Ap World History Essay Writing Tips

The AP World History Exam can be one of the most challenging AP exams to take because of the vast time-frame and the number of significant historical events, people, and developments that are covered in the course. Even more challenging for some may be how to approach the AP World History free-response questions. These questions not only cover a broad spectrum of topics, but require you to use your historical thinking skills to defend your response by providing historical evidence to support your written answers to these questions.

What is the format of AP World History?

The AP World History Exam contains two parts that will allow the AP graders to assess your knowledge of the historical content contained in the AP World History course. You will have to use the historical thinking skills that you developed in the course to successfully navigate both parts of the exam. Your performance on the exam will be compiled and weighted to determine your AP Exam score (1 to 5). To review the nine historical thinking skills, you can use the Rubrics for AP Histories plus Historical Thinking Skills resource on the CollegeBoard website.

Use the chart below to follow along with the two parts of the AP World History Exam.

SectionQuestions Type# of QuestionsTiming% of Total Exam Score
IPart A: Multiple Choice

– Questions appear in sets of 2 to 5

– You will analyze historical texts, interpretations, and evidence

– Primary and secondary sources, images, graphs, and maps are included

5555 minutes40%

Part B: Short-Answer Questions (SAQs)

– Questions provide opportunities for you to explain the historical examples that you know best

– Some questions include texts, images, graphs, or maps

440 minutes20%
IIPart A: Document-Based Question (DBQ)

– You will Analyze and synthesize historical data

– You will assess written, quantitative, or visual materials as historical evidence

155 Minutes (includes 15-minute reading period) 25%

Part B: Long Essay Question (LEQ)

– You can select one question among the two given

– You will explain and analyze significant issues in world history

– You will develop an argument supported by an analysis of historical evidence

1 (chosen from a pair)35 minutes15%

The first part of the exam (Section I, Part A) consists of multiple-choice questions that will test your content knowledge by analyzing and interpreting primary and secondary sources. Section I also contains a series of short answer questions (Part B) and will address one or more of the course themes.

The second part of the AP World History contains the document-based question (DBQ) and long essay questions (LEQ). These questions will that ask you to demonstrate historical content knowledge and thinking skills through written responses.

All written parts of the exam (SAQs, DBQ, and LEQ) make up the general concept of the AP World History Free Response Questions (FRQs).

Why is the AP World History Free-Response Important?

Free response questions need to be a huge part of your AP World History exam preparation and practice schedule, because this section of the exam will make or break you. Why do we say that? The AP World History free-response questions make up 60% of your total scaled score. That is why we have put together this review to show you how to approach the AP World History FRQs.

It is important to know how the AP World History Exam is scored. This knowledge will be helpful in understanding the impact that the free-response questions will have on your overall exam score. As of the posting of this article, the CollegeBoard has not released an official scoring worksheet that shows the latest changes in the AP World History Exam. In the meantime, we have created an AP World History Score Calculator. This calculator takes the relative percentages of each respective section of the exam as outlined here and references the Rubrics for AP Histories to compute your 2017 projected score.

The AP World History Scoring Calculator is an excellent demonstration of how much weight is put on the FRQs compared to the multiple-choice questions. As you’ll see, doing well on the FRQs can really make your final score soar!

What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP World History?

Each exam question will measure how you can apply historical thinking skills to one or more of the learning objectives within a particular historical context from the six periods of world history. The FRQs also require you to provide specific historical evidence as part of your written response.

Short-Answer Questions

SAQs will address one or more of themes of the course. You will have to use your historical thinking skills to respond to primary and secondary sources, a historian’s argument, non-textual sources (maps or charts), or general suggestions about world history. Each question will ask you to identify and explore examples of historical evidence relevant to the source or question.

Document-Based Question

The DBQ measures your ability to analyze and integrate historical data and to assess verbal, quantitative, or visual evidence. Your responses will be judged on your ability to formulate a thesis and back it up with relevant evidence. The documents included in the DBQ can vary in length and format, and the question content can include charts, graphs, cartoons, and pictures, as well as written materials. You are expected to be able to assess the value of different kinds of documents, and you’ll be required to relate the material to a historical period or theme, thus focusing on major periods and issues. Therefore, it is crucial to have knowledge beyond the particular focus of the question and to incorporate it into your essay to get the highest score.

