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AP Euro New Format (DBQ) Study Guide

17 min readnovember 15, 2020


👋🏼 Hi, I’m Steven Kucklick! I’m an AP European History teacher from Columbia, South Carolina and streamer at Fiveable. This year’s exam is different than we expected, but I’m here to help. I’ve put together this study guide to help keep you on track while you are studying from home. You can follow this guide on your own with a free Fiveable account! I’ll also be joining a group of students live on Tuesdays @ 9pm ET during cram sessions. Pick up your cram pass to join us.


format of the new exam

This year, the AP European History exam will look different than you were expecting. As we’re all on quarantine 😷 due to COVID-19, the College Board has decided to update the format and content of the test to fit an online testing format. You’ll have 45-minutes to take the exam online and it will only cover units 1-7. If you have already studied content from unit 8 or 9, don’t stress! It’s all worth knowing. 

These units are on the exam:

1 – 🎨 Renaissance and Age of Exploration

2 – 💒 Reformation and Wars of Religion

3 – 👑 Absolutism and Constitutionalism

4 – 🤔 Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment

5 – 🥖 Old Regime, French Revolution, Napoleon

6 – 🚂 Industrial Revolution and the Age of Isms

7 – ✊🏽 Unifications and Political Developments

These units will not be on the exam:

8 – 💣 The World Wars and the Russian Revolution

9 – 🇪🇺 The Cold War and the Modern Era

What will be on the test?

  • 1 DBQ = 100% of your score

    • 5 historical documents, 1 of which will be visual
    • Modified rubric with 10 points available
      • Thesis = 1 pt
      • Contextualization = 1 pt
      • Evidence = 5pts
        • Using documents (3 possible points)
          • To earn all 3, support your argument with at least four documents
          • To earn 2 points, support your argument with at least two documents
          • To earn 1 point, use content from two documents
        • Evidence Beyond the Docs (2 possible points)
          • To earn 2 points, describe two specific pieces of evidence beyond the docs.
          • To earn 1 point, use one additional piece of outside evidence.
      • Analysis & Reasoning = 3 pts
        • Sourcing (2 possible points)
          • To earn 2 points, correctly analyze POV, purpose, audience, or context for two docs.
          • To earn 1 point, do it for one doc
        • Complexity (1pt)
          • Demonstrated a complex understanding (same rubric point as usual)

when is the exam and how do i take it?

May 13 @ 4p Eastern! Wherever you are in the world, this is the time you’ll take the test. Unless you have been approved for the make-up date in June, but only your school can request that. You’ll take the test online. There will be a practice simulation posted by College Board within the next few weeks.

how do i prepare for the exam?

With so many school closures and the stress of a global pandemic, this review season will be different than usual. If this is your first AP exam, welcome! Don’t worry, it’s not usually this chaotic. 

We’ve put together this plan for you to follow between now and May. This will cover all of the units and leave you time to practice questions before test day. Some classes may have done units out of chronological order throughout the year, which is ok. The units don’t have to be taught in order. If you are learning new material on your own and need some help, use the chat bubble on http://fiveable.me. We’ll answer any questions you may have. 

what resources does this study plan use?

All of the required resources are free. You’ll need to create a free Fiveable account to jump in. We’ve also linked a few other websites, articles, and YouTube videos that you can access for free. Some of the suggested resources include paid products. There are some documentaries that you can find on streaming sites with a paid membership and we’ll also list streams and practice questions that require a paid cram pass on Fiveable.


pre-work: set-up your study environment

Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means you’ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual.

🖥 Create a study space.

Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space.

📚 Organize your study materials.

Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get your self set up!

📅 Plan designated times for studying.

The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.

