Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the complete guide to the ap world history exam.
Advanced Placement (AP)
Before you start studying for the AP World History exam, you should get the inside scoop on its format and content. The types of questions you'll see might differ from your expectations. It's especially smart to practice writing essay outlines based on past questions before you're faced with fresh prompts on test day.
In this article, we'll go through the structure, content, and question types on the AP World History exam and provide some helpful tips for acing it !
How Is the AP World History Exam Structured?
The AP World History exam is three hours and 15 minutes and consists of two sections, each of which contains a Part A and a Part B. Here's a basic overview of these sections before we get into the nitty-gritty below:
- Section 1, Part A: Multiple Choice
- Section 1, Part B: Short Answer
- Section 2, Part A: Document-Based Question (DBQ)
- Section 2, Part B: Long Essay
It should be noted that the AP World History exam has undergone some big changes for the 2019-20 school year . Instead of covering thousands of years of human history and development, now it will cover only the years 1200 to the present ; as a result, the exam has been renamed AP World History: Modern (an AP World History: Ancient course and exam are in the works).
Section 1 Format
Section 1 on the AP World History exam lasts a total of 95 minutes and consists of two parts:
- Part A: Multiple Choice
- Part B: Short Answer
This chart shows what you can expect for each part of Section 1 on the World History exam:
Part A lasts 55 minutes and counts for 40% of your total AP World History score. Each question on this part comes with four possible answer choices (labeled A-D). Since there are no penalties for wrong answers, it's in your best interest to fill in an answer for every question.
Most multiple-choice questions come in sets of three to four questions and require you to analyze primary and secondary sources as well as data in the form of graphs, charts, maps, etc.
Part B lasts 40 minutes and counts for 20% of your final AP score. For this section, you must write three short answers (you'll get four prompts in total, but you choose one of two prompts to write on for your third essay). You'll have different sources, or stimuli, for each short-answer prompt:
- Short Answer 1: Includes one secondary source
- Short Answer 2: Includes one primary source
- Short Answer 3/4 (choose one prompt): No stimulus for either option; prompt 3 focuses on the years 1200-1750, while prompt 4 focuses on the years 1750-2001
Section 2 Format
Section 2 on the AP World History test lasts 100 minutes and, like Section 1, consists of two parts:
- Part A: Document-Based Question (DBQ)
- Part B: Long Essay
Here's a brief overview of the format of Section 2 of the World History exam:
Part A in Section 2 lasts one hour and counts for 25% of your total score. For the Document-Based Question, or DBQ, you'll get seven documents offering different viewpoints on a certain historical development. You must write an essay with an argument supported by this historical evidence.
Part B, which is the Long Essay, lasts for just 40 minutes and counts for 15% of your AP score. This part of the test requires you to write a full-fledged essay in response to one of three prompts (you choose which one you want to write on). Unlike the DBQ, you're not given any direct historical evidence to use in your essay; you must come up with it yourself to support your argument.
Here are the three types of prompts you can choose from for the Long Essay:
- Prompt 1: Focuses on the years 1200-1750
- Prompt 2: Focuses on the years 1450-1900
- Prompt 3: Focuses on the years 1750-2001
What Kind of Content Is Covered in AP World History?
Content on the AP World History exam is divided into six overarching themes and nine distinct units . Knowing these categorizations can help you get a better sense of what kinds of historical trends you will be asked to examine (this is especially helpful when writing free-response essays!). The units are roughly divided up into overlapping periods of time.
Below, we introduce the current themes and units, as described in the 2019-20 AP World History: Modern Course and Exam Description .
The 6 Themes in AP World History
Let's start by looking closely at the six major themes covered on the AP World History exam.
Theme 1: Humans and the Environment
The environment shapes human societies, and as populations grow and change, these populations in turn shape their environments.
- Demography and disease
- Patterns of settlement
Theme 2: Cultural Developments and Interactions
The development of ideas, beliefs, and religions illustrates how groups in society view themselves, and the interactions of societies and their beliefs often have political, social, and cultural implications.
- Religions and cultures
- Belief systems, philosophies, and ideologies
- Science and technology
- The arts and architecture
Theme 3: Governance
A variety of internal and external factors contribute to state formation, expansion, and decline. Governments maintain order through a variety of administrative institutions, policies, and procedures, and governments obtain, retain, and exercise power in different ways and for different purposes.
- Political structures and forms of governance
- Nations and nationalism
- Revolts and revolutions
- Regional, transregional, and global structures and organizations
Theme 4: Economic Systems
As societies develop, they affect and are affected by the ways that they produce, exchange, and consume goods and services.
