AP® World History Modern Exam Format

Thousands of students take the AP® World History: Modern (APWH) exam each year. If you have chosen APWH and are about to start studying, get familiar with the exam format. This can help you create an efficient and thorough study plan to achieve your goal. Also, knowing the exam structure reduces test-day anxiety. This article will help you understand the APWH exam format and answer any questions that you may have about the exam pattern and question types.

What Is the Exam Format for AP World History?

The AP World History exam typically consists of two main sections with three different question types: (I) multiple-choice questions and short-answer questions, and (II) essay questions. The AP World History exam is challenging and is 3 hours and 15 minutes long.

Here's an overview of the exam format:

Section I includes multiple-choice (MCQ) and short-answer questions. The 55 multiple-choice questions must be answered in 55 minutes. You have 40 minutes to answer three 2-to-3-part short-answer questions (SAQ). Spend one minute on each MCQ and 10 to 12 minutes on each short answer question. This gives you time to review your answers and find any you missed.

Section II is free-response questions, which includes one document-based question (DBQ) and one long essay question (LEQ). You have 60 minutes to complete the DQB, which includes a 15-minute reading period. The recommended time for answering long essay questions is 40 minutes.

Because of the length of the exam, it is a good idea to take a minimum of one AP World History practice test as part of your preparation. Quality APWH exam-like practice questions will help you develop time-management skills and test stamina. You can read our article on the AP World History Course and Exam Description to understand the format and each unit's weightage better.

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Types of Questions in the AP World History Exam

As we mentioned earlier, the AP World History exam format has four main types of questions. These questions will test your historical thinking skills and your knowledge of the six “themes” of the course themes. But just having knowledge won't guarantee a high score. It's crucial to know how to answer these questions. We will go over each question type and structure to help you prepare better.

Sections Parts Question Types  Time Allocated Exam Weight
I Part A: Multiple-choice Questions 55 MCQs 55 minutes  40%
Part B: Short-Answer Questions 3 SAQs 40 minutes  20%
Question 1: Secondary source(s)
Question 2: Primary source
Students should select one:
Question 3: No stimulus
Question 4: No stimulus
II Free-response questions 2 FRQs    
Question 1: Document-based Question 60 minutes 25%
Question 2: Long Essay 40 minutes 15%

These are the AP World History topics that may be covered in each of the 9 units, their chronological periods and weightage.

Units Tested Chronological Period Weighting
Unit 1: The Global Tapestry c. 1200 to c. 1450 8%-10%
Unit 2: Network of Exchange 8%-10%
Unit 3: Land-Based Empires c. 1450 to c. 1750 12%-15%
Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections 12%-15%
Unit 5: Revolutions c. 1750 to c. 1900 12%-15%
Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization 12%-15%
Unit 7: Global Conflict c. 1900 to the present 8%-10%
Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization 8%-10%
Unit 9: Globalization  8%-10%

Curious to learn more about how each question type is graded? Our WHAP scoring guide explains the detailed rubric of how each SAQ, DBQ and LEQ is graded. Don’t forget to check it out!

Can I take AP World History exam in digital mode?

The AP World History Exam can be taken in either paper or digital mode. Both exams are 3 hours and 15 minutes long, and the formats for both the exams are the same.

Exam success starts with knowing the format. You can create an effective study plan now that you know the exam format and what to expect from each section. Do not forget to give yourself enough time to review your answers after each section.

Key Takeaways

We hope this format guide has been helpful. Here are three takeaways for the upcoming AP World History exam.

  1. AP World History takes 3 hours and 15 minutes. Due to the length of the exam, you should take at least one practice test.
  2. AP World History has two parts. Part A of Section I has 55 MCQs, and Part B has 3 SAQs. Section II has a DBQ and an essay.

UWorld has hundreds of high-quality AP World History practice questions created by AP teachers and experts. With our precise performance tracking, you will know exactly where you stand and what you need to improve to succeed on exam day.

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  1. Packer. (2023, June 21). The 2023 AP World History scores. twitter.com. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://twitter.com/AP_Trevor/status/1671564606534189073?lang=en 
  2. AP World History: Modern Exam – AP Central | College Board. (n.d.). https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-world-history/exam 
  3. AP World history modern course and exam description. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/pdf/ap-world-history-modern-course-and-exam-description.pdf?course=ap-world-history-modern

Read More About the AP World History Exam

Check out our AP World History curriculum guide for more information on the exam layout, science practices, and the units, topics, and key concepts you will study in the course.

This article will teach you everything you need to know about how the AP World History exam is scored, the distribution of scores, and the average score required for college credit.

Do you want to know the most effective strategies and resources for achieving the highest possible exam score? Click on UWorld’s comprehensive APWH study guide to score 5.
Do you want to know if AP World History is right for you? Click on our all-in-one APWH exam guide to understand more about the exam prerequisites, difficulty, and benefits of studying.
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