How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

unit 1: renaissance and exploration

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big takeaways:

Unit 1 covers three main areas of content. First, it introduces us to Europe and briefly covers the end of the Middle Ages. This first area of content predominantly focuses on the crises of the Late Middle Ages (Bubonic Plague, 100 Years War, and Peasant Revolts) and sets the stage for the birth of the Modern Era. Secondly, this unit covers the Italian and Northern Renaissance. Not only is this focused on artistic developments, but also social and political changes. Finally, this unit covers the Age of Exploration and the broad impacts that it has on the continent.

content to focus on:

  • 🏰 End of the Middle Ages:

    • Don’t worry too much about specific knowledge, but instead have a broad understanding of the impacts of the crises of the late Middle Ages.

  • 🖼 Renaissance

    • Have a good understanding of the differences between the Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance. Pay close attention to Italian Humanists vs Christian Humanists.

    • Have a good understanding of the major themes of the Renaissance including: 

      • Humanism
      • Greek and Roman influence
      • Machiavelli
      • Print Culture
    • Artistic change is important, but be sure to focus on artistic themes and developments 
  • ⛵️ Age of Exploration

    • The big focus for the Age of Exploration is the causes and effects. What led to the Age of Exploration and how was Europe and the world changed because of it? 

    • Causes: 
      • Technological advancements
      • New Monarchies
    • Effects
      • New Rivalries 
      • The Columbian Exchange and Triangle Trade
      • The Slave Trade
      • The Commercial Revolution
      • Shifting the political balance in Europe

resources to use


 💒 unit 2: reformation and wars of religion

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big takeaways:

Unit 2 covers two bigger topics: the Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion. We can break down those two topics into some smaller topics. The Protestant Reformation covers Luther’s Reformation, Calvinism, Anglicanism, and the Counter Reformation. The Wars of Religion mostly look at the political and social responses to Reformation. There are several engagements that are focused on: the French Wars of Religion, the wars of Philip II and the 30 Years War. 

content to focus on: 

  • 💒Protestant Revolution

    • Foundations of Reformation

      • Have a good understanding of why people are unhappy with the Catholic Church by the 16th century. 
      • You can focus on the Catholic Schism and the abuses of the Church
    • Luther’s Reformation
      • Martin Luther is given credit for starting the Protestant Reformation and laying the groundwork for all future reformation leaders.
      • Make sure to focus on why Luther wanted to break from the Church and the differences between Luther’s Christianity and the Catholic Church’s Christianity. 
      • You also want to make sure to review the Peasant Revolt and how the German Princes/Charles V dealt with Luther.
    • The Calvinist Reformations
      • The Calvinist Reformations refer to several reformation movements that occur after Luther’s 95 Theses. Specifically you should focus on Zwingli, Calvin, and John Knox. 
      • Make sure to understand the differences between Calvinism and  Lutheranism.
    • Anglican Reformation
      • The big takeaways to be focused on is that the Anglican Reformation was a political reformation and not a religious one.
      • Understand the reasons why Henry VIII wanted to break from the Church. 
      • Also focus on the major changes that Elizabeth I made to the Anglican Church and how she solidified it.
    • Counter Reformation
      • When studying the Counter Reformation, focus on how the Catholic Church worked to gain followers back, and how they reformed some corrupt practices.
      • Focus on studying the Council of Trent and the Catholic Inquisition.
  • 🔫Wars of Religion

    • The French Wars of Religion

      • The specific details of the French Wars of Religion are less important than the effects of it.
      • Definitely study the tensions between Hugeonots and French Catholics and the general reasons why war broke out. 
      • Focus most of your attention on Henry IV and Edict of Nantes.
    • The Conflicts of Philip II
      • There are two specific conflicts that should be studied with Philip II. The first is the Spanish Armada and the attempted invasion of England. And the second is the response to the Dutch independence movement. 
      • Both of these have religious undertones that should be focused on. 
    • The 30 Years War
      • This is arguably the most important war of the Wars of Religion. Like with all of these wars, the cause and effects outway the specific details of the war. 
      • For the causes, focus on the continued conflicts between Lutherans and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. 
      • You can study the specific details of the war. Typically, it’s divided up into four periods: 
        • Bohemian Period
        • Danish Period
        • Swedish Period
        • French Period
    • The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the war, is the biggest aspect that needs to be focused on. While you should do a deep dive into it, the big takeaway is that it ended all future religious wars in Europe.

