Last-Minute AP U.S. History Exam Study Tips

Make the most of the time you have left preparing for the AP U.S. History (APUSH) exam with our last-minute study tips. Ideally, you’ve been preparing for the exam as you take your APUSH course and have spent the last month or two ramping up your studies. If you haven’t already, it’s important to review the question types on the APUSH exam as well as our best strategies for earning a “5” on the AP U.S. history exam. If you’re looking for a more in-depth overview of the exam, check out our ultimate guide on how to study for the APUSH exam.

With test day just around the corner, here’s what you need to know in the weeks leading up to the AP U.S. History exam, including a 7-day study schedule to help you maximize your last-minute test prep. 

The Week Before the AP U.S. History Exam

The week before you take the APUSH exam can be stressful, and it’s important to spend the time you have left wisely. Instead of cramming, review high-level ideas and test-taking strategies. At this point, you shouldn’t be learning any new information, but rather reviewing concepts and ideas you have already studied in your APUSH class. Below is a last-minute study schedule you can follow for the days leading up to the APUSH exam.

AP U.S. History 7-Day Study Schedule

  • Day 1: Take a practice test to see where you stand and U.S. history themes.
  • Day 2: Review period 1 & essential tips for earning a “5” on the APUSH exam 
  • Day 3: Review periods 2 & 3 (1607-1800)
  • Day 4: Review periods 4 & 5 (1800-1877)
  • Day 5: Review periods 6 & 7 (1865-1945)
  • Day 6: Review periods 8 & 9 (1945-present)
  • Day 7: Take one last practice test before the exam to see your progress!

What to Bring & What Not to Bring to the AP U.S. History Exam

The night before you take the APUSH exam, gather your approved test day materials. There is a strictly enforced list of items you can and cannot bring into the exam room, so be sure to consult the official list as you pack for exam day.

What to Bring to the AP U.S. History Exam

  • No. 2 pencils with erasers for your multiple-choice answer sheet
  • Pens with black or blue ink to answer free-response questions
  • A current government-issued or school-issued photo ID
  • A watch that does not have internet access and does not make noise or have an alarm
  • College Board SSD Student Accommodation Letter if you are taking the test with approved testing accommodations
  • The AP® Student Pack which is given to you right before the exam and contains a label you’ll need to place on your exam booklet.

What Not to Bring to the AP U.S. History Exam

  • Electronic equipment, such as cell phones or laptops
  • Watches that beep, have an alarm, or have wifi, such as a smartwatch
  • Books, dictionaries, highlighters, or notes
  • Scratch paper (notes can be made on portions of the exam booklets)
  • Food or drink
  • Clothing or shoes with subject-related information
  • Earplugs
  • Clipboards

Visit AP Central on the College Board website for more information on what to bring to the exam room.

AP U.S. History Exam Test Day

Today’s the day! All of your hard work and studying is about to pay off. Kickstart your APUSH exam test day by following our checklist.

AP U.S. History Test Day Checklist

  • Rise & shine. No hitting the snooze button today! Wake up on time so you don’t feel rushed during your morning routine.
  • Dress for success. Wear layers so you’ll be comfortable no matter what the temperature is like in your exam room. Remember – no clothes or shoes with subject-related information on them. 
  • Eat a good breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. You’ll need to keep your energy levels up while you’re taking the exam, so eating a solid breakfast is key. Choose something with protein if you can, and don’t over-caffeinate. 
  • Wake up your brain. No last-minute cramming, but a quick last-minute review of your notes will help you get you in the right mindset before you take the exam.
  • Remember your test day materials. Don’t forget your bag filled with your approved test day materials. If you bring water and a snack, you’ll have to leave them outside the exam room. 
  • Arrive early. It’s never a bad idea to get to the test center early so you can choose a good seat and don’t feel rushed before the exam starts.
  • Stay calm & confident. Take a few deep breaths before the exam starts, or say a calming mantra. Remember how much work you’ve put into studying, and be proud of all you’ve accomplished. You are ready to ace the APUSH exam!

During the AP U.S. History Exam 

It’s just important to know how to take the APUSH exam as it is to study what it covers. You have limited time to complete each section, so working through the exam efficiently and effectively is essential. Below we outline some test-taking tips and tricks to help you maximize your APUSH score.

AP U.S. History Test-Taking Tips

Keep in mind these test-taking tips and strategies as you take the APUSH exam.

  • Pace yourself. You only have so much time to complete each section of the exam. Bring a watch with you and try to work at a steady pace. You have about a minute for each question. This means that you cannot get hung up on difficult questions. If the answer does not immediately come to you, make a notation in the test book and come back to it if you have time. Make sure you leave yourself time to get to all the questions.
  • Keep in mind historical neutrality. Try to avoid using the words “us,” “our,” and “we” when discussing the United States. Refer to the United States in a neutral manner. Strong exam essays should be intellectually engaged but not emotionally invested in a particular outcome or position. Such personal investment tends to undermine one’s argument.
  • Take an educated guess. You are no longer penalized for incorrect answers on the APUSH exam, so when in doubt, make an educated guess.It’s better to answer ALL the questions than to leave any blank.
  • Pay attention to how questions are worded. While it’s important to work at a steady pace to complete all the questions in time, you don’t want to misinterpret a question that’s designed to trick you. For example, make sure you know if a multiple-choice question is asking whether something is or is not. This makes a big difference when you select an answer.

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