Long Essay Question

You are given a chance to show what you know best on the LEQs by having a choice between two long essay options. The LEQs will measure how you use your historical thinking skills to explain and analyze significant issues in the world history themes from the course. Your essays must include a central issue or argument that you need to support by evaluating specific and relevant historical evidence. You’ll be using specific in-depth examples of large-scale events taken from the course or classroom discussion.

How to Prepare for AP World History Free-Response Questions

There are a variety of ways that you can come up with a plan of attack to prepare for AP World History free-response questions. The most efficient and productive way to do that is to create a study plan.

Have a Study Plan

Studying for the AP World History Exam can seem overwhelming because of the sheer volume of material covered in the course. This study plan should begin in the fall and take you all the way up to the exam in May.

You may want to study what you learned last and work your way back to the beginning. Or you might want to take the approach of studying from the beginning to the most recent material covered. Some students choose to study only the material that they had difficulty on in the course. All of these methods have merit, but you will have to determine what approach works for your learning style and helps you feel prepared for the exam.

The method that we do not recommend is cramming the material into your brain in the days or weeks leading up to the exam. Instead, take your time to develop depth and breadth of understanding and think historically. If you find yourself in the position of needing an intense 30-day study plan, read our One Month AP World History Study Guide.

Know what will be Covered on the Exam

The next step to preparing for AP World History free-response questions is to make sure you have a list of all of the key concepts from the six historical periods covered in the class. These concepts are found in the AP World History Course and Exam Description. You should review the course and honestly assess your comfort level with each of the key concepts. This will give you a realistic picture of your strengths and weakness, so you know where to put your efforts in your AP World History study plan.

See what has been Tested on in the Past

The third tip for getting ready for World History free-response questions is to research what the CollegeBoard has emphasized on old exams. The AP World History Exam Page lets you go back and see all of the past free-response questions as well as scoring guidelines, sample responses and commentary, and score distributions. You can use these resources to assess your ability to answer AP World History free-response questions. Practice with actual test questions, compare your responses with student responses, and then find out what your score would be.

Make Your Own Test

Another way to ensure you get the practice you need before the AP World History Exam is to make your own test. There are a couple of ways to do that. The easy way is to get a stack of notecards and create cards with various concepts. You can do key terms and definitions, dates, people, and events. This method allows you to concentrate on areas that challenged you in the course, so you don’t have to go through questions that you already know. If you want to get fancy, you can do an Internet search for “random test generators” that let you build your own test in any form. You can create multiple choice, fill in the blank or even short answer questions. Practice is the key to learning the concepts you need to excel on the exam, so whatever method you choose, keep up with it.

Ask for Help

The last tip for increasing your score on AP World History free-response questions is to review outside resources for questions or test prep recommendation. There are some great resources that we have included at the end of this post. The Internet is full of help, and everything you need to get that five on the exam is at available at the click of your mouse.

How to Answer AP World History Free-Response Questions?

Since you can’t just recall facts, dates, or people to answer the free-response questions, you will have to make sure that you put on your “historical thinking cap” to answer the FRQs. Remember – treat the question as a historian would. Here are some tips on how to answer each of the types of FRQs.

Short-Answer Questions

You only have 40 minutes to answer four questions, each will have two or three parts. Try to immediately identify the two or three parts to the question and come up with a plan (with examples) before you start writing. Your responses to each part should be about three to six sentences. Again, practice your approach to the SAQs using old exams and responses to see what the AP graders are looking for.

Long Essay Question

The LEQ is designed to assess your ability to apply what you know about world history in an analytical way. To write a strong essay, you must show that you can create a robust and clear thesis and also bring in a vast amount of relevant evidence to support your argument.

You can succeed on the LEQ by following some specific steps that you may have used in your study plan.

First step, dissect the question. Take some time to find out what it is asking you, identifying all the parts of the question. See if you can find out directive words like analyze, compare and contrast, or find relationships. Use these keywords like puzzle pieces that you will put together with your historical skills.

