 document-based question and 1 long essay question (1 hour 40 minutes), 40% of exam score
The digital administration of the AP U.S. History exam consists of two sections:
- Section I:
- Part A: 55 multiple choice questions (55 minutes), 40% of exam score
- Part B: 3 short answer questions (40 minutes), 20% of exam score
- Section II: 1 document-based question and 2 short answer questions (1 hour 40 minutes), 40% of exam score
For the paper administration of the exam, students will have options to choose from for one of the short answer questions and for the long essay question. The digital administration of the exam does not give you options. Also, for the digital exam you will not be allowed to go back to a question that you’ve already answered, and you won’t be able to skip ahead either.
Regardless of which exam format you encounter, the exam will expect you to have an in-depth knowledge of the following themes:
- American and National Identity
- Work, Exchange, and Technology
- Geography and the Environment
- Migration and Settlement
- Politics and Power
- America in the World
- American and Regional Culture
- Social Structures
Since all multiple choice questions and most free response questions contain corresponding text, images, charts, or maps, be prepared to analyze the sources and the historical developments and processes embedded within them.
10 Hardest AP U.S. History Questions
Questions with these types of passages can be difficult, since most of the work entails deciphering the meaning of the passage. We can do this by pinpointing key phrases. In this case, the first few sentences are merely setting up context around the reverend. But, the effect of his sermons can be seen in the sentence “from being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious.”
This, taken into account with the backlash from the clergy in the existing churches (who “refused him their pulpits”), shows that choice B is the correct answer, since Whitefield’s open-air preaching meant that individuals were learning new ways of religious thought.
This question details the importance of reading the origins of the passage. Here, the text is from the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions from the Seneca Falls Convention. This lets us know that supporters of this declaration were proponents of women’s rights.
So, the correct answer should be C, since the Fifteenth Amendment divided the women’s rights movement. This amendment enfranchised all men, overturning the previous law that only white men could vote. But, some women were unhappy with this amendment, since they felt that women were denied their opportunity to be enfranchised, which split the movement into two groups, those who supported the Fifteenth Amendment and those who didn’t.
For this question, be careful not to let outside knowledge lead you astray. Though the signers of the Declaration of Independence firmly believe in the concept of hereditary rights and privileges and the principle of religious freedom, this excerpt is more consistent with the ideas of the Enlightenment.
This is because the excerpt details that the government derives its powers “from the consent of the governed.” This stems from Enlightenment philosopher John Locke’s theory that a government is only legitimate if the governed consent to its authority, so answer choice D is the best answer.
Though answer choices A, B and C are true statements about what was happening during the 1920s, they don’t directly relate to American immigration policy. So, answer choice D is the correct answer. Americans were becoming increasingly isolationist following World War I, and the government’s response was to impose stricter immigration policies.
Don’t overlook the description above the picture as it provides contextual information. The late 19th century was characterized by a growing divide between the rich and the poor due to industrialization. The individuals inside the picture are likely experiencing poverty as a result of industrialization.
This information makes answer choice B incorrect, since advocates for these individuals would say the opposite: government regulation should be imposed to improve the poor social conditions caused by capitalism. Answer choice C is similarly incorrect since advocates wouldn’t write off these individuals’ situation as the product of natural selection. Instead, they would seek government action to help such individuals. So, choice D is the best answer.
The first thing to note is that John Muir was a prominent environmental philosopher who was known for advocating for forest conservation. This background knowledge allows us to immediately flag choice C as the best answer.
However, even if you aren’t equipped with this prior knowledge, the passage will lead you to the correct answer. Particularly, the phrase that the valley “ought to be faithfully guarded,” indicates that Muir is calling for wildlife preservation.
One of the guiding principles in Washington’s Farewell Address was a neutral foreign policy and he warned the young nation to avoid foreign entanglements. This is apparent in the passage when he states, “foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” Answer choices A and B are incorrect since they involve the United States forming foreign alliances. Also, answer choice D is incorrect since it does not demonstrate a neutral policy. Then, choice C is correct; the United States refusing to join the League of Nations reflects Washington’s desire to have the country avoid foreign influence.
Let’s start by determining the main idea of the text: Calhoun claims that “the condition of the African race throughout all the States” is better in the United States than in any other country, or than it has ever been. Choices A, C, and D all fail to contradict this claim, so they are incorrect.
But, answer choice B is correct since resistance to slavery directly undermines Calhoun’s notion of slaves’ conditions being better than they have ever been.
This question may be misleading, since the radio address taken out of context seems as if Clinton is advocating for more welfare benefits. But, the Clinton Administration actually pushed forward the Welfare Reform Act of 1966, which decreased benefits. This means that answer choice B is the correct answer, and Clinton is encouraging self-reliance in lieu of substantial government intervention.
