The AP European History course and exam cover the history of Europe from 1450 to the present. That means you'll be asked about everything from the Renaissance to the European Union — it's a lot! Not to mention, the exam was just revised in 2016, making everything a bit more complicated.
If you need guidance for the AP exam, read on. In this article, I’ll give an overview of the exam, go in-depth on each of its sections, go over how the exam is scored, offer some preparation tips, and finally explain some key things to keep in mind on test day!
AP European History Exam Format and Overview
The AP Euro Exam for 2017 will be held on Friday, May 12.
The test is three hours and 15 minutes long. It has two sections, each of which is further split into a part A and a part B. It is important to note that within each section, you will not be forced or signaled to move on from part A to part B at any point in time. You will need to manage the time within each section yourself, although you will be periodically informed of how much time is remaining.
Here’s an overview chart of each part of the exam:
Section and Part
Number of Questions
% of Score
55 recommended (105 total for section 1)
50 recommended (105 total for section 1)
Document-Based Question (DBQ)
55 recommended (90 total for section 2 including 15-minute reading period)
1 (choose 1 of 2)
35 recommended (90 total for section 2 including 15-minute reading period)
As you can see, Section I consists of a 55-question multiple choice section, worth 40% of your exam grade, and a 4-question short answer section, worth 20% of your exam sky. Part I, in total, is 105 minutes, with a recommended 55 minutes on multiple choice and 50 minutes on the short answer.
Section II, the essay section, consists of the document-based question, for which you have to synthesize historical documents into a coherent analysis of a historical moment, and the “long essay,” for which you will have to choose between two questions and then write an essay analyzing a historical moment with no outside sources at your disposal. The DBQ is worth 25% of your grade, and the long essay is worth 15%. You will receive 90 minutes for Section II, including a 15-minute reading period. The College Board recommends spending 55 minutes on the DBQ (including the reading period) and 35 minutes on the second essay.
Section I is worth 60% of your exam score, and Section II is worth 40%. In terms of what individual parts are worth the most, the multiple choice section and the DBQ are the subsections worth the most on the exam, at 40% and 25%, respectively.
It’s worth noting that the exam was revised for 2016. Past administrations of the exam included more multiple-choice questions, no short answer, and had three essay questions instead of two. The recent revision means that there are not very many up-to-date practice resources available through the College Board for this exam, since old released exams have slightly different formats. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them, but you will need to be aware of the differences (see the section on practice resources below).
In the next sections of this guide, I’ll break down each of the exam sections further.
This is the old-old form of the exam.
Section 1: Multiple Choice and Short Answer
In this section, I’ll go over what you can expect to see on section 1 of the AP Euro exam. All question examples come from the AP Course and Exam Description.
Part A: Multiple Choice
On the multiple choice question, you’ll be presented with primary and secondary historical sources and then asked to answer two-five questions relevant to each source. In that sense, the 55 questions are almost divided up into a series of little mini-quizzes. The presentation of sources in the text ties into the revised exam’s focus on historical evidence and the actual work that historians do in evaluating and analyzing that evidence.
There are two kinds of questions on the multiple-choice section of the exam: source analysis questions, and outside knowledge questions.
Most of the questions in the multiple-choice section (probably about ⅔) are source analysis questions. These are questions that ask you to analyze the source presented in some way. You may be asked to link the events described in the source to a broader historical movement, contrast the source with other sources, determine if the source supports or contradicts a particular historical trend, and so in. In general, you will need to have some degree of outside historical knowledge to complete these questions, but they are at their core questions about what the source says or means, often within the broader historical moment.
These are questions that have little, if anything, to do with the source itself, and instead ask you a historical question based on your own knowledge. It will most likely be about events connected to or immediately following the time period described in the source, but the source is not the focus of the question, and it will not provide much help in answering the question.
What could this mean?
Part B: Short Answer
The short-answer section is four questions long, with a recommended 50 minute response time (as part of Section I’s 105 minutes). This leaves about 12 minutes per question. On every short answer question, you will be asked to provide a total of three pieces of information. You might be asked to provide two pieces of information in favor of a historical thesis and one piece of information against, for example.
For most of the short answer questions, you will be presented with a primary or secondary source and asked to answer a multi-part question analyzing the source and/or describing historical events relevant to the source. There is generally an element of choice to these questions—i.e., you will need to name one reason of many that something happened or two consequences of a particular event, but you will not be required to name particular events.
