General AP History Tips:
- Always ask, “Why do we care?” Students are conditioned to focus on names and dates as opposed to causes and results; “Why” gets you to start thinking in depth.
- Keep up with your assigned reading. Chances are, your teacher has a lot of reading for you to do throughout the year. There might not always be quizzes on the reading, but it is SO important that you do it. There is no way you can always catch up on an entire year’s worth of AP US History reading, so it is essential to stay on top of things.
- Think about things thematically. This is one of the main historical skills that you are tested on. Encompassed in the testing of themes is the analysis of change over time. These go hand in hand as you think about the way that certain themes evolve through history. For example, you need to be able to explain how the economy of the US has changed over the years, or think about America’s evolving philosophy on foreign affairs. Connecting themes and explaining how one affected the other is an incredibly common DBQ/LEQ question.
- Make a timeline. Take key events, without looking at their dates, and try to put them in order. Some people use a whiteboard for this or just try to organize flash cards. Basically this is just a good way of seeing how things fit together. As you make the timeline, try to pay attention to the sequence of events, or any cause and effect relationships that may be at play.
- Watch Videos. Aside from helping you learn actual information from the course, there are also a lot of videos to help with test taking strategies. Crash Course, and our personal favorite Tom Richey, both create videos between 10-15 minutes long and are great ways to learn. They are quick and entertaining, but also incredibly informative. They can serve as a great introduction to a topic or a good summary after you have finished reviewing it. And there are many more videos like these out there.
- A series of 47 videos dedicated to helping you understand US History. (Crash Course)
- AP US History review page here. (Tom Richey)
Tips for MCQs:
- Read the question and answers all the way through. This is a super basic test-taking tip, but it’s still worth mentioning. Don’t fall into the trap of reading the question partially and jumping to conclusions, or picking the first question that seems right.
- Use context clues. If you are unsure of an answer, just try to approach it from a logical perspective. You may not know the exact date of a certain event, but when you put that event in context of other events that you do know the dates for, it can definitely help you narrow down your choices.
- Use questions to give you answers. You can learn a lot just from reading the questions. You may not directly get the answer to a question from other questions, but it can certainly give you more information and put you one step closer to the correct answer. You will almost always be able to walk away from the test knowing more than you did before. Also, keep the multiple-choice questions in mind as you write your free response and DBQ essays. You can also just try to think logically about it. Sometimes it works out that if the answer to question 3 is C, then the answer to question 6 has to be D.
- Pay attention to wording. Skimming over a question can sometimes cause you to totally misinterpret said question. Make sure that you know if the question is asking “Which of the following IS…” or “Which of the following IS NOT…“ That is a huge difference and is going to make for two very different answers.
- Think like a test maker and not a test taker. Think about what the AP question writer might have been looking to test you on when answering each question. Understanding this is key to knowing how to answer the question. *This is also applicable when writing short answers, DBQs, or LEQs.
Tips For DBQs/LEQs:
- Understand what they are testing you on. Every DBQ or LEQ question will fall into one of two categories either cause and effect, or continuity and change. Identify which of these your question falls under and write accordingly. Understanding themes thematically is essential to organizing your writing. You must remember which time period came first and the varying thought processes associated with each and how they influenced the next or built of the last.
- When you begin. After identifying the historical thinking type the question is testing you on (see above bullet), try and remember everything you know about what was going on in the years leading up to the specified era around the world. Beginning with the thought processes, social disruption, and large events along with their respective impacts on the designs leading up to the event in question is a great start to getting the contextualization point on DBQs. This should all occur in the opening paragraph before the thesis statement.
- Point of View. Remember that identifying an authors point of view and understanding/relating how it affects their decisions and perceptions is tested in DBQs. After reading a document ask yourself the following: Who is the author? Who are they writing for? When are they writing it? Is it reliable? Once you have the answers to these you should be able to begin to piece together why this document was included and how to use it in your argument.
- Paragraph Structure. Introduce each paragraph with a restatement of the specific part of the thesis that fits the argument contained in this paragraph. Follow this with specific evidence collected from the documents, I like to use the formula: argument, evidence, analysis, point of view deduction, transition. Use this for however many documents you have in this category of your thesis.
- If you have time. Write a conclusion. Although this doesn’t affect your grade if you don’t get around to doing this, it is really helpful if you forgot to add information earlier and want to use it brig new evidence to life that helps you prove your point. This is a good area to synthesize your argument/event to another which occurred in the world. If you chose to do this, make sure to restate your thesis at the beginning of the conclusion, so you remind the grader the argument you’re presenting.
Information above was partially found on: