Ways to Study for the AP United States History Exam

The AP History test covers a wide variety of information. It includes both multiple choice questions and essays. It is easy to panic about the notion of never remembering everything. Take a deep breath and start to prepare yourself. If you have put in a good effort with your class and are prepared to do what it takes to study properly, you will have a good shot at a top score on the test. Here are some tips to make the study process go more smoothly.

Start early. Do not wait until a week before the test to start studying. It is generally recommended that you start getting your study materials together right after spring break. Spacing out your studying will help the information stick and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Spend some time studying each week and you’ll get through all of the information and review processes.

Familiarize yourself with the test format. The AP US History tests consists of eighty multiple choice questions (55 minutes), a document based question (DBQ) (60 minutes), and two free response essays (35 minutes each). When you complete your practice tests and essays, time yourself. If you go over the allotted test time, work on decreasing your time during subsequent reviews.

Go over previous tests. There should be tests within your class textbook, which can be a helpful tool. If there are no answered provided in the book, have your teacher check your tests for you. Go through the incorrect answers and group them into categories to figure out what your weakest areas are. This will help you prioritize when you start the final studying process.

Take online quizzes. One particularly good site is HistoryTeacher.Net. It has multiple quizzes for each time period. You can search online for additional sites as well. Again, these quizzes can help you determine your weakest areas of knowledge. Some teachers use these quizzes to gather questions for their own tests so they may help you study for your class as well.

Purchase an AP Test Review Book. The Princeton Review: Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam and Spark Notes AP Power are both highly recommended. In addition to the review material and quizzes after every chapter and unit, The Princeton Review includes practice tests, test taking strategies, and practice essays. Generally it is best to go chapter by chapter. Using a review book is more succinct than reviewing your entire textbook and will probably be less tedious. You can review chapters where you didn’t do as well on the quizzes.

Write practice essays. Write essays from the topics provided in your AP review book. Make sure that you start each essay with a topic sentence to answer the essay question. Support the argument in your essay with primary historical documents. Your argument should be well delineated.

Make a time line. Use your textbook and notes for this. Putting key terms and events in chronological order will help you find cause and effect relationships and see how different events flow together. Putting more meaning behind different events in history will make them easier to remember than simply memorizing different names and dates. If the time line is not enough to help you memorize everything, consider making flashcards as well. Using multiple materials will also make the study process less tedious.

Review your notes. You will not be able to review the entire textbook (nor would this do you any good), but you will be able to review your notes. Go in chronological order and highlight terms and events that you need to review later. When you’ve finished, do the review. If you have difficulty locating information about specific terms or events in your textbook, don’t waste lots of time searching there. Do a search online instead.

Do not cram the night before the test. While it can be tempting to stay up late to review everything one last time, this is not recommended. Plan your studying appropriately so that you’ll be finished by early evening and go to bed on time. Eat a good breakfast before the test.

Prep yourself for the test. Keep the following suggestions in mind for the test: Pace yourself. Read all questions carefully. If you skip around during the test, keep track of where you are on your answer document. If you can eliminate one or two answers, go ahead and answer the question even if you aren’t 100% sure of the answer.

Above all, be confident. Remember how much preparation you’ve had and how much studying you’ve done. If you’ve worked hard all year and prepared appropriately, you will be fine.

Looking for additional ways to review? Check out the American President Series from PBS, the Presidents series from the History Channel, or the Presidents Collection from PBS Home Video.