- Agricultural and pastoral production
- Trade and commerce
- Labor systems
- Capitalism and socialism
Theme 5: Social Interactions and Organization
The process by which societies group their members and the norms that govern the interactions between these groups and between individuals influence political, economic, and cultural institutions and organization.
- Gender roles and relations
- Family and kinship
- Racial and ethnic constructions
- Social and economic classes
- Slavery and abolition
Theme 6: Technology and Innovation
Human adaptation and innovation have resulted in increased efficiency, comfort, and security, and technological advances have shaped human development and interactions with both intended and unintended consequences.
- Intellectual innovation
- Transportation technologies and trade
- Modes of production and machinery
The 9 Units in AP World History
Here, we'll go over the nine units of the AP World History course and exam. But before we describe each one in depth, here's a quick overview of how these units are tested:
Source: AP World History Course and Exam Description, 2019-20
Unit 1: The Global Tapestry (1200-1450)
- Developments in East Asia from c. 1200 to c. 1450
- Developments in Dar al-Islam from c. 1200 to c. 1450
- Developments in South and Southeast Asia from c. 1200 to c. 1450
- State Building in the Americas
- State Building in Africa
- Developments in Europe from c. 1200 to c. 1450
- Comparison in the period from c. 1200 to c. 1450
Unit 2: Networks of Exchange (1200-1450)
- The Silk Roads
- The Mongol Empire and the making of the modern world
- Exchange in the Indian Ocean
- Trans-Saharan trade routes
- Cultural consequences of connectivity
- Environmental consequences of connectivity
- Comparison of economic exchange
Unit 3: Land-Based Empires (1450-1750)
- Empires expand
- Empires: administration
- Empires: belief systems
- Comparison in land-based empires
Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections (1450-1750)
- Technological innovations from 1450 to 1750
- Exploration: causes and events from 1450 to 1750
- Columbian exchange
- Maritime empires established
- Maritime empires maintained and developed
- Internal and external challenges to state power from 1450 to 1750
- Changing social hierarchies from 1450 to 1750
- Continuity and change from 1450 to 1750
Unit 5: Revolutions (1750-1900)
- The Enlightenment
- Nationalism and revolutions in the period from 1750 to 1900
- Industrial Revolution begins
- Industrialization spreads in the period from 1750 to 1900
- Technology of the Industrial Age
- Industrialization: government's role from 1750 to 1900
- Economic developments and innovations in the Industrial Age
- Reactions to the industrial economy from 1750 to 1900
- Society and the Industrial Age
- Continuity and change in the Industrial Age
Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization (1750-1900)
- Rationales for imperialism from 1750 to 1900
- State expansion from 1750 to 1900
- Indigenous responses to state expansion from 1750 to 1900
- Global economic development from 1750 to 1900
- Economic imperialism from 1750 to 1900
- Causes of migration in an interconnected world
- Effects of migration
- Causation in the Imperial Age
Unit 7: Global Conflict (1900-Present)
- Shifting power after 1900
- Causes of World War I
- Conducting World War I
- The economy in the interwar period
- Unresolved tensions after World War I
- Causes of World War II
- Conducting World War II
- Mass atrocities after 1900
- Causation in global conflict
Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization (1900-Present)
- Setting the stage for the Cold War and decolonization
- The Cold War
- Effects of the Cold War
- Spread of communism after 1900
- Decolonization after 1900
- Newly independent states
- Global resistance to established order after 1900
- End of the Cold War
- Causation in the age of the Cold War and decolonization
Unit 9: Globalization (1900-Present)
- Advances in technology and exchange after 1900
- Technological advances and limitations after 1900: disease
- Technological advances: debates about the environment after 1900
- Economics in the Global Age
- Calls for reform and responses after 1900
- Globalized culture after 1900
- Resistance to globalization after 1900
- Institutions developing in a globalized world
- Continuity and change in a globalized world
Sample AP World History Test Questions
Let's go through examples of each of the four types of questions you'll see on the AP World History exam. All sample questions come from the 2019-20 World History Course and Exam Description .
Multiple-Choice Question Example
Most multiple-choice questions come in sets of three to four questions that ask you to respond to a particular source, or stimulus, such as a primary source, a secondary source, or data in the form of a map, chart, or table.
In this sample question, you're being asked to read and interpret two separate passages . You must have background knowledge of economic trends in the late 20th century to be able to select the correct answer here (which is answer choice C ).
