Students who have heard that the Advanced Placement history curriculum is changing may be worried that revisions to the course and test might increase difficulty or negatively change how students should approach the subject matter.
Luckily, students don’t need to worry – the changes are simple to understand and benefit them. Beginning this academic year, the revisions affect students in AP European History, AP United States History and AP World History courses. Here are three ways AP history courses and exams are changing.
[Discover the differences between AP and IB classes.]
1. Less-complicated disciplinary practices and reasoning skills: The most significant change is that the AP history courses now have two fewer skills students will have to master: periodization and synthesis.
Periodization questions prompted students to compare and contrast a specific shift in history, such as a war, with changes in the time periods before and after this shift. Students will still be required to recognize general change over time, since the history courses feature a “Continuity and Change Over Time” skill.
The synthesis skill asked students to identify connections between a given issue and either another moment in history or another approach to history, such as a cultural or economic approach. The College Board has removed this portion of the curriculum entirely. All other disciplinary practices and reasoning skills remain, and students should be sure to review those and their descriptions.
2. Revised exam design: One reason the College Board reworked the three AP history tests is so that students understood what to expect on the exams. These changes included reducing the number of short-answer questions to three, which students will now have 40 minutes to complete.
Students can also review course-specific changes on the modified AP European History, AP World History, and AP United States History exams.
One other major reason for the changes is to allow teachers and students flexibility for when their curriculum plan differs from the AP coursework. The College Board largely accomplished this by providing students with options as to which time periods they can discuss in the short-answer and long-essay sections.
Note that the short-answer portion still includes two questions with required time periods. But students can now focus on areas where they have deeper course knowledge, based on their particular class instruction.
3. Simplified exam essay assignments and rubrics: Perhaps the largest change to the AP history exams is a 10-minute increase in the time allotted for Section II of the exam. With five more minutes for the document-based question and five more minutes for the long essay, students should find it easier to complete these tasks on test day.
Similar to the changes to the disciplinary practices, Section II will no longer have the synthesis point. The long essay question now only has one rubric. And the College Board has clarified all the Section II rubrics, which will help students and teachers identify critical areas they need to pay attention to that will allow students to earn points. Students should be sure to review the Section II rubrics.
The College Board’s overall purpose with these changes is to simplify and clarify expectations and to give students a bit more time to complete the essay section. As such, these revisions are largely in favor of improving the student experience and should make the AP history courses and their tests more approachable.