Second, formulate a thesis. Your thesis is your way of telling the reader why they should care about what you have to say. Convince them that you know what you are talking about. A strong thesis will make them trust that you have the depth of knowledge to answer the question.

Don’t just restate the question, take a stand! As long you have the right kind of evidence to support your argument, be bold and make that strong assertion. Your thesis is your “road map” to your conclusion. Take your reader on a journey through world history.

Step three is the plan your evidence. Take a step back and try to recall all of the information that relates to this question. In your study plan, you may have come up with a strategy to do this (e.g., clusters, bullet lists, outline), but whatever method you use, don’t skip this step. Just remember, the clock is ticking. Plan about three minutes for these first three steps.

Final step: write your essay. You should have about 30 minutes left to write your essay. There is no standard number of paragraphs you need, but generally, you want one body paragraph for each portion of the essay prompt. Just make each of the paragraphs strong. Here is a thumbnail look at each paragraph.

The first paragraph should be your introduction, which includes your thesis. Don’t get too flashy or use rhetoric. Just make sure it shows where you are going with your essay.

The body should follow the road-map you set in your introduction. Don’t just list facts, but bring an element of analysis between the evidence you give. Use smooth transitions and make sure you answer all of the questions from the prompt. The AP reader is looking for analysis, not your version of the textbook. End each body with a mini-conclusion that ties that paragraph back to your thesis.

Now it is time to wrap it up in your conclusion. Don’t just restate your thesis by recopying what you said in your introduction. Explain why your thesis is pertinent to the question. In the end, the reader should leave with a sense of coherence and completion; you can do this by tying all of your mini-conclusions together.

Document-Based Question

The DBQ is daunting at first glance, but if you break it down into steps, you will find that it is manageable. The DBQ requires you to use a large number of documents and outside information. There is no set number of each that you are required to use, but don’t just try and do the minimum if the question asks for one.

You only have 10 minutes to read the documents and 40 minutes to write your response. Don’t panic! There is plenty of time if you just have a strategy going into the exam. You have practiced your essay writing skills, and you have a study plan. You can use the same strategies we just discussed for the LEQs. It may seem like you don’t have enough time to do all this, but again, the more you practice using these strategies, the quicker you will get in finding out what is significant in each of the documents.

Here are three tips that may help you navigate the DBQ:

  1. Use your own words – Use the source to support your own ideas but don’t just quote directly from the document.
  2. Practice, practice, practice – Working through the DBQ on a regular basis will prepare you to write one under the gun on test day.
  3. Citations – When citing a document, save yourself some time by referring to it as Document # (e.g., Document 3) instead of “Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua, part platform of 1969”.

What are AP World History Free-Response Questions Like?

We have discussed in theory how to approach the AP World History FRQs. Here is an example of a question from an AP World History Exam to help you get a feel for the FRQs and get you in the right frame of mind to help you prepare for the exam.

The following is an example of a long-essay question from the 2016 AP World History Exam(Question 2).

2. Analyze economic continuities and changes in trade networks within Afro-Eurasia in the period from 600 C.E. To 1450 C.E.

A good response to this question starts with the thesis. Make sure you address at least one economic continuity and one economic change in the stated time period. It is alright to focus on Africa or Eurasia. Make sure you address all parts of the question. The continuity must be appropriate for the majority of the time-period, but the change could have occurred at any time during that period.

To back up your thesis, you will need to give factual evidence that applies to aspects or consequences of trade network (economic or noneconomic). The evidence could apply to either continuity or change. To get the maximum points, you need to have at least eight pieces of evidence to support your discussion.

To explain change over time and/or continuity, your essay needs to provide context that extends outside the region or provide context that continues chronologically outside the time-period. Finally, your essay needs to explain a cause helping to shape economic continuity and a cause helping to shape economic change in the region during the stated period.

How can I Practice AP World History Free Response Questions

There are many online resources that you may use to supplement this guide on approaching the AP World History FRQs. These study guides often have helpful tips on all aspects of AP World History test prep. You will know going into your study plan what you will need the most help with. You can target your search to help you find ways to strengthen those areas and make sure that you are ready for the exam when May rolls around.

