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AP United States History and AP World History: What Course Should I Choose?

AP United States History and AP World History: What Course Should I Choose?

As the Advanced Placement tests get closer, students are constantly prioritizing and choosing which set of AP courses and exams they should take. For students who are interested in history, choosing between whether to study AP United States History (APUSH) or AP World History is an important question. In this blog, we cover key differences between these Advanced Placement courses to make sure you understand the ins and outs of both APUSH and AP World History.
1. AP United States History and AP World History Class Details

AP U.S History Class

AP United States History (APUSH) aims to uncover American History, tracing the nation’s cultural, economic, political and social developments from c.1941 to the present. Through the analysis of texts, primary sources, and other historical evidence, students will have the opportunity to practice their historical thinking skills while learning more about pivotal moments like the American Revolution, Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement, gaining an in-depth understanding of the forces that shaped the United States.

AP World History Class

AP World History: Modern covers boarder topics compared to APUSH, as students will have a global view of the history from c. 1200 CE to the present. The class covers a wide range of topics, including cultural, political, and economic changes that have shaped our world. Students will study and analyze primary and secondary sources, as well as practicing historical thinking skills.

2. Exam Content and Outline

AP U.S. History

Students will study the cultural, economic, political, and social developments that shaped the United States from around 1491 to the present. They will analyze texts, visual resources, and other historical evidence while writing essays expressing historical perspectives.

Unit 1:

  • Time Period: 1491-1607 (Exam Weight: 4%-6%)
  • Content: Native American societies and why and how Europeans explored and began colonizing America.

Unit 2:

  • Time Period: 1607-1754 (Exam Weight: 6%-8%)
  • Content: Colonies established in the New World by Spain, France, the Netherlands, and England.

Unit 3:

  • Time Period:1754-1800 (Exam Weight: 10%-17%)
  • Content: Events leading to the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, including early republican institutions.

Unit 4:

  • Time Period: 1800-1848 (Exam Weight: 10%-17%)
  • Content: Political, cultural, and economic developments in the young nation during this period.

Unit 5:

  • Time Period: 1844-1877 (Exam Weight: 10%-17%)
  • Content: Expansion of the nation leading to Southern secession and the events of the Civil War.

Unit 6:

  • Time Period: 1865-1898 (Exam Weight: 10%-17%)
  • Content: Changes in the U.S. economy and population, and their connection to cultural and political changes.

Unit 7:

  • Time Period: 1890-1945 (Exam Weight: 10%-17%)
  • Content: Social and cultural changes in the U.S., along with the causes and effects of global wars and economic collapse during this period.

Unit 8:

  • Time Period: 1945-1980 (Exam Weight: 10%-17%)
  • Content: Competition between the Soviet Union and the U.S., development of various civil rights movements, and economic, cultural, and political changes during this period.

Unit 9:

  • Time Period: 1980-Present (Exam Weight: 4%-6%)
  • Content: Development of political conservatism, advancements in science and technology, and significant demographic changes during this period.

AP World History

The AP World History exam tests students’ understanding of historical concepts covered in the following units and their ability to analyze primary and secondary sources and identify patterns and connections supporting historical interpretations.

Unit 1: Global Tapestry

  • Time Period: 1200-1450 AD (Exam Weight: 8%-10%)
  • Content: Formation, expansion, and decline of regions worldwide, along with relevant political, social, and cultural developments.

Unit 2: Networks of Exchange

  • Time Period: 1200-1450 AD (Exam Weight: 8%-10%)
  • Content: How regions are interconnected through trade and the impact of these connections on people, culture, and the environment.

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

  • Time Period: 1450-1750 AD (Exam Weight: 12%-15%)
  • Content: Exploration of empires holding vast continuous territories.

Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections

  • Time Period: 1450-1750 AD (Exam Weight: 12%-15%)
  • Content: Exploration of maritime exploration advancements, development of new oceanic empires, and the impact of new cross-cultural interactions.

Unit 5: Revolutions

  • Time Period: 1750-1900 AD (Exam Weight: 12%-15%)
  • Content: Exploration of new political ideas and technological developments and their resulting large-scale changes in government, society, and the economy.

Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization

  • Time Period: 1750-1900 AD (Exam Weight: 12%-15%)
  • Content: How different regions gained and expanded control over colonies and territories.

Unit 7: Global Conflicts

  • Time Period: 1900-Present (Exam Weight: 8%-10%)
  • Content: Dominant global conflicts of this era.

Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization

  • Time Period: 1900-Present (Exam Weight: 8%-10%)
  • Content: Colonies’ pursuit of independence and global power struggles between capitalism and communism.

