How To Study For The AP World History Exam

The AP World History exam can be challenging and tough.

However, to be successful in this exam, you should look out for important materials to study with.

All you need to do is make a plan to study for the AP World History exam and also get to know what you should be expecting, this article will serve as a guide to walk you through.

Best Ways To Study For The AP World History Exam

In order to study for the AP World History Exam, there are some essential details that you need to know that we are going to discuss.

It is through knowing these necessary details that you can plan how best to create your study routines.

They are:

1. Know The Test Formats, Themes, And Concepts 

The first step you need to take when making a study plan for the AP World History Exam is first understanding and knowing the test formats, themes as well as concepts of the exam.

Below, we will discuss each of them.

  • The Test Format

Before you start preparing for the AP World History test, you need to know what to expect. 

This is an exam that follows an already set structure with times and percentages of the score assigned to each section and part. 

There are two sections with two parts in each in this exam.

Section 1: Part A

This part consists of 55 multiple choice questions which are expected to be completed in 55 minutes. 

Questions are arranged in groups of two to five which refer to specific stimuli in the form of texts, maps, images, graphs or other materials. 

The grade point of this section is 40% 

Section 1: Part B

Once you’ve completed the multiple-choice questions in Part A, you’ll have four short answer questions to fill out in 50 minutes. 

Do well to plan yourself by spending around 12 minutes per question. Just like the groups of multiple-choice questions, these questions will refer to maps, texts or images. 

This part accounts for 20 percent of the total score.

Section 2: Part A

Section 2 comprises two long essays. 

Part A is a document-based question that requires that you read, analyze, synthesize and assess historical data and evidence. 

You will have 55 minutes for this question with 15 minutes to read and review the documents and 40 minutes to respond to the question. 

The document-based question totals 25 percent of your total score, so it can make a huge difference in your grade.

Section 2: Part B

Part B is a free-response essay question. 

You can choose one of two comparable questions. While the questions will be equally difficult, they may deal with different periods or topics. 

Bear in mind that all free-response question options require you to analyze a historical issue or event in world history. 

This question takes the final 35 minutes of the test time and is worth 15 percent of your grade.

  • The Thematic Learning Objectives

Thematic learning objectives describe the knowledge that colleges expect students to have. 

This knowledge includes big and broad concepts that are important to different periods and different places. 

For AP World History, the thematic learning objectives are divided into five broad topics which we will be outlining below.

It is important to note that each of the broad topics have several questions to look up for in your spare time.

1. Interaction Between Humans And The Environment

2. Development and Interaction of Cultures

3. State-Building, Expansion, and Conflict

4. Creation, Expansion, and Interaction of Economic Systems

5. Development and Transformation of Social Structures.

  • The Concept Outline

The concept outline helps to break the world’s history down into six chronological periods. 

These are:

1. Technological and Environmental Transformations (8000 to 600 BCE)

The first of the chronological periods, Technological and Environmental Transformations, begins with the Key Concept “Big Geography and the Peopling of the Earth.” 

This key concept includes the migration of early humans out of Africa as well as the development of technologies including tools and fire which is commonly called the Paleolithic Age. 

The second Key Concept is “The Neolithic Revolution and Early Agricultural Societies.” 

This is the Neolithic Age or new stone age, and it includes the development of farming, the first cities, and the growth of social hierarchies. 

This is followed by “The Development and Interactions of Agricultural, Pastoral and Urban Societies,” or the development of the earliest civilizations. 

This key concept includes discussions of writing, law, trade, religion, and architecture. If you want to summarize this period, think of it as the beginning of civilization.

2. Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies (600 BCE to 600 CE)

The first Key Concept for the Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies is “The Development and Codification of Religious Traditions.” This period encompasses the writing of the Hebrew Scriptures and the early centuries of Christianity as well as key developments in Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. 

This chronological period also includes “The Development of States and Empires,” including the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Persian, the Qin and Han, the Mauryan and Gupta, the Maya, the Moche, and several North American states and empires. 

With the development of states and empires came the “Emergence of Interregional Networks of Communication and Exchange,” which includes a variety of land and sea routes including the Silk Road, Trans-Saharan trade network, Mediterranean Sea routes, and trade networks in the Indian Ocean. In broad terms, we’d call this the ancient world.

3. Regional and Interregional Interactions (600 CE to 1450 CE)

Some of the Key Concepts associated with this chronological period expand upon those in the past unit, including the “Expansion and Intensification of Communication and Exchange Networks.” 

Connections between different regions through trade networks increased, particularly with the spread of Islam in the 7th century at the beginning of this period. “Continuity and Innovation of State Forms and their Interaction” continues the theme of state building present in the prior period. 

The growth of these networks and the state led to “Increased Economic Productive Capacity and its Consequences.” 

To make things simple, this period is known as the middle ages; however, the middle ages can look very different depending on the region.

4. Global Interaction (1450 CE to 1750 CE)

Global Interaction is marked by “Globalizing Networks of Communication and Exchange.” 

The trade and communication networks already present were permanently reshaped by the European voyages to the Americas and the introduction of the Columbian Exchange

In addition, “New Forms of Social Organization and Modes of Production” appeared during this period. 

The population increased during this period, as did agricultural productivity. “State Consolidation and Imperial Expansion ” also marked this time; empires grew and were significantly challenged by their growth. 

This is also called the early modern period.

5. Industrialization and Global Integration (1750 CE to 1900 CE)

The period between 1750 and 1900 is primarily characterized by a gradual move to industrialization called “Industrialization and Global Capitalism” in the Key Concepts. 

