Is AP US History Hard?

November 22, 2023
6 min read

"Is AP US History hard?" This question is often asked by students considering taking on the challenge of this advanced placement course.

If you're considering AP classes, US History might be on your radar, and naturally, you're curious about the level of difficulty involved. In this course, you'll explore centuries of American history, analyze primary sources, and write essays to support your arguments. So, it's no wonder it has a reputation for being challenging.

We'll explore the factors that contribute to its difficulty, leaving no stone unturned. By examining the content and the skills required, we'll shed light on what makes AP US History a challenging course.

Our goal is to equip you with the information you need to make an informed decision about whether AP US History is the right fit for you. So, let's get into it and explore what lies ahead on your journey of AP US History. 

Is AP US History Hard? Factors to Consider

If you’re wondering, “Is AP US History hard?” you’ve come to the right place. Let's break it down and consider a few factors that can help you make an informed decision.

US flag blowing in wind

Pass Rate

The pass rate for AP US History currently stands at 48.2%, which is considered low and indicates that the course is more challenging than others. However, keep in mind that pass rates can vary considerably, depending on the year and school, so it's not the only factor to consider.


AP US History covers a wide range of topics, from colonial America to present-day events; you'll be studying political, social, and economic aspects of American history. 

The course requires you to analyze primary and secondary sources, understand historical context, and make connections between different events and time periods. The depth and breadth of the content can be demanding, but it also provides a rich opportunity to delve into the complexities of US history.

Skills Required

AP US History isn't just about memorizing facts and dates; it's about developing critical thinking and analytical skills. You'll need to be able to interpret historical evidence, construct arguments, and support your ideas with evidence. 

Strong reading comprehension and writing skills are crucial for success in this course. You'll also need to manage your time effectively to keep up with the workload and prepare for the exam.

Ultimately, whether AP US History is hard for you will depend on your strengths, interests, and dedication. Some students thrive in history classes and find the subject matter fascinating. 

Others may struggle with the volume of information or the analytical demands of the course. It's important to consider your own abilities and commitment to studying in order to make an informed decision.

Remember, taking on challenging courses like AP US History can have its rewards. It can help you develop valuable skills, earn college credit, and stand out in the college admissions process. However, it's important to assess your readiness and ensure that you have the support and resources you need to succeed.

Reflect on your own strengths and interests, and make a decision that aligns with your goals and abilities. With the right mindset and determination, you can excel in AP US History or any other challenging course you choose to take.

Female student studying from book

AP US History Exam

Let's get into the AP US History exam and explore its format and scoring. Understanding these aspects will give you a better grasp of what to anticipate.

Exam Format

The AP US History exam comprises two main sections: multiple-choice and free-response. The multiple-choice section consists of 55 questions, which you must complete within 55 minutes. 

These questions assess your knowledge and comprehension of US history across different time periods. The free-response section includes a document-based question (DBQ), a long essay question (LEQ), and short-answer questions (SAQs). You'll have 130 minutes to tackle this section.


Each section of the exam contributes to your overall score. In the multiple-choice section, you receive points for each correct answer, and there is no penalty for incorrect responses. The scores for the multiple-choice section are then converted to a scaled score ranging from 0 to 55.

For the free-response section, AP readers, who are trained evaluators, assess your answers. The DBQ and LEQ are scored on a scale of 0-6, while the SAQs are scored on a scale of 0-4. These scores are weighted and combined to calculate your free-response score, which ranges from 0 to 24.

The final step involves combining your multiple-choice and free-response scores to determine your overall AP exam score. The scores are blended using a formula that produces a composite score between 1 and 5. Here's a breakdown of what each score generally signifies:

  • 5: Extremely well qualified
  • 4: Well qualified
  • 3: Qualified
  • 2: Possibly qualified
  • 1: No recommendation

Remember that each college or university has its own policies regarding AP exam scores and credit. Some institutions may grant college credit or advanced placement based on your AP US History score, while others may require a minimum score for credit.

Preparing for the AP US History exam entails studying the content, practicing historical analysis, and familiarizing yourself with the exam format. Reviewing previous exam questions, practicing timed writing, and utilizing study resources can boost your confidence and preparedness.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the exam's format and scoring, you can approach your preparation with confidence. Focus on effective studying, time management during the exam, and showcasing your knowledge and analytical skills.

student writing test in classroom

Tips to Prepare for the AP US History Exam

"How hard is AP US History?" is a common question. If you find yourself worrying about how difficult this exam, take a look at these tips to help you prepare for the AP US History exam

Understand the Exam Format

Familiarize yourself with the exam structure, including the multiple-choice and free-response sections. Know the number of questions, time limits, and question types to better allocate your study time and practice accordingly.

Review the Course Content

Thoroughly go through the course material, including textbooks, class notes, and assigned readings. Pay attention to key concepts, historical events, and significant figures. Create study guides or flashcards to reinforce your understanding.

Practice Document Analysis

The DBQ is an essential part of the exam. Practice analyzing primary and secondary sources, extracting relevant information, and effectively incorporating them into your written response. 

Familiarize yourself with the requirements of the DBQ and practice constructing strong arguments based on the provided documents.