There are also short-answer questions without a source, for which you may be asked to analyze or examine a statement about history. Again, you will generally be asked to provide three total pieces of historical evidence, but you will have flexibility as to what events you could appropriately name to answer the question.
Keep your answers short like this guy.
Section 2: Free-Response Section
In this section, I’ll review what you’ll be asked to do on section 2 of the AP Euro exam.
Part A: Document-Based Question
On the DBQ, you’ll be given six-seven sources, made up of primary and secondary sources, and asked to write an essay analyzing a historical issue. This is meant to put you in the role of historian, interpreting historical material and then relaying your interpretation in an essay. You’ll need to combine material from the sources with your own outside knowledge.
You’ll have 15 minutes to plan the essay, and then 40 minutes to write it. The 15-minute planning period is specifically designated and timed at the beginning of section II, and you will be prompted to begin your essays at the close. However, no one will prompt you to move on from the DBQ to the long essay—you’ll need to manage that time yourself.
Below see an example DBQ. Associated documents can be found in the Course and Exam Description.
Part B: Long Essay
The Long Essay will ask you a broad thematic question about a period or periods in history. You will need to create an analytical essay with a thesis that you can defend with specific historical evidence that you learned in class.
You’ll be given a choice between two questions for this essay. It’s recommended that you spend 35 minutes on this question, but again, you won’t be prompted to move from one essay to another so you’ll need to manage the time yourself.
A main theme of Europe: cheese.
How the AP European History Exam Is Scored
The multiple-choice section of the exam is worth 40% of your score, short answer is worth 20%, the DBQ is worth 25%, and the long essay is worth 15%. As on other AP exams, your raw score will be converted to a scaled score from 1-5. Last year, about 10% of all test-takers received a 5, and about 17% received a 4. The test is difficult, but it’s definitely possible to do well if you prepare. So how is your raw score obtained? I’ll go over how points are awarded on each part of each section.
Well, as on other AP exams, on the multiple choice section, you receive a point for each question you answer correctly. This means you could receive a total of 55 points on the multiple-choice section, weighted as 40% of your total score.
Every short-answer question will ask you to provide three pieces of information. You will receive one point for every correct, relevant piece of information you provide as directed by the question. For example, if a question asks for one cause of a particular conflict, one result of a particular conflict, and one similar situation in a different country, and you provided one cause and one result, you would receive two out of three points. As there are four short answer questions, you can get up to twelve points on the short answer section, weighted at 20% of your total exam score.
The Document-Based Question
The DBQ is worth 25% of your total score, and it is scored on a seven-point rubric. I’ll give a quick rubric breakdown here.
What The Rubric Says
What It Means
Thesis and Argument Development
1 point: Presents a thesis that makes a historically defensible claim and responds to all parts of the question. The thesis must consist of one or more sentences located in one place, either the introduction or the conclusion.
Scoring note: Neither the introduction nor the conclusion is necessarily limited to a single paragraph.
This point is for having a thesis that can be reasonably supported by the documents and other historical facts. Your thesis must be located in your introduction or conclusion.
Thesis and Argument Development
1 point: Develops and supports a cohesive argument that recognizes and accounts for historical complexity by explicitly illustrating relationships among historical evidence such as contradiction, corroboration, and/or qualification.
You can get an additional point for having a super thesis. A super thesis is one that accounts for the complex relationships in history.
1 point: Utilizes the content of at least six of the documents to support the stated thesis or a relevant argument.
One point is for making use of 6-7 of the documents in your argument.
1 point: Explains the significance of the author’s point of view, author’s purpose, historical context, and/or audience for at least four documents.
One point is for going more “in-depth” on at least four of the documents by analyzing the author’s point of view or purpose, the historical context, or the audience of the document.
Using Evidence Beyond the Documents
Contextualization - 1 point: Situates the argument by explaining the broader historical events, developments, or processes immediately relevant to the question.
Scoring Note: Contextualization requires using knowledge not found in the documents to situate the argument within broader historical events, developments, or processes immediately relevant to the question. The contextualization point is not awarded for merely a phrase or reference, but instead requires an explanation, typically consisting of multiple sentences or a full paragraph.
One point is for locating the issue within its broader historical context. So be sure to mention any “big-picture” movements happening that are shaping the events you are writing about in the DBQ!