This passage describes the life of the mill girls, young women who worked in factories during the late 1800s. Choice B is a tempting answer, but is ultimately incorrect. Women did gain independence to some degree by entering the workforce, but their independence was not in the form of legal rights.
So, choice A is the best answer, since the late 1800s industrial revolution was characterized by workers moving from agrarian to industrial contexts.
To wrap up, here are some final tips to guide you as you study for the AP U.S. History Exam.
Focus on the bigger picture
Because the AP U.S. History exam covers a broad range of material, try to focus on honing down key concepts of each era, rather than spending the majority of your time memorizing specific names and dates. Though this information is helpful, especially when constructing essay responses, it’s better to know the broader themes of each era because many questions involve contextualizing or comparing information.
Pay close attention to the supplemental text or images
As we’ve seen from the practice questions, try not to let outside information lead you astray. Outside knowledge will be helpful in certain contexts like if a question is asking you specifically about the meaning within the text or image. However, make sure that your answer is reflective of what the text or image is actually showing you, and not of something that is from your prior knowledge.
As you study for this and other AP exams, check out these helpful articles:
- Ultimate Guide to the AP US History Exam
- How to Ace the DBQ on the AP US History Exam
- 2021 AP Exam Schedule + Study Tips
- How to Understand and Interpret Your AP Scores
- How Long Is Each AP Exam? A Complete List
What is the hardest unit in AP US history? ›
DBQ stands for Document Based Question and is arguably the most difficult component of the APUSH exam. The DBQ is in the essay-writing section of the exam, where students are expected to write a clear and concise essay that revolves around ten to twelve primary-source documents.Is APUSH the hardest AP class? ›
AP US History (APUSH) is considered moderate difficulty, with class alumnae rating it 5.9/10 for overall difficulty (the 11th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed). The pass rate is much lower than other AP classes, with 48% graduating with a 3 or higher.How hard is it to get a 5 on APUSH? ›
According to the College Board, the 5 rate in 2021 was just 10.1%. For context, only 9 other AP exams had lower 5 rates, while 28 had higher rates. Clearly, getting a 5 on APUSH takes a lot of work.Is AP US history very hard? ›
AP U.S. History is a challenging high school advanced placement course. The course covers centuries of material and requires sharp analysis skills. The AP U.S. History exam has a relatively low pass rate compared with those of other AP exams. Even though it's a difficult course, it can be rewarding for many students.What is the hardest AP to pass? ›
- Physics 1. 51.6% 8.8%
- Environmental Science. 53.4% 11.9%
- Chemistry. 56.1% 10.6%
- U.S. Government and Politics. 57.5% 15.5%
- U.S. History. 58.7% 13.0%
- Human Geography. 59.0% 11.8%
- European History. 59.3% 13.7%
- Statistics. 60.0% 16.2%
- AP Psychology. With a reputation as one of the easiest AP classes, it comes as no surprise that AP Psychology is also one of the most popular—292,501 students took the exam in 2021. ...
- AP Comparative Government and Politics. ...
- AP Environmental Science.
Many of the least popular AP exams are world language tests, as these exams generally target a more niche group of students. What's more, some languages are less commonly taught at high schools than others (e.g., Japanese and Italian courses are rarer than Spanish courses).Is 5 APs too much? ›
You can definitely take 5 APs, but just make sure to stay on top of your work and spend a good amount of time studying to make sure you know the material.How many AP classes is too much? ›
Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years. For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools.Is a 75 a 5 on the AP exam? ›
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
|Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)||Scaled Score (1-5)|
Is a 90 a 5 on the AP exam? ›
Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.What is the easiest AP to get a 5? ›
|AP Class/Exam*||Pass Rate (3+)||Perfect Score (5)|
|2. Calculus BC||81.6%||44.6%|
|3. Spanish Literature||75.1%||17.6%|
|4. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism||74.4%||40.4%|
|5. Physics 2||73.3%||14.0%|
- Create a daily study routine early in the school year. ...
- Create a yearly outline of the course. ...
- Use a giant whiteboard when studying. ...
- Study with friends. ...
- Choose a review book to supplement your studies with. ...
