AP US History Study Guide

AP US History Study Guide

Begin your journey through US history by exploring primary sources, essays, and videos, organized by time period.


Exam Date: Friday, May 10, 2024



Image Source: World War II recruiting poster created by the US Office of War Information: Americans Will Always Fight for Liberty, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1943. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09520.37)

WWII poster showing 1943 troops passing Revolutionary era soldiers

Test Details

The AP US History exam covers United States history from 1491 to the present, divided into nine time periods. The exam is scored on a scale from 1 to 5, with a score of 3 or higher often earning college credit (depending on the particular university). Sections of the test include

  • 55 Source-Based Multiple Choice Questions (55 minutes)
  • 3 Short-Answer Questions (40 minutes)
  • 1 Document-Based Essay Question (60 minutes including a 15-minute reading period)
  • 1 Long Essay Question (40 minutes)

US History Periods

Period 1: 1491–1607

On a North American continent controlled by American Indians, contact among the peoples of Europe, the Americas, and West Africa created a new world.

  • 4–6% Exam Weighting

Period 2: 1607–1754

Europeans and American Indians maneuvered and fought for dominance, control, and security in North America, and distinctive colonial and native societies emerged.

  • 6–8% Exam Weighting

Period 3: 1754–1800

British imperial attempts to reassert control over its colonies and the colonial reaction to these attempts produced a new American republic, along with struggles over the new nation’s social, political, and economic identity.

  • 10–17% Exam Weighting

Period 4: 1800–1848

The new republic struggled to define and extend democratic ideals in the face of rapid economic, territorial, and demographic changes.

  • 10–17% Exam Weighting

Period 5: 1848–1877

As the nation expanded and its population grew, regional tensions, especially over slavery, led to a civil war—the course and aftermath of which transformed American society.

  • 10–17% Exam Weighting

Period 6: 1865–1898

The transformation of the United States from an agricultural to an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society brought about significant economic, political, diplomatic, social, environmental, and cultural changes.

  • 10–17% Exam Weighting

Period 7: 1890–1945

An increasingly pluralistic United States faced profound domestic and global challenges, debated the proper degree of government activism, and sought to define its international role.

  • 10–17% Exam Weighting

Period 8: 1945–1980

After World War II, the United States grappled with prosperity and unfamiliar international responsibilities while struggling to live up to its ideals. 

  • 10–17% Exam Weighting

Period 9: 1980–Present

As the United States transitioned to a new century filled with challenges and possibilities, it experienced renewed ideological and cultural debates, sought to redefine its foreign policy, and adapted to economic globalization and revolutionary changes in science and technology.

  • 4–6% Exam Weighting