Ten girl reading from book

Develop Strong Writing Skills

Effective written communication is crucial for success in the free-response section. Practice structuring coherent essays with clear thesis statements, supporting evidence, and well-developed analysis. Work on improving your historical writing style, including proper use of evidence and historical context.

Utilize Study Resources

Take advantage of review books, online resources, and practice exams designed specifically for AP US History. These resources often provide comprehensive content review, sample questions, and essay prompts to help you prepare more effectively.

Create a Study Plan

Develop a study schedule that beaks down the topics and concepts you need to cover. Allocate specific study time for each area and be consistent in following your plan. Set goals and track your progress to ensure you cover all the necessary content before the exam.

Practice Time Management

The AP US History exam has time constraints, so practicing time management is crucial. During practice exams or timed study sessions, simulate the exam environment by adhering to time limits for each section. This will help you become comfortable with the pacing required to complete the exam on time.

clock drawn in chalk on blackboard

Join or Form Study Groups

Collaborating with classmates can be beneficial for discussing and reviewing course material. Engaging in discussions, sharing study resources, and quizzing each other can enhance your understanding of the content and provide different perspectives on historical events.

Seek Additional Help if Needed

If you encounter challenging topics or struggle with certain concepts, don't hesitate to reach out for assistance. Consult your teacher, participate in after-school review sessions, or consider hiring a tutor who specializes in AP US History. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification to strengthen your understanding.

Take Care of Yourself

Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is essential during exam preparation. Get enough sleep, eat well, and engage in physical activities to keep your mind and body in optimal condition. Taking breaks and practicing self-care will help you stay focused and motivated throughout your study journey.

By following these tips and putting in consistent effort, you can prepare effectively for the AP US History exam and increase your chances of achieving a successful outcome. Good luck!

Should You Take AP US History?

Deciding whether to take AP US History is a personal choice that depends on several factors. Before making your decision, don’t let the question, “Is AP US History hard?”, hold you back. Here are some points to consider.

Girl sitting at desk in classroom with chin in hand

Interest in History

Are you genuinely interested in learning about US history? If you enjoy exploring historical events, analyzing their impact, and understanding the development of the United States, then AP US History can be a great fit for you. A genuine passion for the subject matter can make the course more engaging and enjoyable.

Academic Strengths

Evaluate your academic strengths and weaknesses. AP courses, including AP US History, are rigorous and require dedication and effort. Consider your abilities in critical thinking, reading comprehension, and writing, as these skills are essential for success in the course.

If you have a strong foundation in these areas, it may indicate that you are well-suited for the challenges of AP US History.

College Aspirations

Think about your future college plans. Many colleges and universities value AP courses and consider them during the admissions process. Taking AP US History can demonstrate your willingness to take on challenging coursework and your ability to excel in a rigorous academic environment. 

Earning a high score on the AP exam may provide you with college credit, which can save you time and money in the long run.

Workload and Time Commitment

Consider your current workload and extracurricular commitments. AP courses often require more time and effort outside of regular class hours for reading, studying, and completing assignments. 

Evaluate whether you have the capacity to manage the additional workload and if you are willing to dedicate the necessary time to succeed in AP US History.

Support and Resources

Assess the availability of support and resources. Talk to your school counselor or AP US History teacher to understand the level of support provided. Are there study materials, review sessions, or tutoring options available? 

Having access to resources and support can greatly enhance your learning experience and increase your chances of success.

Personal Challenge

Taking on a challenging course like AP US History can be a personal growth opportunity. It can help you develop critical thinking skills, improve your writing abilities, and expand your knowledge of US history. If you are motivated to push yourself academically and embrace the challenge, then AP US History can be a rewarding experience.

Ultimately, the decision to take AP US History should be based on your interests, academic strengths, college goals, and personal motivation. Consider the factors mentioned above, discuss your options with your teachers or school counselor, and reflect on your own goals and aspirations.

FAQs: AP US History

If you’re still wondering, "how hard is AP US History?" keep reading for answers to some commonly asked questions. 

1. How Hard Is AP US History?

AP US History can be challenging due to the extensive content, critical thinking skills required, and rigorous writing expectations. However, with proper preparation, dedication, and effective study strategies, it is definitely manageable and achievable.

2. Is AP US History the Hardest AP Class?

AP US History is commonly regarded as one of the more difficult AP courses. It involves a substantial amount of content, requires strong critical thinking skills, and demands rigorous writing. However, it's worth noting that individual experiences may vary, as what one person finds challenging, another may find easier.

3. Why Is the AP US History Exam so Hard?

The AP US History exam is demanding due to its extensive content and analytical requirements. You'll explore American history, analyze sources, and write essays. Understanding context and making connections is crucial. While it can be challenging, with dedication and a strong study plan, you can conquer the exam!

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, whether AP US History is hard or not depends on you. Some find it challenging because of the vast content and critical thinking involved, but don't let that discourage you. 

With the right attitude, study habits, and a bit of determination, you can definitely tackle it. Just remember to stay positive, put in the effort, and don't be afraid to seek help when needed. You've got what it takes to ace AP US History!

Book Your Free Assessment Today

We’re eager to discuss your needs and goals, provide expert feedback, and answer any questions you have about our programs!
Get Free Assessment