Are you a auditory learner? Albert has a great series of posts that feature the “Best AP World History Review Videos”. Just go to Albert’s AP World History Test Prep page and you will find a whole series of review videos to choose from.

Do you have to have a book in your hand to learn and want to know what’s the best AP World History exam prep guide? Albert has that resource too. Read The Best AP World History Review Books of 2017

The more ways you can approach your preparation, the better. But the key is to have a study plan and stick to it. For the free-response questions, we can’t stress this enough – practice as much as you can. You will find that you will look forward to the time when you can sit down and write your essays with the confidence to get the score on the AP World History Exam that you dreamed of.

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Doing well on the AP World History exam really relies on your ability to understand patterns in history. By familiarizing yourself with trends in history as opposed to memorizing facts, you can get a 5 on the AP World History exam. For more on how to study for AP World History, see our blog post here.

Now to the good stuff… here are 50+ AP World History tips.

Thesis/Introductory Paragraphs for AP World History

1. Answer ALL of the question: Make sure your thesis addresses every single part of the question being asked for the AP World History free response section. Missing a single part can cost you significantly in the grading of your essay.

2. Lean one way: Trying to appease both sides creates an argument that’s not nearly as strong as if you take a stance.

3. Lead your reader: Help your reader understand where you are going as you answer the prompt to the essay–provide them with a map of a few of the key areas you are going to talk about in your essay.

4. Organize with strength in mind: When outlining the respective topics you will be discussing, start from the topic you know second best, then the topic you know least, before ending with your strongest topic area. In other words, make your roadmap 2-3-1 so that you leave your reader with the feeling that you have a strong understanding of the question being asked.

5. Understand the word “Analyze”: When the AP exam asks you to analyze, you want to think about the respective parts of what is being asked and look at the way they interact with one another. This means that when you are performing your analysis on the AP World History test, you want to make it very clear to your reader of what you are breaking down into its component parts. For example, what evidence do you have to support a point of view? Who are the important historical figures or institutions involved? How are these structures organized? How does this relate back to the overall change or continuity observed in the world?

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Answering AP World History DBQ Tips

1. Group with intent: One skill tested on the AP exam is your ability to relate documents to one another–this is called grouping. The idea of grouping is to essentially create a nice mixture of supporting materials to bolster a thesis that addresses the DBQ question being asked. In order to group effectively, create at least three different groupings with two subgroups each. When you group–group to respond to the prompt. Do not group just to bundle certain documents together. The best analogy would be you have a few different colored buckets, and you want to put a label over each bucket. Then you have a variety of different colored balls which each color representing a document, and you want to put these balls into buckets. You can have documents that fall into more than one group, but the big picture tip to remember is to group in response to the prompt. This is an absolute must. 33% of your DBQ grade comes from assessing your ability to group.

2. Assess POV with SOAPSTONE: SOAPSTONE helps you answer the question of why the person in the document made the piece of information at that time. It answers the question of the motive behind the document.

3. S: S represents Speaker or Source. You want to begin by asking yourself who is the source of the document. Think about the background of this source. Where do they come from? What do they do? Are they male or female? What are their respective views on religion or philosophy? How old are they? Are they wealthy? Poor? Etc.

4. O: O stands for occasion. You want to ask yourself when the document was said, where was it said, and why it may have been created. You can also think of O as representative of origin.

5. A: A represents for audience. Think about who this person wanted to share this document with. What medium was the document originally delivered in? Is it delivered through an official document or is it an artistic piece like a painting?

6. P: P stands for purpose. Ask again, why did this person create or say this document? What is the main motive behind the document?

7. S: S is for the subject of the document. This is where you see if you have an understanding of how the subject relates to the question the test is asking you. Think about if there are other documents or pieces of history that could further support or not support this document source.

8. TONE: Tone poses the question of what the tone of the document is. This relates closely with speaker. Think about how the creator of the document says certain things. Think about the connotations of certain words.