resources to use:



👑 UNIT 3: Absolutism and Constitutionalism

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Big Takeaways:

This unit focuses on the development of monarchical power in Europe during the 17th century. The overarching theme is the comparison of absolutism and constitutionalism. However, the unit also covers several important historical developments that do not necessarily fall specifically within this larger theme; these will be mentioned as we work through the unit. Here are the big takeaways for the unit. Focus on the development of absolutism in France (Henry IV, Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIV) and Russia (Peter the Great). You should also focus on the use and development of mercantilism. Constitutionalism focuses mostly on England by analyzing the rule of James I and Charles I, the English Civil War, and the Glorious Revolution. You should also make sure you look at the Dutch Golden Age during this unit. 

Content to Focus On: 

    👑 Absolutism

      French Absolutism

      • Henry IV is a good place to start on here. Focus on he developed the power of the French monarchy. 

      • Cardinal Richelieu laid the foundation for Louis XIV, so make sure to focus on how he did that. You can also pay attention to his role in the 30 Years War and how he became one of the examples of a politique
      • Louis XIV is the model absolutist in European History. When you study him, pay attention to how he solidified power for himself and created the cult of personality that surrounded him. You should also pay attention to his foreign policy and his wars. The war to focus on most is the War of Spanish Succession. Lastly, think about whether he was truly a successful absolute monarch and where his shortcomings were.
      • This is also a good place to study up on mercantilism and the impact it had on European economies and the development of colonies throughout the world.


    • Russian Absolutism

      • Russian absolutism is really focused around Peter the Great and the advancements he made for Russia

      • Focus on the establishment of a warm water port, the Table of Ranks, and his westernization of Russia

  • 📜 Constitutionalism

    • Focus first on the rule of James I, why he wanted to be an absolute king, and why he couldn’t. This is a good place to review the Magna Carta

    • When tackling Charles I, study why he feuded with Parliament and what eventually led to the outbreak of the English Civil War.
    • Like most wars that we study, the specific details of the war are not important, but instead understand the causes of it and how it ended. It would be good to understand why it’s significant that Charles I was executed. 
    • Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan dictatorship should be the next thing that you look at. The biggest thing to focus on, though, would be understanding why England allowed Cromwell to rule as a dictator for ten years. 
    • The last thing that you should study is the Glorious Revolution and the establishment of the English Bill of Rights. Here, I would focus on why Parliament wanted James II gone and why they appealed to William and Mary. Understand the basic premise of the English Bill of Rights and how it established a constitutional Monarchy in England.
  • 🇳🇱 The Dutch Golden Era

    • This is kind of the odd man out here, but is very important to know. Focus on the ‘how’ and they ‘why’ when studying the Dutch Golden Age. How and why did the dutch control trade in the east during the 17th century? How did this impact Europe?

Resources to Use

🤔 UNIT 4: Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment 

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Big Takeaways:

Unit 4 might be the simplest unit to tackle because there is not a heavy amount of content to cover. The overarching theme of unit 4 is the advancement in scholarly thought in Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries. It focuses on two major developments: the Scientific Rev and the Enlightenment. For both of these it’s important to understand major themes and how it will impact future European events. This is probably the most important thing to focus on. You could also study Absolute Despots, but I would recommend studying that in unit 5. 

