The following strategies for answering the free-response questions will help you on exam day.
Keep an eye on your time.
Monitor your time carefully. Make sure not to spend too much time on any one question so that you have enough time to answer all of them. If you reach the end of the test with time to spare, go back and review your essays. And don’t waste time restating the question in your answers: that won’t earn points.
Plan your answers.
Don’t start to write immediately: that can lead to a string of disconnected, poorly planned thoughts. Carefully analyze the question, thinking through what is being asked and evaluating the points of view of the sources and authors. Identify the elements that must be addressed in the response. For example, some questions may require you to consider the similarities between people or events, and then to think of the ways they are different. Others may ask you to develop an argument with examples to support it. Be sure to answer exactly what is being asked in the question prompt!
After you have determined how to answer the question, consider what evidence you can incorporate into your response. Review the evidence you learned during the year that relates to the question and then decide how it fits into the analysis. Does it demonstrate a similarity or a difference? Does it argue for or against a generalization that is being addressed?
Decide your thesis statement.
Begin writing only after you have thought through your evidence and have determined what your thesis statement will be. Once you have done this, you will be in a position to answer the question analytically instead of in a rambling narrative.
Support your thesis statement.
Make your overarching statement or argument, then position your supporting evidence so that it is obviously directed to answering the question. State your points clearly and explicitly connect them to the larger thesis, rather than making generalizations.
Elaborate on the evidence.
Don’t just paraphrase or summarize your evidence. Clearly state your intent, then use additional information or analysis to elaborate on how these pieces of evidence are similar or different. If there is evidence that refutes a statement, explain why. Your answer should show that you understand the subtleties of the questions.
Answering free-response questions from previous AP Exams is a great way to practice: it allows you to compare your own responses with those that have already been evaluated and scored. Free-response questions and scoring guidelines are available on the Exam Practice page for World History.
The exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and has two sections — multiple choice/short answer and free-response. Each section is divided into two parts.
Section I Part A: Multiple Choice | 55 Questions | 55 minutes | 40% of Exam Score
- Questions appear in sets of 2 to 5.
- You will analyze historical texts, interpretations, and evidence.
- Primary and secondary sources, images, graphs, and maps are included.
Section I Part B: Short Answer | 3 Questions | 40 minutes | 20% of Exam Score
- Analyze historians’ interpretations, historical sources, and propositions about history.
- Questions give you an opportunity to explain the historical examples you know best.
- Some questions include texts, images, graphs, or maps.
- You’ll have a choice between two options for the final required short answer question, each one focusing on a different time period.
- Question 1 (required): periods 3-8
- Question 2 (required): periods 3-8
- Choose between Question 3, periods 1-3, and Question 4, periods 4-6
Section II Part A: Document Based | 1 Question | 60 minutes (includes a 15-minute reading period) | 25% of Exam Score
- Assess written, quantitative, or visual materials as historical evidence.
- Develop an argument supported by an analysis of historical evidence.
- The document-based question will focus on topics from periods 3-6.
Section II Part B: Long Essay | 1 Question | 40 minutes | 15% of Exam Score
- Explain and analyze significant issues in world history
- Develop an argument supported by your analysis of historical evidence.
- You’ll select from one of three essay choices, each focusing on the same theme and skill but different time periods:
- Option 1: periods 1-2
- Option 2: periods 3-4
- Option 3: periods 5-6
Update, November 2017: The wording of the long essay question prompt has been refined to make the language clearer and more direct. The AP World History Course and Exam Description and Practice Exam have been updated to reflect this change.
Practice for the exam