How to Get a 5 on AP History Exams

Ramisa Sharif
Published on
November 22, 2023

Most people who have taken an AP History class will most likely talk about its difficulty. Many sites such as Collegevine and College Transitions rated classes likeAP U.S. History was the 2nd hardest AP test, just before AP Physics 1, in a data study that analyzed the results of students who took an AP class and got a score of 3 or higher. Knowing this, it is important that you strategically plan out how you will not only study for the test but also how to use your resources efficiently.


The first thing to know about AP History classes is the chronological timeline of events that occur in history. A timeline effectively lays out all the details and important dates that you need to know, which is crucial in being able to form comparisons and understand specifics that College Board tests you on. The best way to do this is to make a separate timeline for each unit. This is better than making one entire final timeline which forces you to make too many connections before you fully understand the content explored in the units. By making unit timelines, you can place them all together at the end of your studying to have one complete timeline that is both detailed and effective.


Most people in their AP History classes receive documents to analyze as classwork or homework. Although it may seem better to know the facts of the matter at hand, as mentioned before, College Board is more looking into your ability to analyze historical circumstances and be able to relate them with other periods. By regularly seeking out the 3 C’s — comparisons, continuity, and change, you’ll always have the upperhand when coming across questions that ask you to do so. In addition, College Board uses a fairly liberal lens for many of its questions, especially regarding the progression of minority groups in society, so it is also important to be able to identify how an event affected marginalized groups of that time and/or region.

Outside Resources

Have you ever done an assignment in your history class, and your teacher asks you to list outside sources in your work? Regularly finding and keeping track of outside sources can help you find other interpretations of events, which is especially important when considering the SAQ (Short-Answer Question), DBQ (Document-Based Question), and LAQ (Long-Answer Question) sections. Outside sources can include but are not limited to the most common documents mentioned on your respective exam, articles that give either unbiased or supported biased stances on historical circumstances, or YouTube videos that give brief or in-depth explanations on each unit. A popular history YouTube channel is Heimler’s History, who many students swear by when it comes to studying for an AP History exam.

Thesis Statements

One main problem students have on most AP exams is writing thesis statements for the writing section, which is why it is important that they take out the time to practice writing some that are clear, concise, and answer the prompts effectively. You should ask your teachers to check these if you are able to, if not, you can compare your answers to example responses online. Of course, it will always be better to practice writing the full response, but many times people feel like they have no time to do so, so focusing on the thesis is one of the better courses of action when you are in a time crunch.

Other Class Materials

Besides documents and assignments that you may receive in class, you should always keep your past tests and quizzes to look back on so you understand your weak points before the AP exam. Examining past assessments allows you to pinpoint what you didn’t understand, which is especially helpful if you studied well for the test, as it shows you what you may have missed.

Effectively using these tips can help you tackle the notoriously difficult AP History exam, and are applicable to other classes as well.  These are excellent tips for you to incorporate into your study regimen!


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