Content to Focus On:

  • 👨🏻‍🔬 Scientific Revolution

    • Go through the general history of the Scientific Rev. Know that it was a slow moving process that gradually changed the way people thought about the world and the solar system.
    • Pay attention to major themes that will lay the foundation for the Scientific Revolution. These are themes like: deductive reasoning and the use of the scientific method.
    • In terms of people to study, I would recommend knowing a few people who contributed to scientific thought and theory, and a few people who developed scientific methods. 
    • Scientific Theory and Discovery
      • Copernicus 
      • Kepler
      • Galileo
      • Newton
    • Scientific Methods
      • Francis Bacon
      • Descarte 


  • 🤔 Enlightenment 

    • The Enlightenment is much more dense to study than the Scientific Rev. I would not try to tackle all Enlightened thinkers, instead I’ll give recommendations of a few to know. You should also study the causes of it. Why did the Enlightenment happen here and now? Also, look into Enlightenment era Salons and the impact that they had.
    • Enlightenment philosophers to know: 
      • Voltaire: Religious Toleration
      • Montesquieu: Political separation of powers
      • Diderot: Equal access to knowledge
      • Rousseau: The dangers of society  
      • Beccaria: Criminal reform
      • Wollstonecraft: Women’s rights in society

Resources to Use: 

🥖 UNIT 5: Old Regime, the French Revolution, and Napoleon

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Big Takeaways:

This is probably the heftiest unit in the course and definitely deserves a lot of your attention. There are three main components that make up this unit: the Old Regime (Europe in the 18th Century), the French Revolution, and the reign of Napoleon. The Old Regime has a lot of important content that helps build the foundations of the French Revolution and Europe moving into the 19th century. Below, I’ll cover the important aspects of each. 

Content to Focus on: 


  • 🤴🏻 Old Regime: 
    • There are several specific pieces of content to focus on here. The biggest takeaway from the Old Regime is that Europe experience systematic change throughout the century. I’ll highlight some of that change below: 
      • The Enlightenment
      • The Agricultural Revolution
      • The Cottage Industry
      • Population Growth
      • Societal and Family Change
      • Enlightened Absolutists
    • But there are also some “Europe up to their old shenanigans” aspects of the Old Regime:
      • Constant warfare 
        • War of Austrian Succession
        • Seven Years War
    • Partitioning of Poland
    • Peasant Revolts in Russia
  • 🇫🇷The French Revolution
    • You can spend A LOT of time on the French Revolution, but I really don’t think you need to. Instead, I would focus mostly on the causes and effects, while looking at the important changes that are made in France during the Revolution.
    • Causes: 
      • Long term vs Short term
      • The Enlightenment as a cause
    • Changes made in France
      • Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
      • Civil Constitution of the French Clergy
      • Republic of Virtue
      • Abolition of the Estates
    • Effects
      • Overthrow of the monarchy
      • Abolition of the Estates
      • Wars of the French Revolution
      • The Spread of Revolutionary Ideas
    • Notable People and Events
      • Louis XVI
      • Necker
      • Danton
      • Robespierre
      • Marat
      • Abbe Sieyes
      • Fall of the Bastille
      • Execution of the royal family
      • The Emigries
      • Levee en masse
      • Reign of Terror
  • 👀Napoleon
    • Napoleon is another rabbit hole you can fall down. Instead, have an understanding of how he rose to power and his domestic and foreign policies.
    • Domestic Changes
      • Napoleonic Code
      • The Concordat
      • Social and Educational Reforms
    • Foreign Policy
      • Napoleonic Wars
      • Continental System
      • Invasion of Russia
      • 100 Days and Fall from Power
    • Congress of Vienna can also be lumped in here. Make sure to know the goals of the Congress and its impacts on Europe going into the 19th century.

resources to use:

🚂unit 6: industrial revolution and its effects

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big takeaways:

We can really think about this unit as the first half of the 19th century. A lot of the stuff we’ll be talking about here will continue to be mentioned in Unit 7 as well. I like to break up this unit into three sections: Industrialization, Competing Ideologies, and Reactions to Social and Political Change. You really want to study this unit and unit 7 thematically and not chronologically. 

content to focus on:

