Top 5 Study Tips for the AP World History: Modern Exam

September 15, 2022

The AP World History: Modern exam is one of the most challenging AP exams you can take. According to data from the College Board, less than 10% of test-takers earned a top score of 5 in 2021. While achieving a high score on this AP exam is difficult, doing so is a huge accomplishment and looks great on your college applications, impressing even the most competitive schools. To maximize your score, you’ll need to study effectively and review strategies and advice from exam experts. Below are five tips curated by our experts on how you can not only pass the AP World History: Modern exam but earn a top score of 5.

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AP World History Study Tip #1: Know the course themes.

Factual knowledge is important, but memorization is not enough to earn a 5 on the AP World History: Modern exam. To succeed on this AP exam, you need to consider how the facts fit into broader contexts addressed by the official course themes. The multiple-choice and essay questions are designed this way, so having an in-depth understanding of the themes is essential. As a reminder, the official AP World History: Modern themes are: governance; cultural developments and interactions; technology and innovation; economic systems; social interactions and organization; and humans and the environment.

AP World History Study Tip #2: Understand historiography.

Historiography is the study of how historians think and write about history. When studying for the AP World History: Modern exam, it’s important to practice the skill of thinking like a historian. Keep in mind questions like: What sources and documents do historians use as evidence, and how do they evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and biases of that evidence? And how do historians determine what causes a major event or development? Some of the multiple-choice questions on the exam will ask you to analyze images, quotations, and excerpts from historical writing. The goal of the document-based question (DBQ) on the AP World History: Modern exam is to test your ability to think like an historian.

AP World History Study Tip #3: Remember your rubrics. 

Essay writing is an art and a science; even the most beautifully written essays will score poorly if they do not follow the guidelines. To maximize your score on the AP World History: Modern’s essay section, review the exam’s grading system so you know what AP readers will be looking for when reviewing your essays. Focus on crafting a good thesis statement and presenting evidence effectively. The extra points you can earn in the essay section make the difference between getting a 4 on the AP World History: Modern exam or earning a top score of 5.

AP World History Study Tip #4: “How” and “why” (and “how are they alike?”) are more important than “who” and “when.”

Mastery of facts, like names and dates, can earn you extra points on essay questions and boost your score on multiple-choice questions. However, this AP exam is more likely to emphasize how things were done or why they happened, rather than who did them and when. Earning a top score on the AP World History: Modern exam requires you to go beyond surface-level thinking and demonstrate a deeper understanding of history. Causes and their effects matter greatly, and always consider how it compares with similar topics in other times and places. If you can demonstrate this deeper level of understanding, earning a score of 5 is within reach.

AP World History Study Tip #5: Focus on interactions.

Interaction is a topic of significant interest during the AP World History: Modern course and exam. As you study, pay close attention to interactions between historical periods. Note that interaction can take place on several levels - local, regional, interregional, and global - and in many forms. The ability to identify and discuss historical interactions will help differentiate you from other exam takers and boost your AP World History: Modern test score.

[ KEEP READING: Get more study tips in our guide on how to study for the AP World History: Modern exam. ]