Using Evidence Beyond the Documents
Evidence beyond the documents - 1 point: Provides an example or additional piece of specific evidence beyond those found in the documents to support or qualify the argument.
Scoring Note 1: This example must be different from the evidence used to earn other points on this rubric.
Scoring Note 2: This point is not awarded for merely a phrase or reference. Responses need to reference an additional piece of specific evidence and explain how that evidence supports or qualifies the argument.
One point is awarded for using a specific historical example not found in the documents as evidence for your argument.
1 point: Extends the argument by explaining the connections between the argument and ONE of the following:
Scoring Note: The synthesis point requires an explanation of the connections to different historical period, situation, era, or geographical area, and is not awarded for merely a phrase or reference.
For this final point, you need to connect your argument about the specific issue presented in the DBQ to another geographical area or historical development or movement.
In previous years, the DBQ was out of 9 points, instead of this year’s 7. Last year, the average score was 3.98 - just shy of 4. Most students, then, got under half credit on the DBQ.
She diligently studies for the DBQ.
The long essay is worth the least of all of the exam components at only 15% of your total score. It’s scored out of a 6-point rubric. I’ll go over how you can get those six points here. This rubric is a little whacky because 2 of the points for “Argument Development” are completely different depending on what the “Targeted Historical Skill” is. So pay attention to which points are for which skills!
What The Rubric Says
What It Means
1 point: Presents a thesis that makes a historically defensible claim and responds to all parts of the question. The thesis must consist of one or more sentences located in one place, either in the introduction or the conclusion.
Your thesis makes a reasonable claim and responds to the entire question. It is located in the introduction or the conclusion.
Argument Development: Targeted Historical Thinking Skill
Comparison: Describes similarities AND differences among historical individuals, developments, or processes.
Causation: Describes causes AND/OR effects of a historical event, development, or process.
Continuity and Change Over Time: Describes historical continuity AND change over time.
Periodization: Describes the ways in which the historical development specified in the prompt was different from and similar to developments that preceded AND/OR followed.
Essentially, this point is for comprehensively addressing the historical skill referenced in the prompt. If you are supposed to compare, you compare. If you are supposed to describe causes and/or effects, you do. Note that you will lose points if the question specifically asks about causes AND effects (for causation) or events before AND after a given historical development (for periodization) and you only address one.
Argument Development: Targeted Historical Thinking Skill
Comparison: Explains the reasons for similarities AND differences among historical individuals, events, developments, or processes.
Causation: Explains the reasons for the causes AND/OR effects of a historical event, development, or process.
Continuity and Change Over Time: Explains the reasons for historical continuity AND change over time.
Periodization: Explains the extent to which the historical development specified in the prompt was different from and similar to developments that preceded AND/OR followed.
You don’t just mention events connected to the historical skill (comparison, causation, continuity/change over time, or periodization)—you explain and elaborate on the reasons for those events taking place.
Argument Development: Using Evidence
1 point: Addresses the topic of the question with specific examples of relevant evidence.
Your historical evidence involves specific examples that are relevant to the specific topic at hand.
Argument Development: Using Evidence
1 point: Utilizes specific examples of evidence to fully and effectively substantiate the stated thesis or relevant argument.
Scoring note: To fully and effectively substantiate the stated thesis or relevant argument, responses must include a broad range of evidence that, through analysis and explanation, justifies the stated thesis or relevant argument.
Your examples are deployed to in a way that effectively supports your thesis; you tie your historical evidence back to your argument.
1 point: Extends the argument by explaining the connections between the argument and ONE of the following:
Scoring note: The synthesis point requires an explanation of the connections to the different historical period, situation, era, or geographical area, and is not awarded merely for a phrase or reference.
You make a connection to another historical period or discipline. You need to explain this connection in your paper, not just mention it offhand or in one quick sentence.
As you can see, this rubric is really concerned with choosing appropriate, specific evidence to support your argument and adequately explaining those examples. To succeed, you’ll need to have a pretty strong knowledge base in specific historical content, more so than on any other section of the exam. You will have some element of choice in which of the two questions to select.
That covers it for what’s on the exam. Next, we’ll address how you should prepare.
You can't tell by looking, but this kitten is an AP Euro expert.