- Create a study game over historical periods.
|Scaled Score||AP Score||% of Students Who Earned Score (2022)|
Taking the raw average of these seven years, you should think of the average AP® US History being 2.71.What grade is AP failing? ›
The College Board considers a score of 3 or higher a passing grade. That said, some colleges require a 4 or 5 to award credit. Whether a 3 is a good AP score depends on the colleges you're applying to.Is a 3 on AP failing? ›
An AP® score of 3 is a respectable score. The College Board designates a 3 to be “qualified”. That means that you understood and executed the material to the point that you could pass the college class.Is getting a 1 on AP Exam bad? ›
Key Takeaway: AP students who earn a score of 1 or 2, or average a score of 1 or 2 across their AP Exams in high school, have better college outcomes than academically similar college students who did not take an AP course and exam. compared to academically similar students who did not take AP in high school.What is the lowest passing AP score? ›
To pass the AP exam, students need to score a 3 or above. Percentage shows how many students were able to achieve a 3 or more in specific exams.What are the two hardest AP classes? ›
Okay, Seriously, Which AP Classes Are the Hardest? United States History, Biology, English Literature, Calculus BC, Physics C, and Chemistry are often named as the hardest AP classes and tests. These classes have large curriculums, tough tests, and conceptually difficult material.
How many AP classes should I take for Harvard? ›
Going up the selectivity chain, the average at Harvard is eight AP classes. To be competitive at some of the most highly selective colleges in the country, 8-12 AP courses may be the sweet spot amount, assuming the student can handle that level of rigor.What is the most liked AP class? ›
- AP English Language and Composition.
- AP United States History.
- AP Psychology.
- AP Calculus AB.
- AP Spanish Language and Culture.
Some students graduate from college early because of the credits they earn in high school through AP. This saves them money in tuition. Many colleges recognize that your AP scores demonstrate that you already know the material in certain courses they offer. So they'll let you skip those courses.Is 14 AP classes a lot? ›
For students aiming for the Ivy League and Top 20 schools in the United States, a good target is to take (and pass) 10-14 AP classes throughout your high school career — or 3-4 each year.Can I get into Harvard with 5 APs? ›
Harvard only accepts AP® scores of 5 for course credit. If you have 4 scores of 5, you can opt to obtain Advanced Standing. You can use AP® credits to opt-out of lower-level classes. Harvard has general academic requirements that all students must take.Is 7 APs enough for Ivy League? ›
To be a competitive candidate for admission, you will need to take at least 8 AP® classes, more if you can. It is a good idea to take 1 AP® course in each of the following core disciplines: English, Foreign Language, History, Math, and Science to impress the admissions officers.
If you're looking for a specific number of APs that you should take, it will depend on your school's offerings, but a safe number for admission at Ivy League schools is usually between 7 and 12 AP classes throughout high school.Do AP classes boost GPA? ›
At many high schools, honors and AP classes both offer more heavily weighted training compared to regular classes. While honors courses usually add 0.5 points to your GPA, AP classes often add 1 point. In other words, a 3.5 GPA would be boosted to a 4.0 in an honors class and a 4.5 in an AP class.Can you get into an Ivy League without AP classes? ›
The Ivy leagues don't discriminate if your school doesn't offer you AP classes. However, if your school offers AP classes and you don't take the opportunity to take them all they will notice that and it's not a good thing. This really depends on how many your school offers.Is 4 APs too much junior year? ›
Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years. For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools.
Are AP tests curved? ›
In other words, AP scores are not graded on a curve but instead calculated specifically to reflect consistency in scoring from year to year.Is a B+ in an AP class good? ›
Colleges definitely prefer the B+ in an honors/AP class. Honestly, colleges don't give a crap about regular classes unless it is a mediocre or low quality college. Colleges will understand if you got a B+ in a harder class because it is harder and it is still almost an A.What is 67 percent on an AP? ›
|Grade on the AP Test|
|Raw Score||Total %||AP Score|
|80-93||53% to 62%||3|
|68-79||45% to 52%||2|
Honors English = B+ (3.8 x 1.0) = 3.8. Algebra II. = B+ (3.3 x 1.0) = 3.3. AP US History = B+ (4.3 x 1.0) = 4.3.What is a 75 on an AP test? ›
|If you got a percentage of...||If you got a raw score of... (For FINAL EXAM)||Your letter Grade will be...|
Download and fill out the AP Score Withholding Form.
Fill out the form with your information, including which exam scores you want to withhold and from which recipients, and sign it. Form to request AP Exam score withholding from a score recipient.
What happens if you fail an AP exam? If you fail an AP exam, you will not receive college credit for that course. The good news is that a failed exam does not affect your GPA. In addition, you can retake the AP exam the next year.Is self studying AP worth it? ›
Self-studying for an AP exam will be especially worth it if you already have a working knowledge of the subject you're hoping to study for. Remember that you'll want to aim for a score of four or higher. Most colleges won't give credit for a lower score.Is AP or IB harder? ›
Is IB harder than AP? It depends. Some students argue that IB is more challenging because of the emphasis on critical thinking and the more application-focused evaluations. However, both IB and AP classes are considered college-level courses that many students find challenging.Does failing AP exam look bad? ›
AP scores have very, very little impact on college admissions, especially if the exam has nothing to do with your major. If you don't report, they probably won't really notice. They can't assume you failed, as maybe you never took the exam in the first place. They care more about your grade in the class.
