How to Get a 5 on AP US History - From a Student Who Did It


[This article is part of a series where a former AP student goes over the strategies she used to get a 5 on different AP classes. Follow us to find the others!]


AP US History (or APUSH) is widely regarded as one of the hardest AP courses and exams. So if you’re taking it this year, we wish you luck. But you’re going to need more than luck to get a 5 on the exam, and it is imperative that you start preparing early. So, we’re here to help with 3 strategies you need to start practicing now!


First, a quick review of the exam structure.

Got it? Ok, now let’s get into exactly what you need to do to get that 5!


#1 Remember “cause, event, and effect”

The APUSH exam is not going to be a test of what year something happened or where the event occurred. If it was, it wouldn’t be so hard for everyone, and there really wouldn’t be a point in studying history. Rather, it is a test of how well you can analyze historical events’ implications on one another. Therefore, when you are learning about each event, ask yourself: what were the factors that led to this event, what was the event itself, and what were its implications on future events? After all, this is why we study history - to better understand current events and avoid repeating our mistakes.


#2 It’s all about the connections

One of the hardest things about writing the essays is that it requires you to be able to connect any historical event together. It’s not enough to simply know what the Boston Tea Party is or what Manifest Destiny means. Instead, you have to be able to identify common themes between all these events and somehow tie them together under one essay. This means you have to have an understanding of every historical event that goes deeper than just what happened, when it happened, and where it happened. For example, if asked to talk about the role of women in the 19th and 20th century, you have to be able to remember that the Roaring 20s, Suffrage Movement, and World War II all had different but connected implications on women's rights.


#3 Storytelling

The number one tip we have for succeeding in APUSH is to become a storyteller. Being able to explain an event or time period to your friend, sibling, or parent is going to be the difference between getting a 4 or a 5. Or if there’s nobody around you willing to listen, tell yourself the story of the Industrial Revolution while you’re taking a shower. It’s silly, but it works. The reason people struggle on the essay portions is because even if they know the facts, they are unable to piece them together into well-written sentences. Your AP grader doesn’t want to see bullet points of what happened, they want to be told a story.


Learning history is like learning a new language. It’s not enough to make study guides last minute, you have to start practicing early until it becomes second nature. We must practice our knowledge over and over so it becomes easy when we’re in the exam room. Check out 7EDU’s online APUSH classes happening NOW to start developing and practicing these skills early so that you can guarantee that 5. Contact us at (408) 216-9109 or info@7edu.org if you have any questions or want to learn more!


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