Javascript is used to enhance interactivity for a better user experience. Skip to Main Content

The redesign of the AP U.S. History course and exam accomplishes two major goals: it maintains AP U.S. History's strong alignment with the knowledge and skills taught in introductory courses at the college level, and also offers teachers the flexibility to focus on specific historical topics, events, and issues in depth. The redesigned course begins in fall 2014, and the first AP Exam based on the redesigned course will be administered in May 2015.

Overview of Revisions

  • A new curriculum framework clarifies the knowledge and skills students should demonstrate to qualify for college credit and placement.
    In the past, the AP Program simply specified the weighting of various periods that the AP course should cover, with the goal of providing flexibility. However, the lack of specificity put pressure on many teachers: uncertain about what the AP Exam would assess, they attempted to cover every detail of American history. Many felt unable to dedicate sufficient class time to helping students apply content knowledge to the practice of historical analysis, interpretation, and writing.

    The curriculum framework in the new AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description contains a series of learning objectives. Clearly written, the objectives describe what students should demonstrate to succeed on the AP Exam and qualify for college credit and placement. Teachers can devote more of their time to helping students develop and apply rich content knowledge and essential thinking skills.

    College U.S. history survey courses have increased emphasis on early and recent U.S. history, and de-emphasized other areas. The new AP U.S. History program reflects this by reducing the time spent on the 19th century and increasing the focus on early and recent American history.

  • AP teachers will have the flexibility enjoyed by college professors to use specific historical examples in order to explain the key concepts within each period in depth, without worrying that this will disadvantage their students on the AP Exam. 
    The newly redesigned exam will relieve pressure and free teachers to engage students deeply in exploring, understanding, and interpreting major historical events. The exam offers:
    • Clarity: The course's stated learning objectives form the basis of each exam question.
    • Flexibility: Teachers choose specific topics to explore in greater or lesser depth. The exam's design allows students to write about the historical examples taught in class in question responses.
  • Emphasis on historical thinking skills.
    The exam will assess students' application of the historical thinking skills (chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative) valued by colleges and universities as central to studying history.
  • College history faculty and department chairs have approved and lauded the redesigned course.
    College department chairs and faculty members across the nation reviewed each element of the redesigned course and exam. They identified the key concepts that history students must learn. In addition, they confirmed that within those parameters, AP teachers have the flexibility to select which specific historical topics, examples, and primary sources to teach. For more information, download this guide to the higher education validation study.

    To learn more about the role of college faculty in course and exam development, visit the AP higher education website. For information about specific institutions' credit policies for AP U.S. History and other subjects, visit AP Credit Policy Search.

The AP Course Audit

AP teachers need to revise their syllabus and have it authorized through the AP Course Audit. Taking this step helps teachers understand the new course requirements. To make the process of revising syllabi as straightforward as possible, teachers have the following options: 

  • Option 1: Design and submit a syllabus aligned with the new curricular requirements. Use the resources available at AP Course Audit.
  • Option 2: Adopt and submit one of the Annotated Sample Syllabi and use it as their approach to teaching the course.

The AP Course Audit begins accepting syllabi for review in March 2014. 

Resources to help teachers prepare their syllabi are now available on the AP Course Audit website, including a syllabus development guide, curricular requirements, four annotated sample syllabi, a syllabus development tutorial, and example textbook list.

The Exam Format

The exam requires students to apply historical thinking skills and knowledge of content as they respond, in writing, to new short-answer, document-based, and essay questions. Newly designed multiple-choice questions ask students to use their knowledge of content to analyze and interpret primary and secondary sources. The exam consists of the following sections, in order:

  • Fifty-five multiple-choice questions (55 minutes, 40 percent)
  • Four short-answer questions (45 minutes, 20 percent)
  • One document-based question (60 minutes, 25 percent)
  • One long essay question (35 minutes, 15 percent)

For a representative sample of exam questions, download the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description. Questions from the original curriculum framework are preserved for your use in Sample Questions: AP U.S. History Exam. A full AP U.S. History Practice Exam becomes available online in summer 2014.

Professional Development

AP offers many professional development options to train teachers as they implement the redesigned course. Options include face-to-face workshops and AP Summer Institutes, where participants learn ways to design a rigorous curriculum and prepare students to succeed on the exam.

  • AP U.S History workshops and AP Summer Institutes currently devote approximately 20 percent of the sessions to previewing the redesigned course, supporting the transition to the new curriculum framework. Additional one-day workshops focus specifically on integrating historical thinking skills into instruction.
  • Beginning in June 2014, AP U.S. History workshops and Summer Institutes will focus on the redesigned course only.

Available now: Teachers can join the AP U.S. History Teacher Community, an online forum moderated by fellow educators that enables AP teachers to connect with colleagues, share classroom materials, and exchange ideas about teaching the redesigned course.

How To Get Ready