AP World History

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In 2016-17, a revised AP World History exam format and minor revisions to the AP World History course take effect. For more information about the changes, visit AP Central.

The AP World history curriculum was revised in 2011-12. The goals of that revision were to:

  • Provide a detailed curriculum framework. The curriculum framework promotes the use of historical thinking skills (.pdf/494KB) to explore global patterns of change over time. Acquiring these skills enables students to analyze and interpret historical events in depth and to apply their understanding to a variety of historical contexts. Exam questions will ask students to use and apply historical thinking skills to support the conceptual understandings contained in the curriculum framework.
  • Strike a balance between teaching facts and covering key concepts in depth.
  • Encourage multiple approaches to teaching and learning. AP World History focuses on key concepts and themes, which allows either a chronological or thematic approach to teaching. Exploring key concepts supports students as they investigate historical developments within a chronological framework. Through course themes, students learn to make crucial connections across historical periods.
  • Reflect college-level expectations. College faculty are involved in every step of the revision process, ensuring that the course and exam are well aligned to college expectations.

Course and Exam Overview (2016-17 and beyond)

AP World History is structured around the investigation of key course themes and concepts in six different chronological periods, from approximately 8000 B.C.E. to the present. These themes, examined across cultures and time periods, include:

Theme 1: Interaction Between Humans and the Environment
  • Demography and disease
  • Migration
  • Patterns of settlement
  • Technology
Theme 2: Development and Interaction of Cultures
  • Religions
  • Belief systems, philosophies, and ideologies
  • Science and technology
  • The arts and architecture
Theme 3: State-Building, Expansion, and Conflict
  • Political structures and forms of governance
  • Empires
  • Nations and nationalism
  • Revolts and revolutions
  • Regional, transregional, and global structures and organizations
Theme 4: Creation, Expansion, and Interaction of Economic Systems
  • Agricultural and pastoral production
  • Trade and commerce
  • Labor systems
  • Industrialization
  • Capitalism and socialism
Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures
  • Gender roles and relations
  • Family and kinship
  • Racial and ethnic constructions
  • Social and economic classes

Additionally, the course emphasizes student development of historical thinking skills (.pdf/494KB). Students learn to:

  • Craft historical arguments from historical evidence
  • Describe, analyze and evaluate events from a chronological perspective
  • Compare and contextualize historical developments
  • Analyze evidence, reasoning and context to construct and understand diverse interpretations of the past.


Read the full course and description and exam information with sample questions.

AP World History Development Committee

Committee Co-Chairs

  • Craig G. Benjamin, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan
  • Erik R. Vincent, Holy Innocents Episcopal School, Atlanta, Georgia

Committee Members

  • Rachel Jean-Baptiste, University of California-Davis, Davis, California
  • Angela Lee, Weston High School, Weston, Massachusetts
  • Cheralyn R. Pinchem, Boston Latin School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Deborah Wing-Leonard, Clear Lake High School, Houston, Texas

Chief Reader

  • Tim Keirn, California State University — Long Beach, Long Beach, California