AP® U.S. History Scoring Guide

If you are a high school student enrolled in AP® U.S. History or are self-studying for the APUSH exam, you know how important the APUSH end-of-course exam is. The 3-hour and 15-minute AP U.S. History exam assesses students’ knowledge of U.S. history (1491 to present). In addition, it tests you on specific skills and course objectives listed on the College Board®’s APUSH course and exam description. Because it is a heavyweight course, scoring well on the APUSH can impact your college admissions and get you college credit and placement.

Gaining a strong grasp of the exam's scoring framework can offer you numerous advantages in achieving a high score. Understanding the scoring of each section empowers you to strategize your study plan, focusing on growth opportunities to boost your outcomes. Additionally, you'll gain insights into time management, ensuring you have ample time for review before the exam concludes.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive and reliable AP U.S. History scoring guide, your search ends here! Our APUSH scoring guide will help you learn everything about the exam’s scoring system. As a bonus, we’ve addressed some frequently asked questions about the AP U.S. History scoring structure, so you can get all the information you need to begin your APUSH exam prep.

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How Is the AP U.S. History Exam Scored?

Section I of the AP U.S. History exam has 55 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and 3 short-answer questions (SAQs), accounting for 60% of the total score. Remember, there's no penalty for incorrect answers, so don't hesitate to make an educated guess.

Section II includes one document-based (DBQ) question and one long essay (LEQ) free-response question, accounting for 40% of the total score. Let's take a quick look at the 2023 APUSH exam’s scoring structure:

Sections Parts Question Type Raw Points Score Weight Composite Score
Section I (60 %) Part A 55 MCQs N/A 40 % 56
Part B 3 SAQs 9 points 20 % 28
Section II (40 %) Part A 1 DBQ 7 points 25 % 35
Part B 1 LEQ 6 points 15 % 21
Subtotal 100 % 140

The points you see are added together and converted to a raw score for the FRQ section. Similarly, a raw score is derived for the MCQ section, and these scores are added together to derive the composite score. This composite score is then converted to a scaled score of 1 to 5.

Continue reading to learn how the AP U.S. History examination is scored for each question type.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

The multiple-choice section's raw scoring is straightforward. The machine calculates your raw score for Section I, Part A, based on the number of questions you answered correctly. As of 2023, the maximum number of points that could be earned on MCQs is 56. Remember that this section accounts for 40% of your total score.

There’s no point deduction for wrong answers, so fill in every answer bubble.

Short Answer Questions (SAQs)

Each short-answer question is worth 3 points. As a result, your answers to the three SAQs can earn you 9 points. These questions account for 20% of your AP score.

Document-Based Question (DBQ)

The DBQ will account for 25% of your final grade and will be graded using the 7-point rubric below.

Reporting Category Points Scoring Criteria
(0–1 point)
1 pt. Responds with a historically justifiable claim or thesis and a line of reasoning.
(0–1 point)
1 pt. Provides historical background for the prompt.
(0–3 points)
Evidence from the documents
1 pt
2 pts
If your response to the prompt is supported by at least three documents, it will be considered appropriate.


If your answer supports a claim with six supporting documents,
+ +
Evidence beyond the documents
1 pt
To argue about the prompt, you must use at least one piece of historical evidence beyond the documents.
Analysis and Reasoning
(0–2 points)
Respond to the prompt using at least three documents to explain why the perspective, purpose, historical context, or audience of a document is relevant to an argument.
To respond to this prompt, support, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the question with evidence.

Long Essay Question (LEQ)

The LEQ accounts for 15% of your final grade and is graded using the 6-point rubric below:

Reporting Category Points Scoring Criteria
(0–1 point)
1 pt. Provides a historically defensible thesis or claim in response to the prompt.
(0–1 point)
1 pt Provides relevant historical context.
(0–2 points)
1 pt
2 pts
Provides evidence pertinent to the prompt.


Responds to the prompt with specific and pertinent evidence.
Analysis and Reasoning
(0–2 points)
1 pt
2 pts
Responds to the prompt using historical reasoning (such as comparison, causality, continuity, and change).


Utilizes evidence to substantiate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the question.
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AP U.S. History Scoring Table

Your total exam score is weighted to generate a final score between 1 and 5. Each score represents a unique performance. Colleges use these scores to determine who will receive free credit and placement. To be eligible for college credit, students must earn a score of at least 3 on the exam. Your AP United States History examination results are sent to your chosen colleges.

These scores are the result of extensive research conducted by The College Board. The primary objective of AP U.S. History is to teach you college-level history fundamentals while you are still in high school. Consequently, the board ensures that a student's performance, as calculated by their final APUSH exam score, is equivalent to that of a student in a college-level history course.

The table below illustrates how AP scores on the AP U.S. History exam are converted into college-grade equivalents.

AP Exam Score College Grade Equivalent Qualification
5 A+ or A Extremely well qualified
4 A-, B+, or B Well qualified
3 B-, C+, or C Qualified
2 Possibly Qualified
1 No recommendation

A score of 4 or 5 on the APUSH exam indicates solid mastery of the material. Some colleges may grant credit or advanced placement for scores of 3 or higher, while others might require a score of 4 or 5. Although a score below 3 signifies a limited grasp of the subject matter, research indicates that students who undertake AP courses and achieve a score of 1 or 2 outperform non-AP students in their introductory college courses.

AP U.S. History Score Distribution

AP U.S. History is one of the most popular social sciences courses offered by the College Board. In fact, based on the number of students who took the final exam, APUSH is second in popularity only to AP English Language and Composition, with 456,520 high school students taking it in 2022. You can read our AP U.S. History Exam Guide to discover the career benefits of taking the U.S. History exam.