Politically, the concept period of Industrialization and Global Integration is associated with “Imperialism and Nation-state Formation.” 

While the process of nation-state formation is critical, this is also a period of “Nationalism, Revolution and Reform,” including the French and American Revolutions. “Global Migration” altered the population demographics of many countries as widespread migration occurred, particularly from the countryside to cities and from Europe to the United States. This is also a period of the industrial revolution.

6. Accelerating Global Change and Realignments (1900 CE to present)

The final chronological period begins in 1900 and continues to the present. This period is marked by several significant changes, both political and scientific. “Science and the Environment” encompasses the changes in agriculture, innovations in medicine, the growth of military technology, and massive destruction of the environment. 

Global Conflicts and their Consequences is a key concept that directly refers to the events and impact of various conflicts ranging from colonial independence to the World Wars. 

New Conceptualizations of Global Economy, Society, and Culture,” illustrate the shifting and changing economic and social concepts that impacted the 20th and 21st centuries including the rise, and later fall, of communism, the importance of global communication, and the growth of global trade agreements. 

For many people, this period is going to come the easiest as you likely know the most about these years; we call it the modern period.

2. Master The Necessary Skills

The next step to take in order to study effectively is to make sure that you master the necessary skills for the exam. 

These skills include the knowledge of facts, events, people, and dates as well as the skills to think about world histories and effectively communicate what you know and understand in your short answers, document-based questions (DBQ), and your long free-response questions.

3. Assessing Your Skills 

It is important that as you are preparing and considering how best to study and create your study plans for your exam, there is also a need to assess your skills.

By assessing your skills we mean discovering your weaknesses and your strengths as well as what type of learning works best for you. 

In order to recognize these, you can use the points below to assess yourself.

  • Look at your test scores in the class. 

Through evaluating your test scores, you can think about where you performed better and where you struggled.

Let’s say for instance, you find out that you write a good essay, but have a hard time with multiple-choice questions. You might also be able to recognize that you know some periods or some cultures far better than others.

  • Think about your usual academic performance, strengths and weaknesses. 

If you have a hard time with writing assignments, you’ll need to plan on focusing more on your study time on essays and less on facts and figures.

  • Take a practice test. 

This is one of the smartest moves, especially if you have a teacher willing to review your essays after practicing the test questions.

Once you’ve looked at your strengths and weaknesses, you can make a smart study plan for AP World History. 

Bear in mind that you should allocate time to do an overall review and extra time for what you’ve recognized as your weaknesses.

4. Get To Know Your Best Learning Style

After you have gotten to know the formats and the various concepts that you will be tested on.

It is important that you get to discover the best learning style that suits you.

Below are the different learning styles:

  • Visual learners learn best with images; charts, graphics, timelines, maps, and artwork can help you to connect periods and events.
  • Some people learn best through reading and writing.Text is one of the best learning tools for this type of learner. If you find that you remember what you read. Then, reading your notes and textbook and making notes can help you to retain information.
  • Auditory learners learn most effectively through hearing and speaking such as using Podcasts, videos, recorded lectures, and even talking with others about what you learn can help you to retain information.

There are other people who are good at retaining information when they connect it with movement or doing. We call this kinesthetic learning. 

So, if you’re a kinesthetic learner, you might try studying while you walk or sit on a fitness ball, or actively create projects connected to the work you’re studying.

With this, you can see how important it is for you to know what suits you because it will help you to study well and be able to retain what you studied.

5. Preparing For The Test

The test preparation is into several basic areas such as:

  • The Facts, Dates, People, And Events.

There are many ways to study these things, ranging from using apps on your Smartphone to online quizzes to old-fashioned, hand-written flashcards and timelines. 

Repetition is also important since it will help with memorizing what you should know.

  • Themes, Ideas, And Historical Context.

You can’t study these as easily since it is all about connecting what you’ve learned. 

For some people, this comes easily. They don’t have a hard time seeing the big picture while for others, it’s a lot harder. If you struggle with these big ideas, one of the best ways to learn them is to teach them. 

So consider starting a study group with classmates and teaching each other, or recruit a friend, parent or sibling, and teach them about the Key Concepts or Thematic Learning Objectives.

  • Organizing And Writing.

You also must be able to take what you know, including facts and concepts, and put it to paper. 

There are two essays on the AP World History exam, and they’re a bit different. 

One which is the document-based question type is likely to be less familiar to you and may require more work. 

The free-response essay lets you choose from one of two questions so if you already write well and know the concepts well, this question is less likely to be challenging.

Practicing for the writing portion of the AP World History test also requires that you practice writing under pressure from the clock. 

Think about your time as you write. Plan time to outline and to review your work. Since you have a total of 55 minutes for the document-based question with 40 minutes allotted for writing and 35 minutes for the free response essay question. 

Allow around 15 percent of your time for outlining and preparation and final review. That means you have about six minutes for your draft and review for the document-based question and around five minutes for the free response question.

When practicing for your essays, you need a serious, critical eye to review your work. 

Most people can’t do a great job assessing their own work. 

That’s why I will recommend that you ask a teacher, visit a writing lab if your school has one, or get a good friend who writes well to review your practice essays and provide feedback. 

This is because a high-scoring essay is essential for a good overall score on the AP World History test.


The AP World History exam is a big test, and a good score is a difference between college credit or no credit at all. 

So, to acquire more in order to succeed and score better, you can access plenty of study resources that are available to help you study while supporting you to get ready for the test ahead.

As you work hard… Best of Luck!

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