Unit 9: Globalization

  • Time Period: 1900-Present (Exam Weight: 8%-10%)
  • Content: Causes and consequences of unprecedented connectivity in the modern world.
3. Exam Dates and Structure

AP World History:

  • Date: Wed, May 15, 2024 at 8:00 AM
  • Duration: 3 hours and 15 minutes

AP U.S. History:

  • Date: Fri, May 10, 2024 at 8:00 AM
  • Duration: 3 hours and 15 minutes

Exam Structure (Both AP World History and AP U.S. History):

  • Part I A: Multiple Choice
    • 55 questions, 55 minutes, 40% of the total score
  • Part I B: Short Answer
    • 3 questions, 40 minutes, 20% of the total score
  • Part II: Free Response
    • 2 questions, 1 hour and 40 minutes, 40% of the total score
4. What is the difference between AP US History and AP World History?

Many students ask about the difference between AP US History and AP World History. The difference between the two courses lies in its course theme and focus. AP US History focuses on American identity, political institutions, social structures, economic development, and cultural changes within the United States, while AP World History instead explores global themes such as trade, migration, cultural diffusion, political systems, and societal developments across different regions and time periods. The focus on US History in APUSH allows for an in-depth exploration and detailed analysis of key events, documents, and historical figures, as opposed to AP World History which covers a broader range of historical content and asks students to analyze trends and developments in a more comparative and generalized manner.

5. Is AP World harder than AP US History?

Many students ask us which subject is harder, AP World or AP US History? The difficulty of AP World History versus AP U.S. History is subjective, and depends on individual preferences and strengths. Some argue that AP World History is more challenging due to its comprehensive coverage of global events and the unfamiliarity of the content for many students. It is often the first AP class for high school students, so it’s definitely challenging for newcomers who aren’t familiar with the syllabus and method of studying. Additionally, the more in-depth nature of APUSH is considered to be more challenging for some students. On the other hand, some contend that AP U.S. History may be perceived as less difficult because it delves into topics like the American Revolution, which are more familiar to American students. Additionally, AP U.S. History is often considered more practically useful, as it is a common requirement for various degrees.

6. Score Distribution

After reviewing the exam information, some students may wonder which exam—AP U.S. History or AP World History—is easier. Looking at the 2023 data, the probability of obtaining a score of 5 was 10.6% for AP U.S. History and 15.3% for AP World History. Both rates are not very high, emphasizing the challenging nature of AP history exams.

2023 Score Distribution:

Subject5 Points4 Points3 Points2 Points1 Point
AP U.S. History10.6%14.8%22.1%22.7%29.8%
AP World History15.3%21.9%27.4%22.3%13%
7. So, Which Course Should I Choose?

With the knowledge that both of these courses are known to be difficult, you should decide based on your personal needs or preferences. If you plan to go into a college major in an international field, for example, AP World History might be far more useful. However, if you are planning to go into a major involving domestic politics, APUSH would be the correct choice.

If you are not planning to go into a field that makes one course have obvious benefits over the other, you should instead consider the different scopes of study. If you prefer a more in-depth study of topics, APUSH might be the obvious choice. But, if you instead prefer a more general study of global issues, AP World History would likely be more up your alley.

If neither of these are important factors for you, your decision could be based upon which realms of history you are most interested in. In this case, those interested in US History would be more inclined towards APUSH, whereas those more interested in global history would be more inclined towards AP World History.

Regardless of which course you choose, make sure that you are doing your best to prepare for your AP exams

8. Prepare for APUSH and AP World History with Aralia Education

With the knowledge that both of these courses are known to be difficult, you should decide based on your personal needs or preferences. If you plan to go into a college major in an international field, for example, AP World History might be far more useful. However, if you are planning to go into a major involving domestic politics, APUSH would be the correct choice.

If you are not planning to go into a field that makes one course have obvious benefits over the other, you should instead consider the different scopes of study. If you prefer a more in-depth study of topics, APUSH might be the obvious choice. But, if you instead prefer a more general study of global issues, AP World History would likely be more up your alley.

If neither of these are important factors for you, your decision could be based upon which realms of history you are most interested in. In this case, those interested in US History would be more inclined towards APUSH, whereas those more interested in global history would be more inclined towards AP World History.

Regardless of which course you choose, make sure that you are doing your best to prepare for your AP exams

Aralia's Courses

For students seeking comprehensive preparation for APUSH and AP World History exams, Aralia Education offers specialized courses designed to enhance historical understanding, analytical skills, and exam performance. With experienced instructors and a tailored curriculum, Aralia Education provides students with the tools and resources they need to succeed in these challenging courses. Prepare for academic excellence and unlock your potential with Aralia Education’s APUSH and AP World History classes! 

ap united states history
AP United States History

In AP United States History (APUSH), students will review key content concepts and course objectives through answering long essay questions (LEQs), document-based question essays (DBQs), and short answer questions (SAQs). Furthermore, students will practice using historical thinking skills by answering multiple-choice questions and providing written responses.

ap world history
AP World History

This is a big step in your life, taking an Advanced Placement class that covers an array of historical context. One thing you need to know, the class will not be easy, but you can absolutely do it if you work hard and put in the effort. Your teacher will be here for you along the way to help guide you through the process and learn all of the necessary information and skills needed to do well in your AP class and on the AP Exam.

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