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3 Types Of Essays On Ap World Exam Prep

What is a good AP World History score?

Scores of 3, 4, and 5 on an AP exam are passing scores and generally considered a good score. The College Board defines a 3 as ‘qualified, 4 as ‘well qualified,’ and a 5 as ‘extremely well qualified.’ Many colleges and universities will offer you college credits for scoring in these ranges, but the exact requirements will vary by school and department. You can find out the AP credit policy for schools you’re interested in applying to by going here.

When thinking about how you scored on your AP World History exam, you should factor in overall student performance on the exam. For AP World History in 2016, 51.60% of test takers received a passing score of  3 or greater. You can reference the 2016 student score distributions here.

What is the average AP World History score?

Each year, the average AP World History score is slightly different. This is due to a number of factors such as a revised exam (such as the 2018 AP World History Exam) and a different student population to calculate scores from. One of the best ways to think about the average AP World History score is to consider a multi-year trend. AP Student Score Distributions released by the College Board report that the mean AP World History score was 2.61 in 2014, 2.61 in 2015, 2.66 in 2016 and 2.76 in 2017. These scores have been very consistent, but there will likely be a noticeable change in the 2018 when the first group of students take the redesigned AP World History Exam.

Why are AP World History scores curved?

The College Board curves AP exams, including AP World History,  to maintain a certain standard and level of consistency over different years. AP courses are inherently college-level classes, and thus the scoring guidelines are reflected to account for the rigor of these courses.

How do I get a 5 on AP World History?

Study hard and study smart! There is no simple solution to scoring a 5 on AP World History, but a combination of conceptual learning, diligent studying, and targeted practice can help you reach the top score. History exams from the College Board now emphasize a great deal of Historical Thinking Skills. The volume of memorization is reduced from previous versions of the exam, but you will need a greater understanding of how different events, time periods, and ideologies are related and change over time. You will also need to demonstrate this understanding in the form of full essays.

We have written tons of free review articles and study guides for AP World History. Here are a few that we recommend for you to read today:

Is AP World History Hard?
How to Study for AP World History
The Ultimate List of AP World History Tips
One Month AP World History Study Guide
7 Simple AP World History Review Strategies

Looking for practice questions? Albert has hundreds of AP-aligned AP World History practice questionsand free response questions for you to study as you prepare for your AP exam. Study on the go, anytime anywhere with Albert. I

Why should I use this AP World History score calculator?

Albert’s AP World History score calculator models the official scoring worksheets of previously released exams by the College Board, making our score calculators the most accurate and up-to-date. You can reference and confirm the scoring calculations for yourself, by going here. Score calculators are a great way to monitor your improvement as you study for your AP exams. A strong understanding of how many multiple-choice questions and free response points you’ll need to score a 3, 4, or 5 can play a big role in meeting your goals on exam day.

Are you taking AP World History this year? Or considering taking it at some point in high school? Then you need to read this AP World History study guide! Instead of cramming every single name, date, and place into your head, learn how to study for AP World History so that you can learn the major ideas and be prepared for the test in May. Speaking of the exam, we'll also go over some key strategies for preparing for it.

AP World History is challenging – just 6% of test takers got a 5 in 2015. But if you study correctly throughout the year, you could be one of the few students who aces this test. Below are six tips to follow in order to be well-prepared for the AP World History exam. Read through each one and apply them to your test prep. You'll soon be well on your way to maximizing your exam score!


Tip 1: Don't Try to Memorize Everything

If you start your AP World History class with the expectation of memorizing the entirety of human history, think again. Although AP World History tests a wide span of time, you aren’t expected to learn every tiny little detail along the way. Rather, AP World History focuses on teaching major patterns, cultural and political developments, and technological developments throughout history.

AP World History is organized into the following six time periods:

  • Technological and Environmental Transformations (to c. 600 BCE)
  • Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies (c. 600 BCE to c. 600 CE)
  • Regional and Interregional Interactions (c. 600 CE to c. 1450)
  • Global Interactions (c. 1450 to c. 1750)
  • Industrialization and Global Integration (c. 1750 to c. 1900)
  • Accelerating Global Change and Realignments (c. 1900 to the present)

Within each period, you should know the major world powers and forces driving economic development, politics, and social change (including technology). However, you don’t have to have every detail memorized to do well on the test. Instead, focus on understanding major patterns and developments, and be able to explain them with a few key examples.

As an example, you don’t necessarily need to know that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, details of his voyages, or the particulars of his brutality. However, you should be able to explain why the European colonization of the Americas happened, the economic effects it had on Europe, Africa, and the Americas, and how colonization affected the lives of people on all three continents. 

