⏱️ 6 min read
November 15, 2020
Thinking about taking AP European History? Image Courtesy of Free-Photos on Pixabay
Wondering if you should take AP European History? If you're unsure, think about the difficulty and worth of the course in terms of your own priorities and interests. Get started by thinking about your prior experience, probable workload, and future plans.
If you're on the fence about taking AP Euro, you should familiarize yourself with the general course to gain a little more insight about what you could learn. The course covers over 550 years of European history in 9 units and focuses on developing historical thinking skills.
Take a look at the course and exam structures:
AP European History Course
|Unit Title||Time Period||Exam Weighting|
|Unit 1: Renaissance and Exploration||c. 1450 – c. 1648||10–15%|
|Unit 2: Age of Reformation||c. 1450 – c. 1648||10–15%|
|Unit 3: Absolutism and Constitutionalism||c. 1648 – c. 1815||10–15%|
|Unit 4: Scientific, Philosophical, and Political Developments||c. 1648 – c. 1815||10–15%|
|Unit 5: Conflict, Crisis, and Reaction in the Late 18th Century||c. 1648 – c. 1815||10–15%|
|Unit 6: Industrialization and Its Effects||c. 1815 – c. 1914||10–15%|
|Unit 7: 19th-Century Perspectives and Political Developments||c. 1815 – c. 1914||10–15%|
|Unit 8: 20th-Century Global Conflicts||c. 1914 – present||10–15%|
|Unit 9: Cold War and Contemporary Europe||c. 1914 – present||10–15%|
AP European History Exam
|Section #||Question Type||# of Questions||Exam Weighting||Timing|
|1||Multiple-Choice (MCQ)||55||40%||55 minutes|
|1||Short-Answer (SAQ)||3||20%||40 minutes|
|2||Document-Based (DBQ)||1||25%||60 minutes (recommended)|
|2||Long-Essay (LEQ)||1||15%||40 minutes (recommended)|
The difficulty of the course material is subjective and you won't get the same answer from everyone. However, if AP Euro is your first AP history course (or your first AP course ever), you might find the experience to be especially difficult. Even if you're a seasoned AP history student, you might encounter a learning curve as this course will explore familiar material from a different perspective as well as new material altogether.
As you dive into over 550 years of historical content, you might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of remembering everything. Don't worry! As you learn more about European history, you'll be able to identify connections and themes, which are the most important takeaways from the course in preparation for the AP exam.
You might also struggle with the format of the exam questions, especially if you haven't encountered the style in the past. The questions test your historical thinking skills, which can take a long time to develop. AP Euro is a journey and practice makes perfect!
Like any history course, the workload won't be the lightest. In order to learn centuries of historical content, develop historical thinking skills, and prepare for the AP exam in under a year, the course must be fast-paced. Of course, a "heavy" workload is subjective and dependent on many factors (other courses, extracurricular activities, etc.), so think about your responsibilities over the next year.
Ask specific questions to former AP Euro students at your school to get a sense of the teacher and their own course structure. How many textbook chapters will you read per week? How often will you have a test? How many DBQs will you write? Every teacher is different and some might value a certain aspect of the course over others, such as content, projects, or practice exams. Step out of your comfort zone, but don't take on an unrealistic workload.
There are a few courses that can significantly decrease the difficulty of AP Euro, specifically AP World History and AP US History.
If you're one of the many students who take AP World or APUSH before AP Euro, you already have prior knowledge of history as well as strong historical reasoning skills. While you'll be focusing on European history during this course, the experience that you gained through AP World or APUSH can provide contextualization to events in AP Euro. There is some overlap, so pay attention!
The exam structures for AP World, APUSH, and AP Euro are identical as well, meaning that there will likely be less of a learning curve. The exam will feel familiar, starting with the multiple-choice section and ending with the free-response section. The content might be different, but the rubrics are the same! Refresh your memory of the free-response rubrics at the beginning of the year and they will feel like muscle memory again.
If AP Euro will be your first AP history course, don't worry! Prior experience isn't necessary to succeed in the course and knowing the format of the exam can only get you so far. Focus on building your knowledge of the course and developing strong historical reasoning skills. Remember to familiarize yourself with the exam structure and rubrics throughout the year, but don't make it everything.
"Depending on how much you like history, I'd say AP Euro is generally a 7/10 difficulty. You definitely need to learn to write SAQs, LEQs, and DBQs well, since the multiple choice section part of the test is a bit more challenging due to the little amount of time given to answer, but overall it's a great class. The material itself is not hard, it's applying it to your answers and learning how to phrase details accordingly that challenges the student." - Graciela Batlle
If you're passionate about European history, you should definitely take the AP course! When you're interested in the subject, learning the content and associated skills become so much more enjoyable. While you may choose not to pursue history in the future, there's no harm in taking a course for fun! The knowledge that you'll gain from the experience will be useful for a lifetime!
The opportunity to earn college credit is a major bonus to taking any AP exam. Depending on the college that you attend, a passing score on the AP Euro exam can earn you introductory European history course credits. If you're planning to pursue a major related to history, these credits can be especially helpful in enabling you to take more advanced courses earlier. If you're planning to pursue an unrelated major, these credits can fulfill various elective requirements. Check out credit policies at colleges that you're considering in order to plan your future!
Considering a potential career in history? Keep in mind that AP Euro is only a small look into the field of history, so don't make a final career decision based on a single course. However, high school courses provide an amazing opportunity to explore different fields, get a sense of your options, and learn something new about yourself! If you have any interest in a future history career, AP Euro can be a great preview.
"It was very rewarding, especially as my first AP class. I learned how to write well and it put me on track for more difficult college history classes." - Molly Kilian
"I have been able to gain a greater understanding of historical events and how it has shaped the world we live in. The subject matter taught in AP Euro also ventures into several other studies such as art history, English literature, scientific thought, philosophy, and much more." - Anonymous
Considering whether to take an AP course can be difficult! Hopefully, you have gained a better understanding of the difficulty and worth of AP Euro. Remember to consider your own goals in this choice. Regardless of your final decision, the Fiveable community is here to support you!
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