Short-Answer Question Example
This short-answer question is accompanied by a secondary source. In each short-answer question on the test, each part (A-C) should only require a one- to two-sentence answer . You'll then get 1 point per correct response (so the max you can earn on one short-answer question is 3 points).
Here's how you could earn full credit for this question, per the official scoring guidelines .
(A) Sample Answers
- Hakuseki's argument was influenced by Confucianism.
- Hakuseki's argument that sovereign is Heaven to the subjects and the father is Heaven to the child was influenced by Confucian beliefs.
- Hakuseki's argument that only the emperor is supposed to serve the Lord of Heaven reflects the beliefs of Confucianism.
(B) Sample Answers
- One important difference is that most Christian missionaries and Muslim Sufis traveled across the world and spread their religion without being banned by other governments.
- One important difference between the circumstances of the religious encounter in eighteenth century Japan and other religious encounters in the period 1450–1750 is that religious interactions in this period more frequently led to the development of syncretic belief systems such as Vodou or Santería than the outright banning of the preaching of a religion.
- One important difference between the Tokugawa shogunate banning the preaching of Christianity and most other religious interactions in the period 1450–1750 is that some governments, such as the Mughal Empire under Akbar, encouraged religious tolerance and interaction.
(C) Sample Answers
- The Mughal emperors of India and the African kings of Kongo attempted to restrict European merchants to certain towns and trading posts.
- The Ming and Qing emperors of China confined the Portuguese merchants to Macao and placed legal restrictions on converting to Christianity.
- Although the Safavid Empire allowed European merchants to settle in some cities and even serve as advisors at court, preaching Christianity was strictly forbidden.
Document-Based Question Example
You'll get seven documents with your DBQ (not shown in the sample above), and you must use at least six of these as evidence in your response. The DBQ is worth up to 7 points .
Here's what you'd need to do to earn full credit for this sample DBQ, per the scoring guidelines .
Looking for help studying for your AP exam?
Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!
Long Essay Question Example
For the Long Essay, you'll get three possible prompts to choose from. This question is an example of an Option 2 prompt with a focus on the years 1450-1900 —in this case, the 19th century. You can earn up to 6 points for your essay.
Here's what you'd need to do to earn full credit for this sample, per the official scoring guidelines :
How Is the AP World History Exam Scored?
Now that you've seen what questions look like on the AP World History test, let's quickly go over exactly how the exam is scored. Like all other AP tests, you will get a final scaled score for AP World History on a scale of 1-5 . This is a cumulative score that combines your raw scores from each of the four parts of the test (Multiple Choice, Short Answer, DBQ, and Long Essay).
Keep reading to see how each part of the AP World History test is scored.
Raw scoring for the multiple-choice section is simple: you earn 1 point for each multiple-choice question you answer correctly . Since there are 55 questions, the max number of points you can earn here is 55. Remember that this part counts for 40% of your total score .
No points are taken off for incorrect answers, so be sure to fill in every answer bubble!
Each short-answer question is worth 3 points—one for each task (labeled A-C) you must complete. Because there are three short-answer questions, this means you can earn a total of 9 raw points for all your responses. The short-answer portion counts for 20% of your final AP score .
The DBQ is worth 25% of your final score and is graded on a 7-point rubric , as shown below:
The Long Essay is worth just 15% of your overall score and is graded on a 6-point rubric :
The Best Way to Prep for the AP World History Exam: 3 Tips
Here are a few of the most important prep tips for AP World History. If you want more advice, take a look at our article on the best study strategies for this exam .
Tip 1: Make Connections to Themes (and Memorize Examples)
World History is a course that covers a ton of information, so much so that it can be hard to think of specific examples that relate to your arguments in essay questions. You should be able to elaborate on one or two concrete events from each period that relate to each theme of the course.
As long as you can preserve this bank of information in your mind, you'll be able to support your answers to any essay questions the test throws at you.
Tip 2: Use Outside Information Selectively
Providing specific historical examples in your essay lets you show your mastery of the material, but you need to be cautious. This test is less about how much you know and more about how well you understand the connections and underlying themes that connect historical facts.
Each fact you mention must have a specific purpose and should tie directly into what the question is asking and what you've stated in your argument.
Tip 3: Learn to Read Multiple-Choice Questions Carefully
You can get into some trouble if you don't understand exactly what the multiple-choice questions are asking on this exam. You'll only find the correct answer if you stick to the specifics of the question. Otherwise, you could get tripped up by choices that are accurate statements about history but inaccurate answers to the question being asked.
Practice your skills in selecting answers that directly pertain to the evidence presented in the question.