Knowing a few concrete examples is essential to succeeding on the new short-answer section. The short-answer questions which will typically present you with some information (a chart, a primary source, etc) and then ask you to provide several specific examples or reasons for a broader theme or historical movement relating to the provided information. But you'll have flexibility in what you specific examples you choose, just so long as they are relevant. This new section is four questions long and worth 20% of your exam score (so each question is worth 5%), and you'll have 50 minutes within section 1 to complete it. 

Concrete examples can also bolster your essays and improve your ability to break down any multiple choice questions on the topic. However, you should focus first on understanding the big picture before you memorize nitty-gritty details.

If you’re coming from AP US History, this advice may seem odd. But unlike US History, which is more fine-grained, the AP World History exam writers do not expect you to know everything since they test a much larger topic. AP US History is essentially a test of 400 years of history in one location, so it’s fair to expect students to know many proper names and dates.

But for World History, that same level of detail isn’t expected since it takes place over thousands of years all over the world. Instead, you should focus on understanding the general patterns of important topics through history. Not only will this save you time, but it will also keep you sane as your textbook hurls literally hundreds of names, places, and dates at you over the year.

And speaking of your textbook…


Tip 2: Keep Up With Your Reading!

AP World History is not a class where you can sleep through it all year, skim a prep book in April, and still get a perfect 5 on the AP exam. You are learning all of human history, after all! Trying to cram for this test late in the game would be stressful and inefficient because of the sheer volume of material.


And all that reading would hurt your eyes.


Instead, keep up with your reading and do well in your World History class to ensure you are building a strong foundation of knowledge throughout the year. This way, in the spring, you can focus on preparing for the AP test itself and the topics it’s likely to test, as opposed to frantically trying to learn all of human history in two months.

To this end, if your teacher isn’t already requiring you to do something like this, make sure to keep notes throughout the year of your reading. This could be in the form of outlines, summaries, or anything else that is helpful to you. Taking notes will help you process the reading and remember it better. Your notes will also be an invaluable study tool in the spring.

As a last tip, check the website of whatever textbook your class uses. Many textbook websites have extra features including pre-made chapter outlines and summaries. These can also be excellent study resources for you throughout the year.


Tip 3: Read a Prep Book (or Two) in the Spring

Even if you keep up with AP World History throughout the year, you’re probably going to be a bit hazy on topics you learned in September when you start studying for the test in March or April. This is why we recommend getting a prep book, which will provide a much broader overview of world history, focusing especially on topics the AP exam will test.

If you’ve been learning well throughout the year, reading a prep book will trigger your background knowledge and help you review. Think of your prep book as your second, much quicker pass through World History.

And in case you’re wondering: no, the prep book will not fill you in on the necessary depth of knowledge for the entire test, so you can't replace reading your textbook throughout the year with reading a prep book in the spring. The AP World History multiple choice section, in particular, can ask some pretty specific questions, and you would definitely have blind spots if you just read a prep book and not a textbook. Furthermore, you wouldn't be able to explain examples in your essay in as much detail if you have only read a few paragraphs about major events.


Tip 4: Get Ready to Move at 1 M.P.Q. (Minute Per Question)

To prepare for the AP World History exam, knowing the material is just half the battle. You also need to be ready to tackle the test itself. The multiple choice section is challenging due to its pace. 

The AP World History multiple choice section (Section 1, part A) asks 55 questions in 55 minutes and is 40% of your exam score. This gives you just one minute per question, which means you have to move fast. To be ready for this quick pace, you need to practice.


Taking the AP World History exam without practicing first would be like jumping into a NASCAR race without a driver's license.


To be prepared for this, it’s crucial to get a prep book with practice tests. Even if you have read your textbook diligently, taken notes, and reviewed the material, you still need to practice actual multiple choice sections to be ready for the test.

Most questions on AP World History are stand-alone with just a few two-part questions. This means you can move from question to question fairly quickly and feel free to skip and come back to tough questions (just keep on eye on the time). Also, there may be some images, maps, charts, and passages to work through as well, so some questions will take longer than others.

Your teacher should be giving you multiple-choice quizzes or tests throughout the year to help you prepare. If they aren’t, it will, unfortunately, be up to you to find multiple choice practice questions from prep books and online resources. See our complete list of AP World History practice tests here. 

You need to create your own multiple-choice strategy as you study, including using process of elimination, being ready to read and analyze pictures and charts, and being constantly aware of your time. We recommend wearing a watch when you practice so you can keep an eye on how long you spend on each question. 

In short, make sure you practice AP World History multiple choice so that when you sit down to take the exam in May, you're confident and ready to move fast through a challenging multiple choice section.


Tip 5: Speed Writing — The AP World History Free Response Section

The AP World History exam has two essay questions that together are worth 40% of your score. You get 55 minutes for the Document-Based Question (DBQ), including a 10-minute reading period. The DBQ is worth 25% of your exam grade. Then you get 35 minutes for the Long Essay, which is worth 15% of your grade.