If you’re planning to opt for APUSH, learning about its score distribution can help you gauge the performance of an average student in that exam. This can also give you a scale to measure your performance on AP US History practice tests and help boost your study schedule! Here is the AP U.S. History score distribution for the last four years.

AP Score % of Students 2023 % of Students 2022 % of Students 2021 % of Students 2020 5-year average
5 11 % 10.8% 10.1% 13.0% 11.2 %
4 15 % 15.6% 15.9% 19.2% 16.4 %
3 22 % 21.9% 21.2% 26.6% 22.9 %
2 23 % 21.9% 21.6% 20.4% 21.7 %
1 29 % 28.8% 31.2% 21.0% 27.5 %

In 2022, the mean score on the AP U.S. History examination was 2.57. Preparing for this exam significantly enhances the likelihood of securing a 5 on the AP U.S. History exam.

58.7% of students scored a 3 or higher in 2020. This figure fell to 52.2% in 2021 and 48.2% in 2022, respectively. The 2023 AP scores continue to see a downward curve, with the success rate falling to 48%.

Minimum Score Requirement for College Credits

Most colleges in the United States accept AP scores for credit or advanced placement. Some colleges offer advanced placement, allowing you to skip the course without receiving credit. Achieving a minimum score of 3 on the AP U.S. History exam could potentially earn you as many as six college credit hours (compared to three for other AP courses). However, some schools require a 4 or 5 to grant these credits.

Each college has different AP score requirements. When preparing for the AP U.S. History exam, it is essential to understand the requirements for college admission. To help you narrow your search, we have compiled a list of the top 10 universities and the AP scores they accept. Let's take a look.

Institution AP Score AP Recognition Placement Credit Equivalent Course
Harvard University 5 Credit 0 Credit Subject to other qualifying conditions
University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA) 3 Credit Earns 3 units toward breadth requirement (Group II: Humanities and Social Sciences) Group II: Humanities and Social Sciences
Princeton University 4 Credit 1 Credit None
University of Chicago 5 Credit 100 units of general elective credit None
Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) 5, 4, or 3 Credit 8 credits HST 202, 203
2 Credit 0 Credit Waive HST 202, 203
Auburn University (Auburn, AL) 5 Credit 6 hrs credit for HIST 1010 & 1020
4 Credit 3 hrs credit for HIST 1010 and exemption from HIST 1020
Baylor University (Waco, TX) 4 or 5 Credit 3 hrs credit History 2365 & 2366
Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA) 4 Credit 6 Credits
Kent State University (Kent, OH) 3, 4 or 5 Credit 3 hrs credit for HIST12071
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3, 4 or 5 Credit & Placement 8 credits and United States History placement
Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) 3 Credit 3 Credits AMH 2010
4 Credit 3 Credits AMH 2010
AMH 2020
5 Credit 6 Credits AMH 2010
AMH 2020
Columbia University (New York, NY) 4 Credit 6 credits None
Duke University (Durham, NC) 4 Credit HIST 23 and 24 Any Course

As you can see, the interpretation of AP scores can vary depending on the institution and the specific subject. It's recommended to check the policies of the colleges and universities you're interested in to understand how they use AP scores for admission, credit, or placement.

The most important way to begin exam preparation is through practice. It is essential to practice with exam-like questions and familiarize oneself with the rubric for free-response questions. Using an online learning tool like UWorld is beneficial because we provide:

  • Hundreds of exam-style questions that mirror the format and difficulty of the APUSH examination.
  • Detailed explanations accompanied by vivid illustrations that debunk misconceptions and bring history to life.
  • Performance dashboard so that you can measure your progress and identify areas that require improvement.

If you prepare with UWorld, take an AP U.S. History practice exam, apply yourself in class, and follow a well-thought-out study plan, you will be well on your way to boosting your GPA and acing the APUSH exam. Start today with a FREE 7-day trial and discover why students love UWorld's online learning tools for exam preparation.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A score of 4 is regarded as excellent, and a score of 5 is especially impressive, being the highest possible. Remember that each college establishes its own policy regarding AP credit. Some schools only grant credit for scores of 4 or 5.

In 2021, the mean score on the AP U.S. History examination was 2.71, which dropped to 2.57 in 2022.

In order to maintain the integrity and reliability of the scoring process, the College Board curves AP exams annually; AP U.S. History is no exception. The goal of curving is to make sure that a particular score (such as a 4 or a 5) represents the same level of achievement across different versions and years of the exam. This is important because AP exams can have multiple versions with slightly varying questions, and the difficulty of the questions can vary from one year to another.

The APUSH exam scores were made available on July 5, 2023. AP scores are typically released in early to mid-July each year.

Attaining a top score on the AP U.S. History exam is a notable achievement. In fact, approximately 10% of the examinees in 2022 were able to secure a score of 5.

These are some key skills that can help you get a 5 in AP U.S. History:

  1. Knowing the rubrics
  2. Quickly understanding primary sources
  3. Knowing what to memorize
  4. Doing multiple choice questions efficiently
  5. Focusing on the bigger picture without getting bogged down in the details.

Check out our comprehensive AP U.S. History study guide for more information on how to prepare for the exam.

Read More About the AP U.S. History Exam

Staying up-to-date about the exam can boost your confidence! Get a clear understanding of the AP U.S. History exam here: See what’s on the exam, the prerequisites, why take it, etc.
Confused about the structure of the APUSH exam? Check out our easy-to-learn guide to AP U.S. History with all the test structure information, question types, and more!
The College Board’s CED PDF can be overwhelming. We’ve got your back—we summarized the lengthy 300 pages into just a simple AP U.S. History CED document.
Your dream school requires a dream score! Our help is just a click away—check out our APUSH Study Guide with all the tips, tricks, and crucial materials to score 5.
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