How to Prepare for the AP Euro Exam
There are five key ways to prepare:
Start Reviewing Content Early
One major thing you can do to help yourself on this exam is to start reviewing content early in the year. As soon as you know enough to start reviewing, you should be periodically looking back at old material to refresh your knowledge. If you make sure your knowledge is constantly renewed, you’ll have less work to do as you get closer to exam day because you’ll maintain a fairly high level of familiarity with an entire year’s worth of historical material. That means you’ll be able to focus primarily on building skills for the exam.
Fill In Gaps
As soon as you realize you don’t know or understand very much about a particular historical period or movement—maybe after doing less than awesome on a test, paper, or project—you should work to shore up that knowledge with extra studying and review. Consult with your teacher on what you are missing if you can. This will help keep you from serious weakness on the exam if the DBQ (or, heaven forbid, both the long essays) ends up being about an area you don’t really know anything about.
Seek Breadth and Depth in Knowledge
As you review historical content, you’ll want to balance acquiring breadth and depth. You definitely need to understand the major historical movements and moments of European History. But you should also know some specific facts and events about each era to maximize your chances of success on the short-answer and free-response sections. Of course, you aren’t going to be able to memorize every single date and person’s name ever mentioned in class for the purposes of the AP exam, but you should try to make sure you have at least a few facts that you could use as specific evidence in an essay about any of the major historical happenings covered in the course.
Understand Historical EvidenceOne of the most important skills you can build for the AP Euro exam is understanding historical evidence. When you confront primary and secondary sources on the AP exam, you’ll need to think about who is writing, why they are writing, their audience, and the historical (or current) context they are writing in. What is the source evidence of? Is it relating facts, opinions, or interpretations?
For more guidance on working with primary and secondary sources, see this online lesson from a college history professor.
Practice the DBQ
Because the DBQ somewhat unusual compared to the typical AP essay, you’ll need to make sure you understand how to plan and write one. You’ll need to really work not just on your skills understanding historical evidence, but also your ability to synthesize different pieces of historical evidence into a coherent interpretation or argument about a historical topic. On top of that, you’ll need to make a connection to another time period, movement, or discipline! Use the rubric as a guide to improving your DBQ skills, and check out my guide to writing a great DBQ essay.
Filling in some very important gaps.
Tips for Test Day
Of course, all of the typical preparation tips apply: get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, manage your time closely, answer every question, and so on and so forth. But here are two specific AP Euro test tips to help you make the most of your exam time.
Focus On the Multiple-Choice and DBQ Sections
There are four components to the test, but they aren’t all equally important. The multiple-choice section is worth 40%, the DBQ is worth 25%, the short-answer is worth 20%, and the long essay is worth 15%. This means that the multiple-choice and DBQ sections together form up the majority of your score, so make sure you pay them adequate attention in time and effort. Obviously, you should do your best on every part of the test, and your score for the other two sections does matter. But if you find yourself pressed for time on either section 1 or 2, the multiple-choice and the DBQ are worth more than the other pieces of their respective sections.
Mine Sources for Contextual Information
The redesigned AP European History test has a renewed focus on primary and secondary sources. While most questions do still require some outside knowledge to answer, you can use the primary and secondary sources to orient yourself in history and pick up contextual details that will help you answer questions even if you are initially a little lost as to the particulars of the historical moment being described.
Here’s an example multiple-choice question with a source:
What can we figure out from this source? Well, we know that this is a song by French market women from the 18th century from the caption. But what is the source itself telling us?
In the first line we see the word “Versailles.” If you know that’s where French royalty lived, you’ll start to think: does this source have something to do with royalty? (If you don’t know that Versailles is where French royalty used to live, you aren’t out of luck—the second stanza offers this information implicitly). Then we see in the second line that “We brought with us all our guns.” This implies that something violent occurred at Versailles. So, something violent at the place where royalty lives.
The second stanza switches into present tense. So that means whatever happened at Versailles with the guns already took place. In the present, they say “we won’t have to go so far...to see our King...since he’s come to live in our Capital.” The King, then, lives in Paris now—so the ladies don’t have to go to Versailles to see him. If they went to show the king their guns at Versailles in the first stanza, and in the second stanza he’s been removed to Paris, this implies that the king was forcibly removed to Paris. In this light, the line “We love him with a love without equal” is ironic: they love him now that they have defeated him.
