What You Need to Know About the AP European History Exam
Summary: Familiarize yourself with the exam and get answers to frequently asked questions.
- The AP European History exam offers high school students the opportunity to earn college credit.
- You should check with the colleges you are considering for their AP-credit policies.
- The AP coordinator at your school is your contact person for the exam.
- The exam is divided into multiple-choice and free-response sections; each is worth 50 percent of the total grade.
- The free-response section consists of three essays: a document-based question and two thematic questions.
The Advanced Placement Program is overseen by an organization known as the College Board, which is involved in many facets of the college admissions process. The program offers highly motivated high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses while still in high school, and the opportunity to earn credit or advanced standing at college or university by taking the Advanced Placement exams. Since its inception in 1955, the Advanced Placement Program has grown to 37 courses and gives exams across 22 subject areas. The European History program is just one of many offered in the social studies area.
Frequently Asked Questions About the AP European History Exam
Why Take the AP European History Exam?
Most students take the exam with the hope of earning college credit. Most schools will give you college credit for a score of 4 or 5, and some will give credit for a 3. However, the policies of individual colleges and universities will vary, so you should check with the schools you are interested in attending for their specific policies.
One advantage of having a college credit in European History is that you are one class closer to graduation, but there are a couple of other good reasons to take the exam:
- First, getting a college credit for AP European History will mean that you will be able to opt out of either a required, introductory course in European History or an elective course. Either way, you will have greater flexibility in choosing your courses and you will be able to move on to the more advanced and specific courses (either in history or in some other field) that interest you.
- Second, having AP credit on your transcript can increase your chances of getting into the school you want because it tells college admissions officers that you are a serious student who has some experience with college-level work.
Do I Have to Take an AP European History Class to Take the Exam?
No. Taking an AP European History class at your high school is a great way to prepare, but it is not required. The College Board simply urges students to study the kinds of skills and subjects outlined in the AP European History Course Description. The Course Description is available online from the College Board (www.collegeboard.com). The McGraw-Hill five-step program is based on both the College Board Course Description for AP European History and the Exam Guidelines, so working through this guide will help you both to develop the relevant skills and to familiarize yourself with the relevant subject material.
Who Writes and Grades the AP European History Exam?
The exam is written by a team of college and high school history instructors called the AP European History Test Development Committee. The Committee is constantly evaluating the test and field-testing potential questions. The exam is graded by a much larger group of college and high school teachers who meet at a central location in early June to evaluate and score exams that were completed by students the previous month.
What Is on the Exam?
The format of the AP European History exam is shown in Table 1.1. The multiple-choice questions cover European history from the High Renaissance period to the present. About half of the questions cover the period from 1450 to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era, with the second half covering the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era to the present. Within the 80 questions, there is a thematic breakdown:
- about one-third of the questions cover cultural and intellectual themes
- about one-third cover political and diplomatic themes
- about one-third cover social and economic themes
We will discuss strategies for doing well on the multiple-choice section in Chapter 4. The free-response section is composed of three parts, as shown in Table 1.2. The document-based question (DBQ) requires you to read a series of excerpts from historical documents and respond to a question about them. The thematic essay questions each ask you to choose one question from each of two groups of three questions. Once the 15-minute reading period for the DBQ is over, you are free to use the rest of the 130-minute time period any way you wish.
We will discuss strategies for doing well on the DBQ in Chapter 5, and on the thematic essays in Chapter 6.
How Is the Exam Evaluated and Scored?
The multiple-choice section, worth 50 percent of the total grade, is scored by computer. The three essays that make up the free-response section are, together, worth 50 percent of the total score. The DBQ essay is worth 45 percent of the free-response score; the two thematic essays together contribute 55 percent of the free-response score. All free-response essays are scored by "readers" (the college and high school teachers who are hired to do the job), who have been trained to score the responses in accordance with a set of guidelines. The scoring guidelines for each question are drawn up by a team of the most experienced readers. (We will discuss what kinds of things the guidelines tell the readers to look for in Chapters 5 and 6.) Evaluation and scoring are monitored by the chief reader and table leaders and periodically analyzed for consistency.
The scores for the multiple-choice and free-response sections are combined into composite scores; the Chief Faculty Consultant then converts the range of composite scores to the 5-point scale of the AP grades:
- Grade 5 is the highest possible grade; it indicates that you are extremely well qualified to receive college credit.
- Grade 4 indicates that you are well qualified.
- Grade 3 indicates that you are qualified.
- Grade 2 indicates that you are possibly qualified.
- Grade 1 indicates that you are not qualified to receive college credit.
How Do I Register?
Whether you are enrolled in a high school AP course or preparing for the test on your own, the best thing to do is see your guidance counselor. He or she will direct you to the AP coordinator for your school. You will need the coordinator because that is the person who collects your money and dispenses information about the exact location and date of the test. If for some reason your school does not have an AP coordinator, you can test through another school. To find out which schools in your area offer the test and to find a coordinator, you can check with the College Board's website (www.collegeboard.com). You should visit the site, even if your school has an AP coordinator, as it will always have the latest and most up-to-date information.
It currently costs $86 to take the AP European History exam. Students who demonstrate financial need may receive a $22 refund to help offset the cost of testing. There are also several optional fees that must be paid if you want your scores rushed to you or if you wish to receive multiple grade reports.
What Should I Bring to the AP Exam?
There are several things that are either required or a good idea to have with you. They include:
- a good supply of no. 2 pencils with erasers that do not smudge (for the multiple-choice section)
- several black or blue colored ink pens (for the free-response essays)
- a watch so that you can monitor your time (you never know if the exam room will have a clock and you will not have a cell phone or other electronic devices; be sure to turn any alarms or chimes off )
- your photo ID and social security number
What Should I NOT Bring to the Exam?
There are a number of things that you are not allowed to use during the exam and that you should, therefore, not bring with you. They include:
- reference books of any kind—notebooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.
- a laptop computer
- electronic devices like cell phones, PDAs, pagers, or walkie-talkies
- portable music of any kind, such as CD players, MP3 players, or iPods
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