New Format Online AP US History Study Guide – 2020 Changes

Published on Mar 26, 2020

👋🏼 Hi, I’m Caleb Lagerwey from Holland, MI! I’m an APUSH teacher 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 2020 AP US History Exam

This year, the AP US 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 3-7. If you have already studied content from units 1, 2, 8, or 9, don’t stress! It’s all worth knowing. 

These units are on the exam. Click the unit to see the study guide! 

3 – 🇺🇸 The American Revolution – 1754-1800
4 – 🐎 Expansion of Democracy – 1800-1848
5 – 💣 The Civil War – 1844-1877
6 – 🚂 The Gilded Age – 1865-1898
7 – 🌎 Global Conflict – 1890-1945

Not on the exam:

1 – 🌽 Columbus to Jamestown – 1491-1607
2 – 🦃 Colonial America – 1607-1754
8 – 🥶 The Cold War – 1945-1980
9 – 📱 Contemporary America – 1980-Present

What are the 2020 APUSH Rubric Changes?

How will the test be formatted? How do I earn all of the points on the exam?

  • 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    • 5 historical documents, 1 of which will be visual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 2020 APUSH exam and how do I take it?

May 15 @ 2p 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: Period 1, 1491-1607*

* This unit is NOT on the exam, but you can use it as outside evidence and there are TWO points for that, so we are still including it.

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 1 introduces the Americas as a place of interaction. It first discusses the diversity of Native Americans prior to contact with Europeans (symbolized by 1491, the year before Columbus). Then, the unit pivots into interactions between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans as well as between rival European powers. It ends in 1607 with the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

🦃 UNIT 2: Period 2, 1607-1754*

* This unit is NOT on the exam, but you can use it as outside evidence and there are TWO points for that, so we are still including it.

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 2 dives more into the European colonization of the Americas. This involves comparison European countries to each other and then mostly focusing on the English who settled much of what would later become the United States of America. The rise of African slavery and continued interactions and conflict with Native Americans also plays an important role. 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

🇺🇸 UNIT 3: Period 3, 1754-1800

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 3 sees the creation of the United States as a country out of thirteen British North American colonies. The unit then covers the early Republic, focusing on the creation of the Constitution, the first federal government, and the administrations of Washington & Adams.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

🚂 UNIT 4: Period 4, 1800-1848

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 4 is when the United States begins to grow into its own identity as a country. It includes massive expansions of democracy through Jefferson & Jackson, the economic and social upheaval of the Market Revolution and Second Great Awakening, and also sees continued migration westward.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

💣 UNIT 5: Period 5, 1844-1877

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 5 is all about the Civil War: the road to the Civil War, the war itself, and its aftermath, called Reconstruction. Westward expansion and migration/immigration continues to be a big deal during this time period, and conflicts over slavery and rights for African Americans dominate the political discussions. 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

💰 UNIT 6: Period 6, 1865-1898

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 6 overlaps with Period 5, but it begins after the Civil War and is not as focused on Reconstruction. Its main focus is the Second Industrial Revolution, sometimes called the Gilded Age in the United States, and on the Western United States. 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

UNIT 7: Period 7, 1890-1945

🌶 Join the live cram stream: Review live with Caleb Lagerwey. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Unit 7 is a massive unit, so you need to keep an eye on both domestic and foreign policy. Foreign policy becomes a big deal thanks to US involvement in several wars, including the two World Wars. Domestically, the Progressive Era tries to tackle the problems of the Gilded Age, plus there is the massive up and down of the “Roaring” 1920s and then the Great Depression and New Deal of the 1930s. 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

Caleb Lagerwey is a high school history teacher based in Holland, Michigan, where he teaches AP US History, AP World History: Modern, and US History. He has been an Exam Reader for AP US History since 2016 and has presented at the national AP Reading and at local AP conferences. In 2019, he won the American History Teacher of the Year award from a regional chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History Education and Social Studies and a Master’s degree in Education, both from Calvin University. When not teaching history, he is usually reading books about history, playing tennis, or watching The Office with his amazing wife.

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