How to Survive Advanced Placement American History

AP American History, or Advanced Placement US History/A.P.U.S.H., is the most commonly taken AP course in the nation. As a survey course of American history, it allows high school students to take a course equal to that of a freshman year college course in American History. That being said, A.P.U.S.H. can be an incredibly challenging course-students will not be accustomed to handling several pages of extensive material. The actions a student takes could be the difference between an A, B, or C.


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    Sign up only if you know you are willing to commit. Depending on the school and teacher, A.P.U.S.H. tests cover between two and six chapters, each being about twenty to thirty pages. Units are short time-wise only about two weeks. Think about whether or not you would be able to handle this.
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    Purchase an AP Review Book. It will help you throughout the year and while reviewing for the AP Course. Try to obtain the book the summer before the new school year begins, along with any AP summer homework. Read ahead if possible.
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    Read each chapter with great detail. In A.P.U.S.H., small details are emphasized on. Don't memorize-understand what happened in history. Why did things happen, and what caused them? For each chapter, know the major people and events, along with minor details as well.
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    Pace yourself. Reading four chapters in one night for the first time is a bad idea. Read some A.P.U.S.H every day. Remember: preparing for an AP is like a marathon, not a sprint.
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    Write it out to remember it. Simply reading will not be enough in A.P.U.S.H. Take notes on the chapters.
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    After each chapter has been finished, re-read it if you believe you still do not know the details. If you are knowledgeable enough about the chapter, then take practice quizzes online or in the book.
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    Don't panic. It simply takes time to learn the studying process, but if you put in the effort, you will make it. Do not let the first grade change your mind about taking the course.
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    If you feel that it may help, form study groups and meet after school. If you cannot get a ride, perhaps create an online group. However, you should only form a study group if it will actually help you. More than often, study groups turn into social hours. Sure, they are fun, but they are not the best idea when preparing for a test.
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    Every few months or so, if possible, review everything you have done before. This could be time-consuming but will be worth it. Re-read the chapters or at least read the corresponding sections in the review book. This way, when the AP Exam approaches, you will be ready.
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    Start to prepare for the AP Exam at least one full month before the exam. Pace yourself and create a plan, be feasible. Unless you have totally slacked off throughout the entire year, you probably don't need to re-read the textbook. Buy two review books, because one book may not cover everything it needs to. Ideally, one of the books should be detailed and the other one covering more of the big-picture idea. Start out by reading through the big-picture book once, and then read the detailed book. Remember to skim the chapters in your textbook just to make sure you are covering all the important information. Then, right before the AP Exam, re-read the big-picture book once more. Make sure you understand major social, economic and political aspects of each time period and know important people. Quiz a friend and have them quiz you if it helps. Take practice exams until your score improves.
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    Make sure to practice essays. The essays on the AP US History exam are Document Based Questions (D.B.Q.) and Free Response Question (F.R.Q.). The key in both these essays is to analyze. This is not just stating facts like one might in a regular history course. Analyze means to explain, supporting your thesis, like: "The fact that Jackson issued the Specie Circular showed he did not care about the economy because if he did, he would not have issued something that invalidated a lot of currency." In a D.B.Q., make sure to tie in the documents as well. Have a four to five paragraph essay.
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    Take advantage of your sources. If you feel you are struggling, don't just wait it out. Search for extra instruction online or go to your teacher in your free time. If you wait too long it will all pile up and become overwhelming. Your teacher and the internet are there to help!
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    Watch John Green US History Videos. His videos, while they are fast paced, are a really great review of US History. They detail just enough and give a great overview of every important time period. He also integrates humor into the history, which really helps to remember the material.


  • If you are taking your first AP course, then try one where you already have a background in. If you have taken American History before, then A.P.U.S.H. is a good idea. However, if you are a sophomore in high school, take something that extends your knowledge from freshman year-example: Taking Civics in freshman year and AP Government in sophomore year.


  • If you are attempting to challenge yourself, that is okay. But if you are a failing student(or even an average B-C student), then allow yourself one year to reform yourself with mere honors courses before moving on to AP.
  • Beware, this is a really challenging class. On average it is 10-15 hours of homework and the tests are brutal. Only take this class if you really know what you are doing and don't have too many other challenging classes (such as advanced math or science).

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Categories: Advanced Placement Courses and Exams