For each essay, you need to be able to brainstorm quickly and write an essay that answers the prompt, is well-organized, and has a thesis. A thesis is a one-sentence summary of your main argument. For the sake of AP essays, it's best to put your thesis at the end of the introductory paragraph so the grader can find it quickly. To keep your essay organized, have each paragraph explain one part of the argument, with a topic sentence (basically a mini thesis) at the beginning of each paragraph that explains exactly what you're going to say. 

For the DBQ, you need to bring all or most the provided documents into your argument in addition to your background knowledge of the period being tested. For example, in the recent DBQ about effects of Spanish Influenza during World War I, you needed to demonstrate your knowledge of WWI as well as your ability to use the documents in your argument. See our complete guide to writing a DBQ here. 

For the Long Essay, it’s up to you to provide the specific historical examples and show your broad understanding of historical trends. (Again, this is why doing your reading is so important, since you have to provide and explain your own historical examples!)

Throughout the year, your teacher should be having you do writing assignments, including in-class essays, to teach you how to write good essays quickly. Since you'll be writing your essays by hand for the real exam, you should ideally be writing your practice essays by hand as well. If you really struggle with writing by hand quickly, you can build up your writing fluency (your ability to quickly translate thoughts to words) by writing additional practice essays on your own.

If you need to work on writing fluency, it's best to practice with easier writing topics. So first, find a journal prompt to write about (this website has hundreds). Next, set a timer. Between ten and fifteen minutes is best. Finally, write as much as you can on the prompt, as fast as possible, without making big mistakes in spelling or grammar. When time is up, count how many words you wrote. If you do this a few times a week, you will build up your writing speed, and your word counts will grow. Once you've built up this skill, it will be much easier to tackle the AP World History free response.

You can also practice on your own with old AP World History free response questions (available here). However, you should note that the test was just revised for 2016-2017 and old questions will have old instructions. There actually used to be three essays—in addition to the DBQ, there was a "Change Over Time" essay and a "Comparison" essay. Now there is just one long essay. So be sure to compare old questions to the most up-to-date question examples from the most current AP Course and Exam Description.  


Tip 6: Take Practice Exams and Set a Target Score

In the spring, you should take at least one full practice exam – ideally in late March or early April – once you’ve learned most of the World History material. By a full practice exam we mean the entire test – time yourself and take the test in one sitting, giving yourself a 15-minute break in between the multiple choice/short answer section and the essays.

Why should you do this? It will give you a chance to experience what it’s like to take a full AP World History exam before the real thing. This helps you build stamina and perfect your timing. All the practice in the world won't help you if you run out of steam on your last essay question and can barely think.

Also, set a target score for each section: multiple choice and free response.  Good news: you don’t need to be aiming for 100% on the Multiple choice and 9/9 on every essay for a 5 (the highest possible score). Far from it.



A high multiple choice score (50/55) and average short answer and free response scores (say an 8/12 on short answer, a 5/7 on the DBQ and a 4/6 on the long essay) can net a 5. In contrast, an average multiple choice score (35/55) with high short answer and free response scores (say 11/12 on short answer, a 6/7 on the DBQ and a 5/6 on the long essay) could also get a 5.

Based on your personal strengths, set realistic score targets. For example, a really good writing student might go the average multiple choice/strong essay route, but a strong test-taker might go the other way around. You could also be somewhere in between. Also, don't be intimidated if your target score is much higher than your current scores. You're practicing so that you can meet your target!

Once you have your target score, practice, practice, practice! Use old exams and the practice exams included in prep books. Use the free response questions I linked to above. You can even ask your teacher for old tests and essay questions. The more you practice before the test, the more likely you are to meet — or exceed! — your score goal.


Bottom Line

Although AP World History is challenging, if you follow the advice in this AP World History study guide and prepare correctly throughout the year, you can definitely pass, or even be one of the few students who gets a 5!

Make sure to keep up with your reading, read a prep book in the spring, and practice specifically for the multiple choice and the free response sections. With clear target scores for each section and plenty of practice under your belt, you will have the strongest chance of getting a 5.


What’s Next?

How many AP classes should you take total? Find out here.

How hard is AP World History compared to other AP tests? We’ve rounded up a list of the hardest and easiest AP tests, as well as the average scores for every exam.

For more tips on doing well in all of your classes, from AP to IB to honors, read this detailed guide by PrepScholar founder Allen Cheng to getting a perfect 4.0. Even if you're not going for perfection, this guide teaches you all the skills you need to work hard, work smart, and get better grades.

Also studying for the SAT/ACT? In a hurry? Learn how to cram for the ACT or SAT.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:


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