9. Explicitly state your analysis of POV: Your reader is not psychic. He or she cannot simply read your mind and understand exactly why you are rewriting a quotation by a person from a document. Be sure to explicitly state something along the lines of, “In document X, author states, “[quotation]”; the author may use this [x] tone because he wants to signify [y].” Another example would be, “The speaker’s belief that [speaker’s opinion] is made clear from his usage of particularly negative words such as [xyz].”

10. Assessing Charts and Tables: Sometimes you’ll come across charts of statistics. If you do, ask yourself questions like where the data is coming from, how the data was collected, who released the data, etc. You essentially want to take a similar approach to SOAPSTONE with charts and tables.

11. Assessing Maps: When you come across maps, look at the corners and center of the map. Think about why the map may be oriented in a certain way. Think about if the title of the map or the legend reveals anything about the culture the map originates from. Think about how the map was created–where did the information for the map come from. Think about who the map was intended for.

12. Assessing Cultural Pieces: If you come across more artistic documents such as literature, songs, editorials, or advertisements, you want to really think about the motive of why the piece of art or creative writing was made and who the document was intended for.

13. Be careful with blanket statements: Just because a certain point of view is expressed in a document does not mean that POV applies to everyone from that area. When drawing from the documents, you need to explicitly state which author and document you are citing.

14. Bias will always exist: Even if you’re given data in the form of a table, there is bias in the data. Do not fall into the trap of thinking just because there are numbers, it means the numbers are foolproof.

15. Be creative with introducing bias: Many students understand that they need to show their understanding that documents can be biased, but they go about it the wrong way. Rather than outright stating, “The document is biased because [x]”, try, “In document A, the author is clearly influenced by [y] as he states, “[quotation]”. See the difference? It’s subtle but makes a clear difference in how you demonstrate your understanding of bias.

16. Refer back to the question: As you write your DBQ essay, make sure to reference back to the question to show the reader how the argument you are trying to make relates to the overarching question. This is one way you clearly demonstrate that you spent a few minutes planning your essay in the very beginning.

17. Leave yourself out of it: Do not refer to yourself when writing your DBQ essays! “I” has no place in these AP essays.

18. Stay grounded to the documents: All of your core arguments must be supported through the use of the documents. Do not form the majority of your arguments on what you know from class. Use what you learned in class instead to bolster your arguments in relation to the documents presented.

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Overall AP World History DBQ Essay Tips & Advice

1. Start essay practice early: At least one month before the AP World History exam date, organize a few essay questions you will work through for the next four weeks before the test. Find a proctor whether that be a parent, peer, or teacher and have them simulate a timed test as you answer the essay.

2. Familiarize yourself with the time limits: Part of the reason why we suggest practicing essays early is so that you get so good at writing them that you understand exactly how much time you have left when you begin writing your second to last paragraph. You’ll be so accustomed to writing under timed circumstances that you will have no worries in terms of finishing on time.

3. Learn the rubric: If you have never looked at an AP World History grading rubric before you enter the test, you are going in blind. You must know the rubric like the back of your hand so that you can ensure you tackle all the points the grader is looking for. Here are the 2014 Scoring Guidelines.

4. Read the historical background: You know that little blurb at the beginning of the document? The test takers don’t put it there for no reason. The historical background is like a freebie–it can tell you the time period of the document and shed a little insight into the POV of the source. Read it!

5. Familiarize yourself with analyses of art: This one is optional, but a great way to really get used to analyzing art is to visit an art museum and to listen to the way that art is described. Often times there will be interpretations of the artist’s intent and perspective.

AP World History Multiple Choice Review Tips

1. Identify key patterns: You know that saying, history repeats itself? There’s a reason why people say that, and that is because there are fundamental patterns in history that can be understood and identified. This is especially true with AP World History. If you can learn the frequent patterns of history in relation to the six time periods tested, you’ll be able to guess in a smart manner when you have absolutely no idea about something.

