Featured Image

5 Tips to Ace AP US History

Are you taking AP US History? These five tips will help you walk out of the exam with confidence!

As a sophomore last year, I took my first Advanced Placement class, AP US History (APUSH). It was daunting to walk into the testing room and take the AP exam, but with good preparation, I was able to score a 5. Here are five tips to help you walk out of that exam with confidence!

(Some of these tips can easily be applied to AP European History or AP World History as well, so if you have a friend in one of those classes, feel free to share with them.)

1. Stay organized

This is a common tip, but it’s crucial. Throughout the year, I kept my typed notes organized by each of the nine APUSH periods in folders on my computer. I further organized them into folders for each individual chapter. Because my notes were saved digitally on the computer instead of hard copies haphazardly crammed into a binder, I was able to keep track of them all the way up ’til the day of the AP exam. But some teachers require you to take notes by hand, which just means you have to be more diligent about keeping your notes in order and in a safe place.

2. Don’t stress about specific dates and facts

Although there are a lot of dates, people, and events mentioned in every history textbook, you don’t have to remember them all. Quick! Name the four states that the “Five Civilized Tribes” were from! (The answer is Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. Don’t worry. I had to look it up too.) Although you’ll have to remember at least one piece of specific information each for both the document-based question (DBQ) and long-essay question (LEQ), it’s much more important for you to be able to understand the main themes and trends of each era. For instance, if you’re learning about the battles of the Civil War, you only need to know the context and impact of the major conflicts. You’ll never need to remember that the first Levittown was built in 1947. Never. That being said, it’s still a good idea to have a rough sense of chronology. (Check out tip #5 for some resources you can look over.)

3. Remember the heart of the history

Just as globalization and widespread technology use are evident in our daily lives, child labor and monopolization were the trends of the pre-progressive era. Whenever you look at a statistic or read about a Supreme Court case, think about the people whose lives were affected. History suddenly becomes a lot more meaningful when you realize the events and trends you’re learning about were the inescapable realities of thousands or even millions of people at the time. That mindset will help you get more out of your studying.

4. Find the fun

Seeing as I’m an only child with no siblings to annoy, I found it beneficial to act out my notes as I was reading them aloud. It’s difficult for me to remember facts when I just read them quietly, so I chose to study by reading my APUSH notes aloud in a dramatic (and sometimes loud) voice with accompanying gestures. Although history is often denounced to be boring memorization, I was actually able to turn studying into an entertaining experience. You could also do this by forming a study group, but make sure you find people who can be counted on to stay focused and actually be productive. Another good tip is to use quizlet.com to review with their Match and Gravity games. If you’re going to have to study anyway, try to make it enjoyable so you won’t want to put it off.

5. Do what works for you

I may have my own unconventional study techniques, but that doesn’t mean you should study the same way. If you don’t want to only use your notes, there are tons of resources out there, and a lot of them are free too. First off, check out the College Board’s AP US History page for an official practice test. Make sure you’re comfortable writing both the LEQ and the DBQ within the time constraints. Other resources include the Packet of Doom (it’s less scary than it sounds!), which is a good summary of the APUSH topics you’ll need to know. The Gilder Lehrman Institute has a study guide, videos, primary sources, and timelines for each APUSH period. Adam Norris is an American history teacher who has review sheets, links to other helpful websites, chapter videos for many APUSH textbooks, flashcard sets, and more on his website at apushreview.com. Khan Academy is another great free resource with video and text lessons as well as practice questions. You could also invest some money in a prep book by Barron’s or The Princeton Review if you’d like. Which resource works best? That depends on the person using them, so do what works for you.

Finally, don’t procrastinate

This could technically count as a sixth tip, but it won’t because it would ruin the ingenuity of my title. Now that you’ve almost reached the end of this article, do yourself a favor and crack open your notes. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re not cramming past midnight before the AP exam. Maybe you’re reading this article right now to avoid actually studying. Push yourself to go get started. That’s why you’re in A-PUSH, right?

Thanks for reading this blog and putting up with my bad attempts at humor. And good luck!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

advanced placement ap exams AP study tips AP test prep AP tips AP U.S. History history test prep

About Alice Wu

I am a junior at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kansas. I was born in Canada, but I have also lived in Oklahoma for two years. Some of my passions include poetry, music, world languages, fantasy books, and cooking shows. I am currently considering a career in journalism, and I am excited to share my experiences as a CollegeXpress writer. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway



High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

Tinuola Dada

Tinuola Dada

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2015

I am very excited to be this year's recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship. This scholarship will bring me ever closer to my academic and professional goals. CollegeXpress has been an exceptional resource to me, and I recommend it to all rising seniors as they begin to navigate the college application process.

Melanie Kajy

Melanie Kajy

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously during my senior year of high school. I started off using the college search to find more information about the universities I was interested in. Just this tool alone gave me so much information about a particular school. It was my one-stop shop to learn about college. I was able to find information about college tuition, school rank, majors, and so much more that I can't list it all. The college search tool has helped me narrow down which college I want to attend, and it made a stressful process surprisingly not so stressful. I then moved to the scholarship search tool to find scholarships to apply for because I can't afford to pay for tuition myself. The search tool helped me find scholarships that I was eligible for. The tool gave me all the information I could ever need about a particular scholarship that was being offered. The CollegeXpress scholarship search tool is so much better than other tools offered, like the Chegg scholarship search. Thanks to CollegeXpress, I was able to apply to tons of scholarships in a relatively easy way!

Kory Gilbertson

Kory Gilbertson

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me explore my views on college in that "why do I wanna go to a certain school" way. It’s helped me explore the best fits in all of these outstanding choices. All these college admission counselors can access my accolades showing them how I could help their college. This source of information helps me show these admission directors who I am and what I'm interested in. Thanks to this platform, my experience for education will be better than most, and I'm so grateful for all that it has provided for me.

Fernando Ponce

Fernando Ponce

High School Junior

College is a way of life that helps us find out who we are as a person, and CollegeXpress is a great way to stay connected with our future, even for students with little time on their hands due to the challenges of high school we face.

College Matches