Summary: What to Know About the AP World History Exam
The AP World History exam is a three-hour and 15-minute test that consists of 55 multiple-choice questions, three short answers, one DBQ, and one essay.
Questions address six major historical themes and nine units, with periods stretching back to the year 1200 CE. While this is undoubtedly a lot of information to study, it's important to realize that long-term trends are more important than small details.
You can do extremely well on the World History test, as long as you master the major events of each period and understand their essential causes and effects .
Looking for some practice materials for the World History exam? Then check out this detailed guide to all the AP World History practice tests available online .
It's a smart idea to practice your writing skills on DBQs before any AP history test. Learn about the best places to find DBQ examples and how you can write an excellent response .
Which AP classes should you take in high school besides World History? Our expert guide will help you decide based on your goals, academic interests, and schedule.
Thinking ahead to college applications?
If you’re a freshman, sophomore, or junior worried about college admissions, our world-class admissions counselors can help. We know exactly what kinds of students colleges want to admit and can make sure your profile shines.
PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We've helped thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.
Join our mentoring program today:
Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.
Student and Parent Forum
Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.
Ask a Question Below
Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!
Improve With Our Famous Guides
- For All Students
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points
How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:
Score 800 on SAT Math
Score 800 on SAT Reading
Score 800 on SAT Writing
Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:
Score 600 on SAT Math
Score 600 on SAT Reading
Score 600 on SAT Writing
Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?
15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points
How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:
36 on ACT English
36 on ACT Math
36 on ACT Reading
36 on ACT Science
Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:
24 on ACT English
24 on ACT Math
24 on ACT Reading
24 on ACT Science
What ACT target score should you be aiming for?
ACT Vocabulary You Must Know
ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score
How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League
How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA
How to Write an Amazing College Essay
What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?
Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide
Should you retake your SAT or ACT?
When should you take the SAT or ACT?
Get the latest articles and test prep tips!
Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?
Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:
GRE Online Prep Blog
GMAT Online Prep Blog
TOEFL Online Prep Blog
Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
- Virtual Tour
APUSH Essay Information and Rubrics for DBQ's, LEQ's, SAQ's
Essay and Writing Guidelines
- AP History Writing Guidelines 2020
- Essay-DBQ-LEQ Writable Outline Sheet
- Writing Effective Essays
Rubrics for DBQ, LEQ, and SAQ
- LEQ and DBQ Rubric Scoring Narrative
- DBQ RUBRIC 2019
- LEQ RUBRIC 2019
- SAQ Rubric 2019
An AP Scholar with Distinction is a student who received an average score of 3.5 on all Advanced Placement exams taken and a score of 3 or higher on five or more exams. The AP Scholar program is a College Board recognition for high school s...
An FPO/APO address is an official address used to send mail to a person stationed overseas while serving in the United States military. FPO stands for Fleet Post Office. APO stands for Air/Army Post Office.
Taking the AP World History test? Make sure to read our complete guide, which outlines what it covers, what questions look like, and how to prep. Advanced Placement (AP) Before you start studying for the AP World History exam, you should ge...
AP History Long Essay Question (LEQ) Rubric (6 points). Reporting Category. Scoring Criteria. Decision Rules. THESIS/CLAIM. (0–1 pt).
The rubrics for the AP History Document-Based Question (DBQ) and Long Essay Question. (LEQ) have been modified for the 2017–18 school year, using feedback
AP History Long Essay Question (L.E.Q.) Rubric. A. Thesis. 1 Point. ○ Thesis makes a historically defensible claim. ○ Correctly responds to all parts of
Long Essay Question ... The components of this rubric require that students demonstrate historically defensible content.
This point is not awarded for merely a phrase or reference. AP History 2020 Exam Administration Rubric. Evidence from the Documents. To earn one point, the
To earn this point, the response must relate the topic of the prompt to broader historical events, developments, or processes that occur before, during
AP European History Long Essay Rubric. Maximum Possible Points: 6. A. THESIS: 0–1 POINT. Skills assessed: Argumentation + targeted skill (Continuity and
Demonstrates a complex understanding of the historical question. (see circled points). □ Essay explanation simplistic, does not show nuance or depth of
AP History Long Essay Question Rubric. AP History LEQ Rubric (6 points). Reporting Category. Scoring Criteria. Decision Rules. A THESIS/CLAIM. (0–1 pt).
AP History DBQ Rubric (7 points). Reporting Category. Scoring Criteria. Decision Rules. A THESIS/CLAIM. (0–1 pt). 1 pt. Responds to the prompt with a.
Rubrics for DBQ, LEQ, and SAQ.