The only one of the answers that is possibly compatible with the idea of defeating a king is choice (B), creating a republican government in France. So by using sources, you can navigate many questions even if you are initially at a total loss in terms of historical contextual information.
France: beautiful architecture and bloody revolution.
The AP European History exam is three hours and 15 minutes long and consists of two sections. The first section has two parts, a 55-minute, 55-question multiple choice exam, and a 4-question, 50-minute short answer section. The second section also has two parts: a 55-minute document-based question, and a 35-minute long essay.
Note that you will not be prompted to move from part A to part B on either section, but must manage the time yourself.
The multiple-choice section is worth 40% of your exam score, and you receive one point for every correct answer. You can expect to see questions that ask you to analyze historical sources and evidence, and questions that force you to rely completely on your own knowledge of historical events.
The short-answer question is worth 20% of your exam score. On each of the four questions you will be asked to provide three pieces of information about a historical movement or period, and you’ll get one point for each correct piece of information you provide.
The DBQ is worth 25% of your grade. You’ll be given six-seven sources and need to write an essay synthesizing your interpretation of a historical movement or period using the sources. You’ll then receive a grade out of 7 points.
Finally, the long essay is worth 15% of your grade. On the long essay, you’ll have a choice between two questions. Then, you’ll need to write an original essay supported with specific historical evidence.
To prepare for the exam, here are my best tips:
- Start reviewing content early in the year, and keep it up throughout!
- As soon as you realize there’s an era or movement you aren’t fully comfortable with, fill in those gaps in your knowledge!
- Seek both breadth and some depth in your knowledge of the content.
- Learn to understand and analyze historical evidence and primary and secondary sources.
- Build exam-specific skills, particularly for the DBQ.
Here’s my advice to make the most of test day:
- Focus most of your energy on the multiple-choice and DBQ sections, especially if you start to run out of time.
- Use sources to orient yourself in history when you need to!
With all this knowledge at your fingertips, you’ll crush the AP European History exam like the Hapsburgs crushed in the 30 Years’ War! Too soon?
Need more AP test-taking tips? Or help finding AP practice tests?
Looking for more of our expert guides? We have complete AP exam guides for AP Human Geography, AP Language and Composition, AP Literature and Composition, AP World History, AP US History, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and AP Psychology.
Excelling on the AP European History exam can be a challenge. With only 8.6% of test takers scoring a 5 and another 16.9% scoring a 4 in 2014, AP European History represents one of the most difficult Advanced Placement exams to score high on. But fear not, hopefully after reading this list of comprehensive tips, you’ll feel more confident and prepared to rock your AP European History test!
Now to the good stuff… here are 50+ AP European History tips.
AP European History DBQ & FRQ Essay Tips & Advice
1. Answer the question: This seems like a no-brainer, yet thousands of AP European History test takers forget about this every year. When you address the question, make sure you answer all parts of the question; AP graders evaluate your essays based on a rubric and award a point if you answer all parts of the question.
2. Know the rubric like the back of your hand: This goes in hand with the last tip. By the time the test rolls around, make sure you know that AP graders are looking for these key components: an answer to all parts of the question, a clear thesis, facts to support the thesis presented, use of all documents, and inclusion of point of view/evaluation of document bias. Here are the 2014 Scoring Guidelines.
3. Don’t be afraid to namedrop/be specific: When it comes to answering the FRQs, be a test taker who can identify and specify names of certain people who had measurable impact in European History. This means use primary examples! For example, if the question asks you how Louis XIV was able to centralize his government, you should specifically talk about intendants, the Fronde Wars, the Edict of Fontainebleau, etc. Write with confidence when citing specific events or people.
4. Group, group, group, and did we say group?: When you read and analyze documents, make sure to group your documents into at least three groups in order to receive full credit. You should group based on the three respective key points you will be discussing in the body of your essay.
5. Practice grouping: Just to hit the nail in the coffin, here are a few starting blocks for how to group documents. Think about how the document works in relation to politics, economics, imperialism, nationalism, humanitarianism, religion, society & culture, intellectual development & advancement. Pretty much every single document the CollegeBoard ever created can fit into one of these buckets.
6. Assess the author’s perspective: As you work your way through the documents and group them, keep a few clear questions in mind, “Why is the author writing this? What perspective is he or she coming from? What can I tell from his or her background?” Asking yourself these questions will help you ensure part of your thesis and essay integrates bias and analysis of bias.
