What You Need to Know About the AP U.S. History Exam (page 3)
The Advanced Placement program was begun by the College Board in 1955 to construct standard achievement exams that would allow highly motivated high school students the opportunity to be awarded advanced placement as freshmen and sophomores in colleges and universities in the United States. Today, there are more than 37 courses and exams, with well over a million students taking the annual exams in May.
There are numerous AP courses in social studies besides U.S. History, including European History, World History, and U.S. Government and Politics. The majority of students who take AP courses and exams are juniors and seniors; however, some schools do offer AP courses to freshmen and sophomores.
Who Writes the AP U.S. History Exams? Who Corrects Them?
Like all AP exams, the U.S. History exam is written by experienced college and secondary school teachers of U.S. history. This group is called the AP United States History Development Committee. This group constantly evaluates the test, analyzing the exam as a whole and on an item-by-item basis. All questions on the AP U.S. History exam are field-tested before they actually appear on an AP exam.
A much larger group of college and secondary school teachers meet at a central location in early June to correct all of the exams that were completed by students across the nation the previous month. The scoring of each grader during this procedure is carefully analyzed to ensure that exams are being evaluated on a fair and consistent basis.
The AP Grades and Who Receives Them
Once you have taken the exam and it has been scored, your test will be graded with one of five numbers by the College Board:
• 5 indicates that you are extremely well qualifi ed. This is the highest-possible grade.
• 4 indicates that you are well qualifi ed.
• 3 indicates that you are qualifi ed.
• 2 indicates that you are possibly qualifi ed.
• 1 indicates that you are not qualifi ed to receive college credit.
A grade report, consisting of a grade from 1 to 5, will be sent to you in July. When you take the test, you will also indicate the college or colleges that you want your AP scores sent to. The report that the college receives contains your score for every AP exam you took this year and the grades that you received in prior years, except for any that you request be withheld. In addition, your scores will be sent to your high school.
In 2008, 346,641 students took the AP U.S. History exam. Of these students:
• 8.5% received a 5
• 18.2% received a 4
• 21.4% received a 3
• 25.4% received a 2
•26.5% received a 1
What Are the Benefits of Taking the AP U.S. History Exam?
There are several practical reasons for enrolling in an AP U.S. History course and taking the AP U.S. History exam in May. During the application process, colleges and universities look very favorably upon students who have challenged themselves by taking Advanced Placement courses. Although few would recommend this, it is possible to take any AP exam without taking a preparatory course for that exam.
Most important, most colleges will reward you for doing well on your AP exams. Although the goal of this manual is to help you achieve a 5, if you get a 3 or better on your AP U.S. History exam, most colleges will either:
1. award you actual college credit for introductory U.S. history
2. allow you to be exempt from introductory U.S. History courses You should definitely check beforehand with the colleges to which you are applying to find out their policy on AP scores and credit. They will vary.
Taking a year of AP U.S. History (or any AP course) will be a very exacting and challenging experience. If you have the capabilities, allow yourself to be challenged! Many students feel a sense of great personal satisfaction after completing an AP course, regardless of the score they eventually receive on the actual AP exam.
Questions Frequently Asked About the AP U.S. History Exam
What Is Going to Appear on the Exam?
The AP U.S. History exam consists of both multiple-choice and essay (free-response) questions. Each is worth 50 percent of the total exam grade.
Organization of the AP U.S. History Exam
|Section||Number of Questions||Time Limit|
|I. Multiple-Choice Questions||80||55 Minutes|
|II. Free-Response Questions|
|Document-Based Question||1||60 Minutes|
|Free-Response Questions||2||70 Minutes|
The Multiple-Choice Part of the Test
This section consists of 80 questions. Each question has five possible answers. You will have 55 minutes to complete this section.
The College Board annually publishes material on the breakdown of questions on the multiple-choice test. According to recently published information, the multiple choice test is broken down as follows:
• >20% of the questions deal with events from 1600 to 1789
• >45% of the questions deal with events from 1790 to 1914
• >35% of the questions deal with events from 1915 to the present
• 35% of the questions deal with political institutions, behavior, and public policy
• 40% of the questions deal with social and cultural developments
• 15% of the questions deal with diplomacy and international relations
• 10% of the questions deal with economic changes and developments
The information provided above is extremely valuable as you prepare for the multiplechoice section of the test. As you study, you should obviously concentrate your efforts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In addition, there are fewer questions on events of the twentieth century than on the nineteenth: the makers of the AP exam realize how difficult it is to “make it to the present” in the AP U.S. History course. Few questions will be asked on events that occurred after 1980.
