AP United States History

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The redesigned AP United States History course and exam launched in fall 2014. This course is intended to be equivalent to a two-semester introductory college U.S. history survey course. This redesign reflects our commitment to align AP with current best practices in college-level learning. Learn more about the AP course and exam redesign.

Foundations of the Redesign

The redesigned AP U.S. History course and exam were developed by a committee of college history faculty and AP teachers, incorporating the results of a study of parallel college course curricula.

In 2010, AP also asked 59 history department chairs and faculty members to review and validate the draft curriculum framework. Read the results of the validation study. The faculty provided specific feedback on the U.S. History key concepts, which was incorporated into the final curriculum framework. On a broad level, the study found that the revised course:

  • Is very effective at preparing students for success in subsequent college-level U.S. history courses.
  • Is successful in balancing depth of conceptual understanding with breadth of topic coverage.

Goals of the Redesign

Clarify the understandings students should demonstrate in the college survey course.

In the past, the AP US History course description lacked specificity, which led high school teachers to attempt to cover every detail of American history. Many felt they were not able to devote enough time to helping students practice historical analysis, interpretation, and writing. As a result, the redesigned course providesa set of learning objectives that  specify the historical understandings needed for success in college-level survey courses.Teachers now have the same flexibility that college faculty enjoy—to go into depth on different historical topics and primary and secondary sources, without this negatively impacting their AP Exam score.

Increase emphasis on early and recent American history. The new curriculum framework increases the focus on early and recent American history to better align with the areas of focus in current college history survey courses.

Develop historical thinking skills. The new curriculum framework contains a set of learning objectives that integrate historical thinking skills (.pdf/494KB) (chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative) with the study of major developments of U.S. history.

Course and Exam Overview

The curriculum framework organizes US history into nine periods and presents key conceptual understandings that students should explore in that period.

Period Date Range Conceptual Focus % of Instructional Time % of AP Exam
1 1491–1607 On a North American continent controlled by American Indians, contact among the peoples of Europe, the Americas, and West Africa created a new world. 5% 5%
2 1607–1754 Europeans and American Indians maneuvered and fought for dominance, control, and security in North America, and distinctive colonial and native societies emerged. 10% 45%
3 1754–1800 British imperial attempts to reassert control over its colonies and the colonial reaction to these attempts produced a new American republic, along with struggles over the new nation’s social, political, and economic identity. 12%
4 1800–1848 The new republic struggled to define and extend democratic ideals in the face of rapid economic, territorial, and demographic changes. 10%
5 1844–1877 As the nation expanded and its population grew, regional tensions, especially over slavery, led to a civil war — the course and aftermath of which transformed American society. 13%
6 1865–1898 The transformation of the United States from an agricultural to an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society brought about significant economic, political, diplomatic, social, environmental, and cultural changes. 13% 45%
7 1890–1945 An increasingly pluralistic United States faced profound domestic and global challenges, debated the proper degree of government activism, and sought to define its international role. 17%
8 1945–1980 After World War II, the United States grappled with prosperity and unfamiliar international responsibilities, while struggling to live up to its ideals. 15%
9 1980–present As the United States transitioned to a new century filled with challenges and possibilities, it experienced renewed ideological and cultural debates, sought to redefine its foreign policy, and adapted to economic globalization and revolutionary changes in science and technology. 5% 5%

Additionally, the new structure organizes US history into seven themes, large-scale topics of historical inquiry that students explore throughout the course.

  • Identity
  • Peopling
  • Work, exchange, and technology
  • Politics and power
  • Environment and geography
  • America in the world
  • Ideas, beliefs, and culture

The historical periods, the themes, and the historical thinking skills all factor into each learning objective.

For more information, review the course and exam description.

AP US History Development Committee

Committee Co-Chairs

  • Juliana Barr, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • James A. Sabathne, Hononegah Community High School, Rockton, Illinois

Committee Members

  • Chris Capozzola, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts Billie Jean Clemens, Swain County High School, Bryson City, North Carolina
  • Mary K. Lopez, Schaumburg High School, Schaumburg, Illinois
  • Maria E. Montoya, New York University, New York, New York

College Board Advisor

  • John P. Irish, Carroll Senior High School, Southlake, Texas

Chief Reader

  • Jonathan Chu, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts