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How to Get a 5 in AP European History

4 min readnovember 18, 2020

Sander Owens

Thomasina Lester

Searching for a 5 in AP European History? Only a select group of students earn this score on the exam. In 2020, 13.7% of exam takers scored a 5. How do you become a part of that percentage? There are a few tips and tricks to follow to get started! From there, you can find strategies that work the best for you.

Looking for a 5? It'll take more than that! Source: Lars_Nissen on Pixabay

🗓️ Exam Overview and Format

The AP European History exam covers over 550 years of historical content in 3 hours and 15 minutes, using 4 different question types in order to test your knowledge. While the exam might seem daunting as you enter the course, Fiveable is here to help you through your journey! Over the duration of your course and leading up to the exam, you'll learn everything that you need to know.
Take a look at the exam format:

AP European History Exam

Section #Question TypeNumber of QuestionsExam WeightingTiming
1Multiple-Choice (MCQ)5540%55 minutes
1Short-Answer (SAQ)320%40 minutes
2Document-Based (DBQ)125%60 minutes (recommended)
2Long-Essay (LEQ)115%40 minutes (recommended)

📚 5 Tips and Tricks to Earn a 5

1. Build the Foundation (Content)

This one might seem obvious, but, know the content. You might have outstanding historical reasoning skills, but you can't apply them if you don't know history! Don't learn the course overnight, either. Take the time to understand the content on a deeper level over an effective period of time (semester, year). If you truly know the content, the exam becomes a lot easier.

2. Know the Timeline and Connections

As you develop a strong understanding of historical events, connect them! History is a long story and often repeats itself. If you're able to create a timeline in your head, you can build a sense of trends over 550+ years of European history. These connections are the basis of the AP European History course.
You will frequently see questions on the exam that ask you to compare and contrast certain time periods and events. These skills demonstrate your ability to interpret and analyze history on a complex level, which will earn you a 5 on the exam.

3. Learn How to Tackle the Stimulus-based MCQs

👉 AP European History Multiple Choice Help (MCQ) [link]
While you've probably taken a number of multiple-choice tests in your high school experience, the College Board puts a twist on their multiple-choice section by creating stimulus-based questions. These questions require you to combine your existing historical knowledge and the ability to interpret source documents in order to determine the correct answers. You might need to take some time to learn and adjust to the format of this section, which is best done by taking realistic practice exams.
After you complete a practice session, analyze each question, and make note of the questions that you answered correctly and incorrectly. Hopefully, you can identify your strongest and weakest areas of the section, whether it be certain source styles (text, image, etc.), units/periods, or other characteristics. Don't let these practice exams sit in the back of your binder! Review them throughout the year and observe your progress.

4. Know the FRQ Rubrics

👉 AP European History Free Response Help - FRQ/LEQ [link]
Become very familiar with the rubrics that are provided by the College Board. These rubrics are used by the readers to score your exam, which means that knowing the skills that you need to demonstrate and the elements that you need to include is necessary. By the time May comes around, you should have the DBQ and LEQ rubrics practically memorized. If these rubrics feel like muscle memory, you'll able to focus on crafting nuanced arguments and demonstrating your historical reasoning skills, rather than learning or reviewing the standards.
However, knowing the rubrics is only one part of the challenge! Apply your knowledge of the rubrics to practice sessions. Answer real prompts and think about how each rubric point fits within the situation.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice. Don't avoid it! Be consistent. As you expose yourself to different questions and prompts, you'll strengthen your ability to interpret and connect ideas, develop arguments, and apply the complexities of history to your writing. You'll also become more comfortable and confident in the exam format, which can be half the battle. Use questions and prompts from past exams to build an understanding of the material.
Bonus: this practice will help you review and test your understanding of the core content!

✨ Words of Advice

These tips and tricks can give you a starting point as you prepare for the exam in May. Don't forget to balance your review. Sharpen your best skills and develop stronger skills in weaker areas. The review process can be overwhelming, so break it into smaller steps! You are capable of earning a 5, but remember that an exam score doesn't define you. Keep up the hard work and good luck on your exam!

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