AP® World History: Modern
Short-Answer Questions

Mastering the short-answer section of the AP® World History exam is essential to achieving a high score, yet it is often overlooked when preparing for the exam. The SAQs on the AP World History exam are worth 20 percent of your overall exam grade which is more than the long-essay question.

The good news is that the AP World History SAQ section is considered the most straightforward section of the test. However, this does not imply it is easy. SAQs do not simply ask you to regurgitate names and dates. Short-answer questions test your historical reasoning skills and require you to cite evidence to support a historical claim.

To get a high score, you'll need to understand what kind of SAQSs to expect on the APWH exam. You'll also need to learn how to answer the questions in a way that will earn you credit. Plus, you'll need to be able to fully answer the questions within the allotted time.

Below is a breakdown of what to expect on the AP World History exam SAQ section. You'll learn about the structure and requirements of the SAQ section, as well as see examples of the different types of SAQs you will encounter. Plus, you'll find strategies and resources that will help you ace the AP World History short-answer section.

Format of the AP World History SAQ Section

On the AP World History exam, the first free response questions you will answer are the short answer questions. You have 40 minutes for this section of the exam. It's recommended that you spend no more than 15 minutes on each question.

Each SAQ is divided into three parts. And each of these parts should be between two and three sentences. It is recommended to spend less than 5 minutes on each part of the question. You are asked to either compare, describe, evaluate, explain, identify, or support an argument.

  • Question 1 (required) includes a secondary source stimulus and asks you to explain a historical development or process in the period between 1200 and 2001.
  • Question 2 (required) includes a primary source and asks you to explain a historical development or process in the period between 1200 and 2001.

For the final question, you can choose between Questions 3 and 4. Neither question is stimulus-based.

  • Question 3 asks you to explain a historical development or process in the period between 1200 and 1750 while Question 4 asks you to explain a historical development or process in the period between 1200 and 2001.
Get the most out of studying by working through exam-like questions with detailed explanations.
Image and diagram of a World War I German U-boat

How to Write AP World History’s Short Answer Questions?

Remember SAQs are not essays, and unlike the DBQs and LEQs, there is no need for a thesis statement; simply answer the prompt. Answering an SAQs requires you to be brief yet give enough details to answer all parts of the prompt. Bulleted lists are not acceptable. Try to be straightforward in your answer.

For an "identify" or "describe" prompt, you give a simple answer and support it with evidence. Then "explain" or "expand" by connecting your evidence to the original prompt to support your claim.

One tip is the A.C.E. method: answer, cite evidence, and explain. So first, answer the question directly in a complete sentence and avoid restating the prompt. Next, cite evidence that clearly supports your answer. Lastly, explain or provide additional context that ensures you completely answered the question.

AP World History short answer question (SAQ) examples

The first step to a perfect performance on the SAQ section of the APWH exam is knowing what to expect. Here are some examples of basic question types you'll encounter in the section.

How can I practice AP World History Short Answer Questions?

Mastering the SAQ section of the APWH exam will help propel you to a 5. Practicing short-answer questions is also a great way to review content and practice timed-writing. It is important that you practice SAQs that are similar to those asked on the exam. Also, make sure to practice the secondary source questions most frequently since they will always appear in the SAQ section of the APWH exam.

Many of the SAQs from past exams are now irrelevant due to massive redesigns beginning in 2017. As part of this restructuring, the course no longer covers content before 1200. Original short-answer questions that are aligned to College Board® most current course and exam description (CED) are included in UWorld's AP World History Qbank. These questions include examples and scoring commentary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Each SAQ will receive 0 to 3 points, with each part of the SAQ being worth 1 point. Here are the criteria for earning points on SAQs:

  • Clarity. You must clearly communicate your answer to receive a point.
  • Accuracy. Your answer must be historically defensible.
  • Description. You must describe the historical process or development.
  • Explanation. You must provide historical insights.

The SAQ section of the APWH exam accounts for 20 percent of your overall score. You can use a score calculator to see what you’ll need to score depending on how you perform on the other sections. A good thing about SAQs is that a perfect score in this section is relatively easy to achieve compared to the other sections due to their straightforward nature.

The short-answer section on the APWH exam contains three questions, with each question having three parts. You’ll have 40 minutes total to complete the section. Although this may seem like a lot of time, it works out to less than five minutes per part.

The College Board AP World History Study Guide & MaterialsAP Central website has SAQs from 2002 to 2021, along with scoring commentary, available for download. However, many of the SAQs are from 2017 and older, so they are no longer applicable because the course no longer covers content before 1200.

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