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AP US History (APUSH) Exam - New and Recent Changes

How the new Advanced Placement (AP) US History (APUSH) exam can provide better results for students and teachers

Continuing on with highlighting the changes made to AP exams, I bring you yet another AP exam that has undergone a major change: AP United States History (APUSH). Similar to AP Chemistry and AP Physics 1 & 2, the subject has gone through a facelift, where concepts have been defined into 7 overall themes:

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

What are the major changes to look for on the exam?

Before, teachers in the course were given a list of suggested topics that may or may not be covered on the actual APUSH exam. This usually resulted in teachers using the shotgun approach when teaching students where they tried teaching all the suggested topics rather than focusing on selected topics. Now to prevent this, the curriculum outlines specific concepts that must be covered as they will be on the actual exam.

The redesigned exam has a deeper focus on analysis of historical documents and excerpts that follow up with questions or written responses that require valid reasoning and critical thinking between themes, time periods and concepts. The whole point, similar to the other redesigned courses (AP Chemistry, AP Physics 1 & 2) is for the student to obtain a deeper level of understanding of US History through application of how history is typically studied.

Critical analysis of historical documents is a typical practice of many historians and a standard in the practice of studying history. The key for the students in this exam is being able to comprehend what relevant historical content is being conveyed in the document to be able to answer the question. Students can expect to see the use of excerpts and historical images in the multiple choice part of the exam where all the questions asked will either reference a document or an image.

Will this make the exam easier in any way?

The fact that the exam is largely based on analyzing historical texts and images and answering questions about them prevents the student from simply having to memorize facts, dates, and names. Instead, it allows for the student to think critically about events in history, time periods, and important figures and be able to link the facts all together. In my opinion, the new APUSH curriculum allows the student to think more deeply and can allow for a greater retention of historical concepts, which can help in making the exam easier.

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