7. Read the historical background: The little blurb at the beginning of the document isn’t there for no good reason. The historical background section of AP European History is like the freebie slot on a bingo card—it will reveal to you the time period of the document and allow you to gain a little perspective into the point of view of the source.
8. Connect between documents: The difference between scoring a perfect score on your essays and scoring an almost perfect score can often come down to your ability to relate documents with one another. As you outline your essay, you should think about at least two opportunities where you can connect one document to another. So how do you connect a document? Well one way would be writing something along the lines of, “The fact that X person believes that XYZ is the root of XYZ may be due to the fact that he is Y.” So in this example, I may pull X person from document 1, but use document 4 to support my Y of the reason why he thinks a certain way. When you connect documents, you demonstrate to the grader that you can clearly understand point of views and how different perspectives arise. It also is a way to demonstrate your analytical abilities.
9. Start practicing as early as possible: AP European History isn’t quite like AP World History where you can get away with just understanding key trends and patterns. Because the test is much more detailed-oriented, you need to start practicing at least a month and a half prior to your AP European History exam date. Go to AP Central’s homepage for AP European History and select a few essay questions to tackle for the weeks leading up to the exam. Try to tackle two to five a week. Find a proctor like a sibling, parent, or teacher and have them simulate the test for you under timed conditions.
10. Do not blow off the DBQ: In 130 minutes, 50% of your AP European History grade is determined. In case you didn’t know the AP European History exam is a 50-50 split between multiple choice and free-response questions. Students often overlook the importance of the DBQ and FRQs. Don’t be that student. Did you know if you got 0/80 multiple choice questions right but scored 9s on your FRQs and your DBQ, you would still get a 3 based on the 2009 exam curve? It’s crazy, but it’s true.
11. Print out your writing: Writing a coherent essay is a difficult task. In order to do this successfully on the AP European History test you want to make sure that you have spent a few minutes in the very beginning of the test to properly plan out an outline for your essay. You may have heard this advice hundreds of times from teachers but the reason why teachers give it is because it really does help. Ultimately, if you go into your essay without a plan your essay will read without a sense of flow and continuation. One of the things you are assessed on is your ability to create a cohesive argument.
12. Organizing with chronological order: One way that you can order some essays is by using chronological order. When you frame your argument around chronological order, you want to look for transition points and use those as an opportunity to start a new paragraph.
13. Compare and contrast: Sometimes on the AP European History test you’ll be asked to compare and contrast. In this case a lot of students simply compare but they do not contrast. Make sure that you allocate at least one paragraph for each component.
14. Refine your thesis: Crafting the van Gogh of thesis statements can be difficult when under a time crunch. But don’t worry the good thing is that if you create a general thesis statement to work off of, you can go back and refine your thesis statement at the very end. Don’t be afraid to come up with the general idea and go with that; then at the end of the paper, revise your original thesis around the main arguments that you’ve made throughout.
Start your AP European History Prep today
AP European History Multiple Choice Review Tips
1. Read continuously: Here’s the thing about AP European History—it’s incredibly detailed-oriented. That means it’s not quite like some other AP tests where you can just cram two nights before and get a 5. In order to really understand connections in European History, you need to keep up with your reading throughout the school year. This not only applies to help you in the multiple choice section, but also in the essay portion to understand what time period the prompts are coming from. Viault’s Modern European History should be like your bible when it comes to reading about AP European History.
2. Identify and hone in on your greatest weaknesses: When you start practicing multiple choice for AP European History, you’ll quickly realize that there are certain time periods and things you know like the back of your hand, and others that are just very hazy to you. After you have had a practice session with AP European History multiple-choice questions, write down the areas where you struggled and review those sections of your class notes. Make flashcards and review 15-20 every night before you go to bed.
3. Supplement your learning with video lectures: While YouTube can be a distractor at times; it can also be great to learn things on the fly! Crash Course has some great videos here pertaining to AP European History. Use them to affirm what you know about certain time periods and to bolster what you already know; then, practice again.
4. Hank’s History Hour: Going along the lines of alternative ways to learn AP European History, you can also learn a great deal from Hank’s History Hour, which is a podcast on different topics in history. This is a great way to actually go to sleep since you can listen to the podcast while you dose off. Did you know when you go to sleep you remember what you heard last the best when you wake up?