2. Use common sense: The beauty of AP World History is when you understand the core concept being tested and the patterns in history; you can deduce the answer of the question. Identify what exactly is being asked and then go through the process of elimination to figure out the correct answer. Now, this does not mean do not study at all. This means, rather than study 500 random facts about world history, really focus in on understanding the way history interacts with different parts of the world. Think about how minorities have changed over the course of history, their roles in society, etc. You want to look at things at the big picture so that you can have a strong grasp of each time period tested.

3. Familiarize with AP-style questions: If AP World History is the first AP test you’ve ever taken, or even if it isn’t, you need to get used to the way the CollegeBoard introduces and asks you questions. Find a review source to practice AP World History questions. Albert.io has hundreds of AP World History practice questions and detailed explanations to work through.

4. Make note of pain points: As you practice, you’ll quickly realize what you know really well, and what you know not so well. Figure out what you do not know so well and re-read that chapter of your textbook. Then, create flashcards of the key concepts of that chapter along with key events from that time period.

5. Supplement practice with video lectures: A fast way to learn is to do practice problems, identify where you are struggling, learn that concept more intently, and then to practice again. Crash Course has created an incredibly insightful series of World History videos you can watch on YouTube here. Afterwards, go back and practice again. Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to AP World History.

6. Strike out wrong answer choices: The second you can eliminate an answer choice, strike out the letter of that answer choice and circle the word or phrase behind why that answer choice is incorrect. This way, when you review your answers at the very end, you can quickly check through all of your answers. One of the hardest things is managing time when you’re doing your second run-through to check your answers—this method alleviates that problem by reducing the amount of time it takes for you to remember why you thought a certain answer choice was wrong.

7. Answer every question: If you’re crunched on time and still have several AP World History multiple-choice questions to answer, the best thing to do is to make sure that you answer each and every one of them. There is no guessing penalty for doing so, so take full advantage of this!

Tips Submitted by AP World History Teachers

1. Use high polymer erasers: When answering the multiple choice scantron portion of the AP World History test, use a high polymer eraser. It is the only eraser that will fully erase on a scantron. Thanks for the tip from Ms. J. at Boulder High School.

2. Outline, outline, outline: Take a few minutes to outline your essay based on themes, similarities, bias, etc. It’s the easiest way to craft a fluid essay. Thanks for the tip from Mr. M at Chapel Hill High School.

3. Stay ahead of your reading and when in doubt, read again: You are responsible for a huge amount of information when it comes to tackling AP World History, so make sure you are responsible for some of it. You can’t leave all the work up to your instructor. It’s a team effort. Thanks for the tip from Mr. E at Tri-Central High.

4. Integrate video learning: A great way to really solidify your understanding of a concept is to watch supplementary videos on the topic. Then, read the topic again to truly master it. Thanks for the tip from Mr. D at Royal High School.

5. Keep a study log: Study for three hours for every hour of class you have and keep a study log so that you can see what you accomplished every day as you sit down to study. Thanks for the tip from Mr. R. at Stephen F. Austin High.

6. Practice with transparencies: Use transparencies or a white board to create overlay maps for each of the six periods of AP World History at the start of each period so that you can see a visual of the regions of the world being focused on. Thanks for the tip from Ms. W at Riverbend High.

7. Read every word: Often times in AP World History many questions can be answered without specific historical knowledge. Many questions require critical thinking and attention to detail; the difference between a correct answer and an incorrect answer lies in just one or two words in the question or the answer. Thanks for the tip from Mr. R. at Mandarin High.

8. Cover the entire time frame: When addressing the DBQ on continuity, make sure to cover the entire time frame unless you specifically write in your thesis about a different time period. Thanks for the tip from Mr. H at Great Oak High.

9. Summarize then answer: Ms. B recommends at Desert Edge High recommends to summarize what you know about each answer choice and then to see if it applies to the question when answering the multiple choice questions.

10. Master writing a good thesis: In order to write a good thesis, you want to make sure it properly addresses the whole question or prompt, effectively takes a position on the main topic, includes relevant historical context, and organize key standpoints. Thanks for the tip from Mr. G at Loganville High.

11. Tackle DBQs with SAD and BAD: With the DBQ, think about the Summary, Author, and Date & Context. Also consider the Bias and Additional Documents to verify the bias. Thanks for the tip from Mr. G at WHS.