Is it better to skip an AP exam or fail it? ›
Although there are no consequences from skipping the exam, you might be missing out on some opportunities. The first and most obvious advantage is the college credit. Although many colleges are highly selective about AP results, or don't accept them at all, some still will give you credit.Can you still pass an AP class but fail the exam? ›
A poor AP exam score will not affect your class grade. Typically, you receive your AP score far after your semester grades have already been submitted. So, you don't have to worry about failing the course as a result of failing the AP exam.Does it matter if you get a 3 or a 5 on an AP exam? ›
AP Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Many U.S. colleges grant credit and/or advanced placement (that means they let you skip the equivalent course once you get to college) for scores of 3 and above.What percent is a 1 on an AP exam? ›
The lowest possible score you can get on an AP exam, a 1 indicates that students were completely unfamiliar with the material. No U.S. colleges currently offer college credit for a score of 1. In some exams, earning a 1 is extremely rare, like in AP Studio Art, where only 1.1% of students earn a 1.Can you use erasable pens in an AP exam? ›
What Students Should Bring to the Exam Room. 2 sharpened No. 2 pencils (with erasers) for completing multiple-choice answer sheets. 2 pens, with black or dark blue ink only, for completing areas on the exam booklet covers and for free-response questions in most exams.What GPA is a 92 in an AP class? ›
|Letter Grade||Percentage||AP/IB GPA|
Colleges are generally looking for a 4 (“well-qualified”) or 5 (“extremely qualified”) on the AP exam, but some may grant credit for a 3 (“qualified”). These scores mean you have proven yourself capable of doing the work in an introductory-level college course.How many people get a 4 on APUSH? ›
AP U.S. History score distributions, 2019 vs. 2021.
United States History, Biology, English Literature, Calculus BC, Physics C, and Chemistry are often named as the hardest AP classes and tests. These classes have large curriculums, tough tests, and conceptually difficult material.Which is harder APUSH or APWH? ›
Because of the emphasis placed on details in US History, most people would say that AP US History (or APUSH) is harder than AP World History, but in reality, it depends on your skillset. They're just different.
Which units are most heavily covered in AP Gov exam? ›
The AP® US Government and Politics exam has two units that carry between 45% and 63% of the total exam. Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government is weighted at 25-36% and Unit 5: Political Participation is weighted at 20-27%.Is AP more difficult than honors? ›
AP classes, however, are more challenging than honors classes. These courses cover information, teach skills and give assignments that correspond to college classes. High school students taking AP courses will be held to the same standard as college students.Do colleges look at AP World History? ›
Most colleges and universities have a history requirement and/or a global perspectives requirement, so a high score on the AP World History exam will sometimes fulfill one or both of these requirements.What is one of the easiest AP classes? ›
- Physics C: Mechanics. 84.3% 41.6%
- Calculus BC. 81.6% 44.6%
- Spanish Literature. 75.1% 17.6%
- Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. 74.4% 40.4%
- Physics 2. 73.3% 14.0%
- Computer Science Principles. 71.6% 10.9%
- Psychology. 71.3% 22.4%
- Computer Science A. 70.4% 25.6%
What is a good AP® World History score? Scores of 3, 4, and 5 on an AP® exam are passing scores and generally considered a good score. The College Board defines a 3 as 'qualified, 4 as 'well qualified,' and a 5 as 'extremely well qualified.What is a 70 on the AP exam? ›
Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.How easy is it to get a 5 on AP Gov? ›
How do I get a 5 on AP® US Government? First, it is important to note that on average, only about 11% of all AP® US Government test takers achieve a 5 on this exam. Getting a top score is challenging, but definitely not impossible. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are aiming for a 5.What is the highest grade in AP? ›
AP tests are scored on a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Get a 4 or higher, and you may be able to earn college credit without paying college tuition! Whether you just got your AP scores back or are considering taking an AP class, here's everything you need to know about AP scores.Are B's in AP classes good? ›
If you take AP classes and get B's, don't worry too much. Colleges take the difficulty of your classes into consideration, and a lot of admissions officers are impressed by students who challenge themselves with the tougher courses.Do AP classes boost your GPA? ›
At many high schools, honors and AP classes both offer more heavily weighted training compared to regular classes. While honors courses usually add 0.5 points to your GPA, AP classes often add 1 point. In other words, a 3.5 GPA would be boosted to a 4.0 in an honors class and a 4.5 in an AP class.
Do colleges prefer AP or honors? ›
Colleges like them both. Both honors and AP courses are rigorous courses that most high schools weight more heavily on your transcript. AP courses, however, culminate in the AP Exam. Good AP scores show colleges you are ready to succeed at college-level work and can even earn you college credits.