  • 🚂Industrial Revolution

    • Study why and how the Industrial Revolution (I.R.) started in Britain. 
    • Study what that early industrialization looked like and the impact it had on Britain and the countries that it spread to.
    • I would really focus on the social consequences of the I.R.. How did this impact society? Make sure to really focus on the growth of cities and the impact that had on the growing working class.
    • You can also go ahead and review the Second Industrial Revolution. How did it differ from the first I.R.? How will it lead to World War I? Most of the ‘big’ advancements of the I.R. happened during the Second I.R.. What  were those?
  • 🎸Competing Ideologies

    • This is mostly focused around conservatism, liberalism, and nationalism.
    • Have a good understanding of the core beliefs of these ideologies and how they competed against each other. 
    • Also have a good understanding of where these ideologies came from. Were they new? Had they been developing for a while?
  • ✊Reactions to Social and Political Change

    • There is a lot that you can focus on here. I’ll break it down below. 
    • Reaction to industrialization
      • How did governments respond to the new working class?
    • Reaction to liberalism
      • How did conservatives attempt to retain power?
      • What ways did liberals push for representation?
    • Nationalism
      • How did calls for nationalism manifest?
    • You definitely want to review the Revolutions of 1848 and understand why they failed. 
    • I would also look into the following nationalist movements: 
      • Spanish Revolution
      • Greek Independence movement 
      • Serbian Independence movement 
      • Belgian Independence movement 

resources to use:


✊ unit 7: unifications and political developments

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big takeaways:

As I mentioned in Unit 6, I like to think about Unit 7 as covering the second half of the 19th century. In this unit there are two big pieces of content to cover: the unifications of Italy and German, as well as New Imperialism. Some other pieces of content that you need to review are the rise of socialism, societal changes, scientific, and medical advancement. 

content to focus on:

  • 🦄Unifications

    • Italian Unification
      • Here you need to understand what the early calls for unification were. I would look at Garibaldi and the Red Shirts. 
      • You also need to review Cavour and why the Piedmont became the driving force of unification. 
      • Lastly, review the early problems that Italy runs into following unification. 
    • German Unification
      • Much like Italy, have a good understanding of the early calls for unification.
      • The main person you want to focus on here is Bismarck. Understand what his motivations were for uniting Germany and how it represented a new type of conservatism. 
      • While you don’t need to know the specific details of the three wars that united Germany, understand why Bismarck felt that they needed to happen. 
      • Lastly, make sure to remember that once Germany was created it was the most powerful country on the content.
  • 💰 New Imperialism

    • You can definitely fall down the rabbit hole here, which is not a bad thing. I would recommend, though, focusing on the differences between the Age of Exploration and New Imperialism. 
    • Look into the motivations and methods for New Imperialism. Why here, why now?
    • Lastly, look at the impacts of New Imperialism. How did this impact the world, how did it impact Europe, how did it impact Africa, and how did it impact Asia?
    • I would also think critically about how Europeans saw themselves in the world. Review things like Social Darwinism here.
  • 👪Societal Changes

    • Review how the “family” changed by the late 19th century. 
    • You can also review the growth of the middle class.
    • Lastly, I would review the rise of political feminism and the increasing calls for women’s suffrage. 
    • Also make sure to review Romanticism and how it was a direct reaction to industrialization.
  • 👩‍🔬Scientific and Medical Advancement

    • You definitely want to look into Darwin, Darwinism, and Social Darwinism. 
    • Also review Louis Pasteur and Florence Nightingale and the new ideas of germ theory. 
    • You also want to look at the development of sociology by looking at people like Freud and Nietzsche. 

resources to use:

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Long Essay Questions (LEQ)

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Thematic Guides

Unit 1: Renaissance and Exploration

Unit 2: Age of Reformation

Unit 3: Absolutism and Constitutionalism

Unit 4: Scientific, Philosophical, and Political Developments

Unit 5: Conflict, Crisis, and Reaction in the Late 18th Century

Unit 6: Industrialization and Its Effects

Unit 7: 19th-Century Perspectives and Political Developments

Unit 8: 20th-Century Global Conflicts

Unit 9: Cold War and Contemporary Europe