AP® World History 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 is challenging and is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. The exam determines your historical thinking skills and understanding of course learning objectives. The APWH exam structure is made up of two sections with different question types.

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.

AP World History Scoring Table

Your total exam score is weighted into a final score of 1 to 5. Each score reflects a specific performance. These scores are developed after a lot of research that the College Board® conducts. Colleges use these scores to decide who gets free credit and placement. Students need a score of 3 or more to qualify for college credit. You can choose to send your score report to colleges through the College Board. To learn more about how to send your scores to the colleges of your choice, read our guide to AP Scores.

The main aim of AP World History is to teach you foundational history at the college level right in high school. Hence, the board ensures that a student’s performance, measured by their final score on the APWH exam, can be correlated to a college student’s performance in a college-level history course.

The AP score table below shows how AP scores are converted into equivalent college grades for the AP World History: Modern exam.

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

As you can see, a score of less than 3 does not imply a good college grade. On the APWH exam, a score of 4 or 5 is considered excellent. Always double-check the minimum requirements of the colleges to which you intend to apply.

AP World History Score Distribution

AP World History is one of the most popular social studies AP courses. There are a slew of additional advantages to taking the AP World History exam. To learn why taking the AP World History exam is beneficial to your career, read our AP World History: Modern Exam guide. Between May 2019 and May 2021, nearly one million students have taken the AP World History exam.

Here are the AP World History score distributions for the last three years:

AP Score % of Students 2022 % of Students 2021 % of Students 2020 %of Students 2019 4-years average
5 13.2% 09.7% 09.2% 08.6% 10.1%
4 21.9% 18.5% 22.8% 18.8% 20.5%
3 27.0% 24.0% 28.2% 28.0% 26.8%
2 23.7% 28.9% 26.1% 28.8% 26.8%
1 14.3% 19.0% 13.7% 15.8% 15.7%

Most colleges and universities require a score of 3 or higher for free college credit. You can score a 5 on the AP World History exam with the right study tools, course instruction, and dedication.

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, AP World History scores dropped from 60.2% in 2020 to 52.2% in 2021. However, the pass rates have bounced back to pre COVID level of 61.8% in 2022.

Minimum Score Requirement for College Credits

Passing the AP World History exam with a score of 3 or higher can earn you up to six hours of college credit. Most US colleges accept AP scores for credit or advanced placement. However, some schools require a 4 or a 5 to grant these credits. Some colleges offer both advanced placement and credit, which means you will get the credits while also skipping the course.

Each college has different AP score requirements. It is important to know the college entrance requirements for AP World History while preparing for the exam. To help you narrow your search, we have compiled a list of the top 10 universities and the AP scores they accept. Let us 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, Berkeley (UCB) 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
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 4 or 5 Credit 4 credit hours for 100 level History None
Carnegie Mellon University 5 Credit 9 CMU Units 79-015, AP World History: Modern
Gonzaga University 4 Credit 3 Credits History 112
Pepperdine University 3 Credit 4 Elective Units THIS 100.01
Fordham University 4 Credit 3 non-major elective credits None
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3 Credit & Placement 8 credits and World History placement HIST
Florida State University 3 Credit 3 Credits WOH 2023 (3)
4 Credit 3 Credits WOH 2023 (3)
5 Credit 6 Credits WOH 2023 (3)
WOH 2030 (3)
Syracuse University 4 Credit 6 Credits HST 121, 122 and counts as a sequence in social sciences.

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 Time Allocated Question Types Weighting
Section I Part A 55 minutes 55 MCQs 40%
Part B 40 minutes 3 SAQ 20%
Section II Part A 60 minutes 1 DBQ 25%
Part B 40 minutes 1 Long Essay 15%

These are the AP World History topics that may be covered in each of the nine 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 c. 1200 to c. 1450 8%–10%
Unit 3: Land-Based Empires c. 1450 to c. 1750 12%–15%
Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections c. 1450 to c. 1750 12%–15%
Unit 5: Revolutions c. 1750 to c. 1900 12%–15%
Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization c. 1750 to c. 1900 12%–15%
Unit 7: Global Conflict c. 1900 to the present 8%–10%
Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization c. 1900 to the present 8%–10%
Unit 9: Globalization c. 1900 to the present 8%–10%

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.

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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