The Essay Questions
There are two types of essays you will be asked to write in your AP U.S. History exam: the document-based question (DBQ) and the “free-response” questions. In the DBQ, you will be asked to analyze 7 to 10 documents about a certain period in U.S. history to answer a question; the free-response questions are more traditional essay questions (you will be expected to write two of these on the exam). For the DBQ, you will have 15 minutes to read the documents and 45 minutes to construct your essay; for the free-response section, you will have 70 minutes to write two essays. The essay section of the exam is also worth 50% of your final score.
In this section you are asked to analyze a number of documents and to utilize previously acquired knowledge of an era to answer a question. Not all of the information needed to earn a “5” is included in the documents. You need to bring what you know to the table as well. In a typical question, you might be presented with several political speeches, the results of public opinion polls, and several political cartoons from the 1960s and be asked to discuss the reasons for political unrest in the decade.
Immediately after taking the DBQ, you will answer two free-response questions. You will receive two questions about the United States before the Civil War, and you will have to answer one of these. You will receive two questions about the United States after the Civil War, and you will have to answer one of these. Most free-response questions ask you to utilize higher-order thinking skills. You will be asked to analyze events and trends of the past. As stated above, you will have 70 minutes to answer these questions.
Changes in the AP U.S. History Exam
There will be changes in the format of the exam beginning in 2010–2011. These changes will be announced in 2009. According to information provided on www.collegeboard .com:
For history, the conversation has emphasized the importance of changing the exam so that teachers have greater fl exibility to teach topics of their choice in depth. The input we have received has also stressed the need to help students develop historical thinking skills and enduring understanding of key concepts in history (skills measured by item such as document-based questions), rather than memorization, so that students enter further college history coursework with the skills and abilities essential to further historical scholarship.
All AP teachers now must have their course syllabus approved by the College Board, and every AP U.S. history teacher must develop at least one of the following themes in the course: American diversity, American identity, culture, demographic changes, economic transformations, environment, globalization, politics and citizenship, reform, religion, slavery and its legacy in North America, and war and diplomacy.
How Do I Register and How Much Does It Cost?
If you are enrolled in AP U.S. History your teacher is going to provide all of these details. You do not have to enroll in the AP course to take the AP exam. When in doubt, the best source of information is the College Board’s website: www.collegeboard.com.
Students who demonstrate fi nancial need may receive a refund to help offset the cost of testing. There are also several optional fees that are necessary if you want your scores rushed to you, or if you wish to receive multiple grade reports. What
Should I Do the Night Before the Exam?
Last-minute cramming of massive amounts of material will not help you. It takes time for your brain to organize material. There is some value to a last-minute review of material. This may involve looking over the fast-review portions of a few (not all) chapters or looking through the Glossary. The night before the test should include a light review and various relaxing activities. A full night’s sleep is one of the best preparations for the test.
What Should I Bring to the Exam?
Here are some suggestions:
• Several pencils and an eraser that does not leave smudges.
• Several black pens (for the essays).
• A watch so that you can monitor your time. The exam room may or may not have a clock on the wall. Make sure that you turn off the beep that goes off on the hour.
• Your school code.
• Your driver’s license, Social Security Number, or some other ID, in case there is a problem with your registration.
• Something to drink—water is best.
• A quiet snack.
• Your quiet confidence that you are prepared.
What Should I NOT Bring to the Exam?
It’s probably a good idea to leave the following items at home:
• A cell phone, beeper, PDA, or walkie-talkie.
• Books, a dictionary, study notes, flash cards, highlighting pens, correction fluid, a ruler, or any other offi ce supplies.
• Portable music of any kind.
• Panic or fear. It’s natural to be nervous, but you can comfort yourself that you have used this book and that there is no need for fear on your exam.
• Allow plenty of time to get to the test site.
• Wear comfortable clothing.
• Eat a light breakfast and/or lunch.
• Remind yourself that you are well prepared and that the test is an enjoyable challenge and a chance to share your knowledge.
• Be proud of yourself!
Once test day comes, there is nothing further you can do. Do not worry about what you could have done differently. It is out of your hands, and your only job is to answer as many questions correctly as you possibly can. The calmer you are, the better your chances of doing well.
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