5. Answer every question: If you’re crunched on time and still have several AP European History multiple-choice questions to answer, make a solid attempt at answering each and every one of them. With no guessing penalty, you literally have nothing to lose.
6. Create flashcards along the way: After you have gotten a multiple choice question wrong, create a flashcard with the key term and the definition of that term. Think about potential mnemonics or heuristics you can use to help yourself remember the term more easily. One way is to think about an outrageous image and to associate that image with the term related to AP European History.
7. Use the Process of Elimination: When it comes to tackling AP European History questions, the process of elimination can come in handy if you can eliminate just one answer choice or even two, your odds of getting the question right significantly improve. Remember there is no guessing penalty so you really have nothing to lose.
8. Don’t overthink things: When it comes to answering easy questions, typically the shortest response is also the right response. Easy questions typically have easy answers. Try not to choose strangely worded answer responses for easy questions. Most importantly, don’t overthink things.
9. All questions are the same weight: When it comes to the AP European History test, all multiple-choice questions are weighted equally. That means that you want to make sure that you take your time in the very beginning so that you don’t get easy questions wrong.
10. Use common sense: Often times with multiple-choice questions, contextual cues are given that signal the time period that the question is testing you on. Look out for these sorts of clues. Understanding and recognizing when a clue is given is fundamental to helping you understand what concepts you’re being tested on.
11. Take advantage of chronology: When it comes to answering the multiple-choice questions, the questions are actually grouped in sets of 4-7 questions each. Practice recognizing when you’re at the start and end of a group. This will allow you to mentally think about the different time periods that are being tested while also staying alert throughout the duration of the test.
12. Understand the progression of question difficulty: The AP European History test is outlined so that the easiest questions are presented to you at the very beginning of the test. However, as you navigate through the test you’ll realize that the questions get harder and harder. Use this to your advantage. Stay aware of how much time you’re spending in different sections of the multiple-choice section. While you want to make sure that you allocate enough time at the very end for answer difficult questions, you really want to make sure that you knock the first 60 questions out of the ballpark.
13. Study themes appropriately: Generally speaking, the AP European History test dedicates 20 to 30% of the multiple-choice section 2 testing cultural or intellectual subject areas. The remaining 80% are split relatively evenly between economic and political factors, as well as overall social issues.
14. Use your writing utensil: As you work through the multiple-choice section of the AP European history test, physically circle and underline certain aspects of answer choices that you know for fact are wrong. Get in this habit so that when you go back to review your answer choices, you can quickly see why you thought that particular answer choice was wrong in the first place. This is a technique that you can use for more than just the AP European History test.
15. Circle EXCEPT: EXCEPT questions can often throw students off so make sure that you get in the habit of physically circling every time you see the word EXCEPT.
16. Go with your gut: You know what I’m talking about…when you’re at the end of your test and you go back to that one question that nagged you and you think that you need to change your answer. Don’t. More often than not your gut was right. There’s a reason why you chose that answer so go with your instinct.
17. Use checkmarks: If you feel confident about your answer to a particular multiple-choice question, make a small checkmark next to that question number. The reason why you want to do this is that when you go back to review your answer choices, you’ll be able to quickly recognize which questions you need to spend more time taking a second look at. Also, making this checkmark gives you momentum moving forward throughout the multiple-choice section. If you feel good about an answer, that little bit of positive reinforcement will help keep you alert as you move through the multiple choice questions.
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Overall How to Study for AP European History Tips
1. Do not read your book for straight facts and figures: The way middle schools teach history set up high school students for failure when it comes to tackling challenging history courses. Rather than memorize facts from your book like you’ve done since middle school, create a framework and general understanding of the core themes from your reading. Believe it or not, knowing the type of bread that XYZ leader liked is not important. A lot of history books go excessively in depth in regards to the nitty gritty. Learn to selectively read the important bits of information and practice summarizing the key points of your reading by outlining 3-5 key takeaways in your notes on your readings. If you cannot connect the dots, then you will simply craft essays with random “name drops” and “date drops”; as a result, your AP score will reflect your inability to create a cohesive argument.
2. Try out the SQ3R method: This is a popular studying technique that can be applied for more than just AP European History. Francis Robinson originally created it in a 1946 book called Effective Study.
