AP World History

beginning of content:

In AP World History, students investigate significant events, individuals, developments, and processes in six historical periods from approximately 8000 B.C.E. to the present. Students develop and use the same skills, practices, and methods employed by historians. The course gives students five themes to explore in order to make connections among historical developments in different times and places.

According to surveys of comparable curricula at four-year colleges and universities, AP World History is aligned to a two-semester introductory college world history course.

Course Overview

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

These themes help students connect the historical content they study to broad trends and processes that have emerged over centuries. The learning objectives within each theme clearly state what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course.

AP History Disciplinary Practices and Reasoning Skills

Using the AP history disciplinary practices and reasoning skills students learn to think like historians, analyze evidence about the past, and create persuasive historical arguments. By focusing on these practices and skills, teachers create learning opportunities for students that emphasize the conceptual and interpretive nature of history.

AP History Disciplinary Practices

  1. Analyzing historical evidence
  2. Argument development

AP History Reasoning Skills

  1. Contextualization
  2. Comparison
  3. Causation
  4. Continuity and change over time

About the AP World History Exam

Exam questions measure students’ achievement of the thematic learning objectives, use of the AP history disciplinary practices and reasoning skills, and understanding of all six periods of world history. Each exam question will explicitly target one or more learning objectives and the corresponding parts of the concept outline. For detailed information on the exam, go to the course and exam description (.pdf/2.75MB) and exam information page.

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