Column: How to pass an Advanced Placement exam: United States history edition

Editor’s Column

Isaac is the Features editor for Ethic News.


Among high school students, Advanced Placement United States History is probably considered one of the easier AP classes. But, it is also one of the AP classes that requires students to learn and retain a large amount of content. With nine historical time periods being covered throughout the school year, it can be easy to get lost in the sea of dates and people. Here are four tips I followed to score a four on the exam. 

1) Videos

For APUSH, I recommend that you watch Jocz Productions Youtube channel. This channel is managed by a teacher who teaches APUSH and uploads videos that correlate with three popular high school history textbooks including American Pageant, American History brinkley edition and American History Henretty edition. If your teacher forces you to read the school textbook or teaches by chapters, these videos are perfect for you. He provides you with the most prominent people, places and events that you need for the AP Test. You can use these as evidence in short answer essays, document-based question essays and long answer question essays. However, his videos are fairly long (between 15-40 minutes), but you can always change the playback speed to your liking. Sometimes your teacher does not teach all the units you need for the exam or maybe you don’t like their teaching style. Whatever the case may be, these videos are a reliable source for you to turn to for content. 

2) Read and write to your advantage 

Every unit, my APUSH teacher handed me a list of what he called “identifications.” These identifications (Id’s for short) were the names of prominent people, events and items that influenced the historical time period that we were learning. Then for each identification, we were forced to write paragraphs addressing who it was, what they did, when they did it, and how it influenced them socially, economically, and politically.

My recommendation for you is to focus on the how. For every “identification” that you feel is important, write how it influenced the time period. By doing this, you are practicing writing analysis that is needed for your DBQ’s and LAE’s. Over time, this makes it easier for you to write essays because you have to remember and rewrite what you have already written before. It’s time consuming, but writing two to three sentences on a topic makes a big difference in the end. 

3) Flashcards

Simply put, APUSH is a memory game. You need to memorize everything. Make flashcards for every important person, place, event and more. I know I sound like a broken record, but making flashcards and reviewing them periodically is going to help you remember topics that can be used as evidence in your essays. You are expected to write three essays in a short amount of time; therefore, the ability to recall evidence off the top of your head is going to make your life easier. You can organize the flashcards, digital or handwritten, by units and go over them two days out of the week. 

4) Review book 

As always, I recommend buying a review book from Princeton Review—preferably the edition of the year you will be taking the exam. They will provide you with all the information you need to succeed and the amount of practice multiple choice and essay questions is invaluable. Remember to time yourself on every practice essay. Even though you might not finish an essay in time, it will help you keep track of how fast you are writing and how you can improve in the future. The more you practice, the better you will do on the actual AP Exam.

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