3. S (Survey): Preview what you are about to read. Look at the beginning of the chapter and look at the end. Look at the main headings of each subsection of the chapter. Read the discussion questions often found at the end of sections. Think about how this section relates to a larger part of history; think about how this may connect to something you’ve previously learned.
4. Q (Question): Think about questions to keep in mind as you prepare to read. One way to do this is by re-framing the headers of subsections and to pose them as questions. Ask questions such as, “Why is this important?”, “What does this reveal to me about the overall time period?”, etc.
5. Read (R): Now you can begin to read. After surveying and questioning, you can now read the chapter keeping the prep work you’ve done in mind. Doing S and Q beforehand helps keep you engaged and active. Make sure you use your pencil to guide yourself as you read. If you can write in your book, circle and underline key things. Active reading helps the content stick with you.
6. Recall (R): At the end of each major section, take a minute or two to recall the key things that you just read about. Review the bolded key terms, and answer the main questions you posed to yourself earlier. Use your own words to describe what you just read. Think about it like you are telling your best friend about what you read about today. Saying things out loud can help you remember things more easily.
7. Review (R): You can either do this with a friend or by yourself. After you’ve done SQRR, you want to top everything off with review. Look at the notes you’ve taken along the way and test yourself on the key bits of information from your reading. The key to the SQ3R method is creating a system of processing information and making that information stick. By reviewing several times at random points of the day, you’ll help move the information you’ve learned from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
8. Connect, connect, connect: In case we haven’t mentioned it enough, AP European History is all about connecting the dots. Whether you’re just doing your nightly reading or reviewing for your test, it’s helpful and essential that you recognize how events and people in history are interrelated. History is the study of how people interact with one another. One technique to make sure you are connecting the dots is to write key events or terms on flashcards; then at the end of your reading or review session, categorize your flashcards into 5-7 different categories. You may end up doing this by time period, by a significant overarching event, etc. A good way to think about this is you have 5-7 drawers, and a bunch of random things lying around in your room. Each thing represents some event or important person in history and you want to fit all the things into one drawer in order to make your room clean again. If the clean room analogy doesn’t work for you, try to think of a way to get in the categorizing mindset yourself and let us know about it!
9. Create a cheat sheet: While unfortunately you won’t be able to use your cheat sheet on the actual test, you can use a cheat sheet to help simplify your reviewing process as the AP European History test gets closer. Create a cheat sheet that is flexible and can be added on to—then as the year progresses and you do more and more readings, add to your cheat sheet. Before you know it, you’ll have a handy and hopefully concise reference guide that you can turn to in those last few weeks before the test.
Tips Submitted by AP European History Teachers
1. Keep referring back to the question: While writing the essay portion, especially the DBQ, remember to keep referring back to the question and make sure that you have not gone off on a tangent. When students drop the ball on an essay it is usually because they do not answer the question. Thanks for the tip from Ms. N at South High School in MI.
2. Review your vocab: Complete the vocabulary at the beginning of each section of your preferred AP European History prep book. If you do not know the meaning of the terminology in a question you will not be able to answer the question correctly. Thanks for the tip from Ms. O at Northville High in MI.
3. Do lots of point-of-view statements: You don’t want to suffer on your DBQ because you only had two acceptable POV’s. Do 4 or 5 or 6. And be sure to say how reliable a source is ABOUT WHAT based on their background, audience or purpose. Thanks for the tip from Steve!
4. Complete readings as they are assigned: Chunking material is the best
way to learn and then to synthesize material. Look at the primary sources and secondary sources to support textual readings. Think in thematic terms. Thanks for the tip from Ms. J at Trinity High in PA.
5. Supplement your in-class learning with videos: Tom Richey has put together a comprehensive YouTube playlist just for AP European History students. You can check it out at here. He also has a great website you can check out here.
6. Provide context in your DBQ: When trying to write a point of view statement for the DBQ you must include three things: First, state who the author really is.Second, what did he actually say.Third, why is said it.
Are you a teacher? Do you have an awesome tip? Let us know!
Hopefully you’ve learned a ton from reading all 50+ of these AP European History tips. Remember, AP European History is one of the most challenging AP exams to score high on, so it’s crucial you put in the work to get you there. Read actively and review constantly throughout the year, so that you do not feel an incredible burden of stress as the AP exam nears. Approach readings using SQ3R, connect the dots between documents, and understand how you are going to be graded by AP readers. You’re going to do great! Good luck.
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