Navigating AP® U.S. History Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

The AP® US History (APUSH) exam consists of two primary sections. Section I includes both multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and short-answer questions (SAQs). Section II consists of free-response questions (FRQs), which include document-based questions (DBQs) and long essay questions (LEQs).

APUSH MCQs can be challenging because they emphasize historical reasoning rather than rote memorization. The multiple-choice questions in AP US History are stimulus-based and test your ability to analyze information and make connections. Each question must be answered within a minute, making the exam even more difficult. Nevertheless, successful performance in this section is critical for a high exam score.

This guide will focus on the MCQs in Section I, Part A. We’ll take a look at the format of these multiple-choice questions and provide strategies for scoring well. We’ll also provide some examples of AP U.S. History MCQs that have appeared on the exam. By the end of this article, you’ll know the best MCQ strategies to help you succeed on the APUSH exam.

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Format of AP U.S. History MCQ section

The APUSH exam consists of 55 multiple-choice questions and 55 minutes to complete this section of the test. MCQs account for 45% of your overall score.

Students who perform well on Section 1 can typically pass the APUSH exam, even with mediocre scores on FRQs. Not only will an excellent score on Section 1 boost your confidence, but working through the MCQs for each unit will also prepare you for the FRQs.

Each multiple-choice question in Section 1 covers all nine historical periods, and each question is weighted the same. However, the College Board® weighs each unit differently, and the MCQ section reflects this breakdown.

Units Periods Exam Weighting
Unit 1 1491-1607 04-06%
Unit 2 1607-1754 06-08%
Unit 3 1754-1800 10-17%
Unit 4 1800-1848 10-17%
Unit 5 1844-1877 10-17%
Unit 6 1865-1898 10-17%
Unit 7 1890-1945 10-17%
Unit 8 1945-1980 10-17%
Unit 9 1980-Present 04-06%

How to Approach AP U.S. History’s Multiple Choice Questions

Many students find the APUSH multiple choice questions section of the exam to be the most challenging because they must respond to 55 stimulus-based questions within 55 minutes. That is one question per minute. It may be difficult to comprehend the options and select the correct responses in that amount of time without practice. Here are some APUSH MCQ tips to help you work quickly and prepare for the difficulty of the questions.

  1. Read the question first.

    Due to the amount of time you have to answer all the questions, you cannot afford to waste time by attempting to understand the stimulus in its entirety. A better approach is to read the question first and then examine the stimulus for information that will assist you in selecting the correct response. The question will provide context for interpreting the stimulus and make it easier to find relevant information quickly.

  2. Annotate as you read or examine the stimulus.

    While you read or examine the stimulus, make notes in the margins of the test booklet. You could, for instance, draw attention to word usage, patterns in data, or the point of view of political cartoons. You may wish to take notes on the historical context.

  3. All parts of an answer must be accurate to be correct; partly right isn't close enough.

    Students are sometimes duped into believing that a partially correct answer is the right choice. However, the rest of the answer may contain inaccuracies, rendering the entire response incorrect.

  4. If you cannot determine the right answer, focus instead on finding what makes each answer choice wrong.

    Eliminating wrong answers will help you narrow down the choices and make a better guess, if necessary. For instance, eliminate answer options that are historically incorrect or fall outside of the question's time frame.

  5. Answer every question.

    There is no penalty for guessing. Plus, after you rule out incorrect choices, your chances of picking the right answer improve.

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AP U.S. History Multiple Choice Examples

Each multiple-choice question on the AP U.S. History exam pertains to a prompt. There are no paired passages in this section. A prompt can come from either a primary or secondary source. Typically, the College Board bases MCQs on a single passage, graph or table, or visual source such as a photograph, map, political cartoon, or artwork.

How can I practice for the AP U.S. History multiple choice questions?

The best way to improve your score on the AP U.S. History MCQ section is through extensive practice. Thus, you will become familiar with the types of information and language often used. It is recommended to initially practice answering the questions at your own pace so you can carefully consider your responses. After gaining confidence and proficiency, it is a good idea to practice answering MCQs at a pace similar to what you will experience on the exam—about a minute per question.

The UWorld AP U.S. History question bank is a great resource for MCQ practice. It contains over 500 questions that closely resemble those found on the actual exam. UWorld provides explanations to help you understand the reasoning behind the correct answer and the wrong one. Knowing how to determine where you may have made a mistake when selecting an answer helps you avoid making the same mistake in the future. In addition, you can practice with or without a timer using the UWorld AP U.S. History question bank.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Multiple-choice questions (MCQs) are equally weighted, and each question either receives full credit or no credit. There is no partial credit. There are 55 questions, and unanswered questions are counted as incorrect.

There are 55 multiple-choice questions on the AP U.S. History exam.

The College Board does not typically release its MCQs from past exams to the public. That is why a resource like UWorld is the best way to practice for that section of the exam.

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