12. Create a refined thesis in your conclusion: 35 with 40 minutes to write each of your essays, starting with a strong thesis can be difficult, especially since students can find it challenging in what they are about to write. By the time you finish your essay, you have a much more clear idea of how to answer the question. Take a minute and revisit the prompt and try to provide a much more explicit and comprehensive thesis than the one you provided in the beginning as your conclusion. This thesis statement is much more likely to give you the point for thesis than the rushed thesis in the beginning. Thanks for the tip from Mr. R at Mission Hills High.

13. Annotate: Textbook reading is essential for success in AP World History, but learn to annotate smarter, not harder. Be efficient in your reading and note taking. Read, reduce, and reflect. To read – use sticky notes. Using post-its is a lifesaver – use different color stickies for different tasks (pink – summary, blue – questions, green – reflection, etc.) Reduce – go back and look at your sticky notes and see what you can reduce – decide what is truly essential material to know or question. Then reflect – why are the remaining sticky notes important?  How will they help you not just understand content, but also understand contextualization or causality or change over time?  What does this information show you? Thanks for the tip from Ms. J at Legacy High.

14. Relate back to the themes: Understanding 10,000 years of world history is hard.  Knowing all the facts is darn near impossible.  If you can use your facts/material and explain it within the context of one of the APWH themes, it makes it easier to process, understand, and apply.  The themes are your friends. Thanks for the tip from Ms. J at Legacy High.

15. Form a study group: Everyone has different talents and areas of strength. You don’t, and shouldn’t, try to tackle this class all by yourself. Form a study group and learn from each other, help everybody become better by sharing your talents and skills. This is also a place where you can vent your frustrations and feel a sense of unity and belonging. We are truly all in this together. Thanks for the tip from Ms. J at Legacy High.

16. Look for the missing voice in DBQs: First, look for the missing voice. Who haven’t you heard from in the DBQ?  Who’s voice would really help you answer the question more completely?  Next, if there isn’t really a missing voice, what evidence do you have access to, that you would like to clarify?  For example, if you have a document that says excessive taxation led to the fall of the Roman Empire, what other piece of information would you like to have access to that would help you prove or disprove this statement? Maybe a chart that shows tax amounts from prior to the 3rd Century Crisis to the mid of the 3rd century crisis? Thanks for the tip from Ms. J at Legacy High.

17. Go with your gut: When choosing an answer, it can be tempting to feel anxious and to potentially start second guessing yourself. Don’t. Tests are designed to make test takers get stuck between two or three answer choices (leading to anxiety and eating away time for completing the test). Limit the amount you second guess yourself. If you studied properly, there is a reason why your mind wanted you to pick that original answer before any of the other choices. Thanks for the tip from Mrs. S at Carnahan High School of the Future.

18. Don’t forget to B.S. in your DBQ: B.S. on everything!  (Be Specific).

19. Remember your PIE: Writing a thesis is as easy as PIE: Period, Issue, Examples.

20. Look at every answer option: Don’t go for the first “correct” answer; find the most “bulletproof” answer. The one you’d best be able to defend in a debate.

Are you a teacher or student? Do you have an awesome tip? Let us know!

Hopefully you’ve learned a lot from reading all 50+ of these AP World History tips. Doing well in AP World History comes down to recognizing patterns and trends in history, and familiarizing yourself with the nature of the test. Once you get comfortable with the way questions are presented, you’ll realize that you can actually rely on quite a bit of common sense to answer the DBQs as well as the multiple choice questions. Students often think the key to AP history tests is memorizing every single fact of history, and the truth is you may be able to do that and get a 5, but the smart way of doing well on the test comes from understanding the reason why we study history in the first place. By learning the underlying patterns that are tested on the exam, for example how opinions towards women may have influenced the social or political landscape of the world during a certain time period, you can create more compelling theses and demonstrate to AP readers a clear understanding of the bigger picture.

In case you’re the type of student that needs a more structured study plan, we created a one-month AP World History Study Guide here.

Find the patterns, master crafting the essays, and practice hard, and you’ll do well come May. Good luck!

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