The New Exam Structure
The AP exam requires students to apply historical thinking skills and knowledge of content as they respond, in writing, to new short-answer, document-based, and essay questions. Newly designed multiple-choice questions ask students to use their knowledge of content to analyze and interpret primary and secondary sources. The exam consists of the following sections, in order:
Short Answer Questions
Short-answer questions will directly address one or more of the thematic learning objectives for the course. At least two of the four questions will have elements of internal choice, providing opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know best. All of the short-answer questions will require students to use historical thinking skills to respond to a primary source, a historian’s argument, nontextual sources such as data or maps, or general propositions about U.S. history. Each question will ask students to identify and analyze examples of historical evidence relevant to the source or question; these examples can be drawn from the concept outline or from other examples explored in depth during classroom instruction.
Sample Short Answer Promt
United States historians have proposed various events to mark the beginning of an American identity.
A) Choose ONE of the events listed below, and explain why your choice best represents the beginning of an American identity. Provide at least ONE piece of evidence to support your explanation.
•End of the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War) in 1763
•Signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776
•Ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788
B) Contrast your choice against ONE of the other options, demonstrating why that option is not as good as your choice.
Long Answer/ FRQ
To provide opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know best, they will be given a choice between two comparable long essay options. The long essay questions will measure the use of historical thinking skills to explain and analyze significant issues in U.S. history as defined by the thematic learning objectives. Student essays must include the development of a thesis or argument supported by an analysis of specific, relevant historical evidence. Questions will be limited to topics or examples specifically mentioned in the concept outline but framed to allow student answers to include in-depth examples of large-scale phenomena, either drawn from the concept outline or from topics discussed in the classroom.
Sample Long Question Prompt
Rethinking Multiple Choice
The multiple-choice section will contain a number of sets of questions, with between two and five questions per set, that ask students to respond to stimulus material — a primary or secondary source, including texts, images, charts, graphs, maps, etc. This stimulus material will reflect the types of evidence that historians use in their research on the past. The set of multiple-choice questions about the material will draw upon knowledge required by the curriculum framework, and each question will address one of the learning objectives for the course. While a set may focus on one particular period of U.S. history, the individual questions within that set may ask students to make connections to thematically linked developments in other periods.
Multiple-choice questions will assess students’ ability to reason about the stimulus material in tandem with their knowledge of the historical issue at hand. The possible answers for a multiple-choice question will reflect the level of detail present in the required historical developments found in the concept outline for the course. Events and topics contained in the illustrative example boxes of the curriculum framework will not appear in multiple-choice questions (unless accompanied by text that fully explains the topic to the student).
Sample MC Question Set
THE DBQ/ Document Based Question
The document-based question measures students’ ability to analyze and synthesize historical data and to assess verbal, quantitative, or visual materials as historical evidence. As with the long essay, responses to the document- based question will be judged on students’ ability to formulate a thesis and support it with relevant evidence. The documents included in the document- based question are not confined to a single format, may vary in length, and are chosen to illustrate interactions and complexities within the material. Where suitable, the documents will include charts, graphs, cartoons, and pictures, as well as written materials. In addition to calling upon a broad spectrum of historical skills, the diversity of materials will allow students to assess the value of different sorts of documents. The document-based question will typically require students to relate the documents to a historical period or theme and, thus, to focus on major periods and issues. For this reason, outside knowledge beyond the specific focus of the question is important and must be incorporated into the student’s essay to earn the highest scores.