What is AP US History?

Published on Mar 1, 2020

What is AP U.S. History?

AP United States History, also known as, APUSH, is an advanced placement class offered by the College Board that covers the history of America from the Revolutionary War to the presidency of Obama. AP U.S. History is very similar to AP World History, only it focuses on America and its relations with the world, rather than how the world is inter globally connected. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the APUSH course!👇

Course Overview

AP U.S. History focuses on American history beginning c. 1492 CE to the present day. Here, you will study how America became a world power, its global relations, the emergence of new technology, work, and exchange, the new ideas of American identity and ideals, American culture, and so on. In AP U.S. History, there are 9 periods, or chunks of time, to study and learn about.

👀Visit app.fiveable.me for a full library of APUSH resources including unit-by-unit reviews, breakdowns of specific key concepts, cross-unit reviews, and exam skills!

Exam Overview

The AP US History exam is very similar to the AP World exam, containing:

  • A 55 question Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) section,
  • 3 Short Answer Questions (SAQ),
  • 1 Document-based Question (DBQ),
  • 1 Long Essay Question (LEQ).

The exam is split in half, starting with MCQ first, then the writing section. The MCQ is worth 40% of your exam score, the SAQ worth 20%, DBQ worth 25%, and the LEQ worth 15%. In total, the exam will last about 3 hours and 15 minutes. AP US History contains many of the same skills acquired from AP World History, so it is a good idea to keep practicing them.


The MCQ, as mentioned before, consists of 55 stimulus-based questions and lasts 55 minutes. Stimulus-based means that on the exam, there will be a primary or secondary source that you have to read or look at in order to choose the correct answer.

For example, the exam might have an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, which you must use to answer the questions that follow. Usually, these questions are presented in groups of 2-5 per source.

It is a good idea to practice analyzing the purpose and the content of the source in order to answer these questions more efficiently. A tip to help you on your exam during the MCQ is to skip questions you don’t know in order to finish faster, as you only have 1 minute per question on the exam.

👉Check out this Fiveable replay for APUSH MCQ practice with Fiveable’s founder Amanda DoAmaral 


After the MCQ is the first writing portion of the exam, the SAQ, or short-answer questions. You are given 4 questions.  You are required to answer the first 2 questions, but here’s the fun part – you get to choose between the 3rd or 4th question, meaning that you only have to answer 3 out of the 4 questions. You get 40 minutes or so in order to answer them.

Tip:  Make sure you clearly label parts A, B, and C, to be more organized and skip a line in between them. Generally, Part A should be 1-2 sentences, Part B should be 2-3 sentences, while Part C should be the most in-depth, 3-4 sentences.


The DBQ, or document-based question,  is where you will be presented with 7 documents and a prompt that you need to answer, using the 7 documents.  You will have to group these documents to form a thesis and write an essay in order to support your thesis. Usually, there will be primary and secondary sources, and at least one image you have to analyze. You will then use historical thinking skills and evidence to support your argument. You are also given 1 hour to complete it and it is worth 25% of your exam.


The LEQ, or long essay question, is where you will be presented with 3 prompts, and must choose one to answer in the form of an essay. The prompts will require you to use historical thinking skills like compare and contrast, causation, or continuity and change. Here, you are given no sources to draw from, except your knowledge of US history. A good tip for both your DBQ and LEQ is to pre-write what you’re going to write so you don’t forget along the way. Each prompt focuses on different periods of time studied in the course, but all three questions will be based on the same historical thinking skill. You will have 40 minutes to write it and it is only worth 15% of your exam.

✍️Watch as Matthew Scherbarth goes through everything you need to know to crush your APUSH DBQs and LEQs!

Hopefully, this guide has given you some more insight into exactly what the APUSH course entails! Best of luck with your exam prep! Happy Studying!

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