The Advanced Placement U.S. History exam will be administered around the country in just one week (on May 14). And as you may know, it’s the last year the test will appear in its current format—for 2014-15, the College Board is redesigning both the course and the exam.
The new curriculum will be more specific about which historical details teachers need to cover, rather than simply stating how much weight they should give to a particular historical period. As the FAQ page on the College Board website states, the previous “lack of specificity put pressure on many teachers (who were uncertain of what might appear on the AP exam) to attempt cover every detail of American history.” (No small feat!)
The changes also aim to align the course more closely to college credit requirements and will emphasize “historical thinking skills,” such as “chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, [and] crafting historical arguments using historical evidence.” Does any of this sound familiar yet? Focus, emphasis on critical thinking, textual evidence, college readiness ... . Yes, sounds a lot like the goals of the Common Core State Standards. Sure enough, here’s the answer to the next question, straight from the FAQ:
As we reported in March, the College Board is also redesigning its flagship assessment, the SAT. The changes there are quite similar to the ones described above, including an emphasis on citing evidence and coverage of fewer topics. They’ll reflect the common standards, too—which College Board president David Coleman helped write.
In fact, the AP European History and AP Art History programs are changing, too, and in similar ways. The new exams for those will come out for spring 2016. (You can see a list of all the new AP revisions here.)
As for the AP History exam format, here’s how next year’s will compare to the one next week:
You’ll notice that there will be fewer multiple-choice questions and more writing. That’s not unlike the common-core-aligned tests, which are currently still field-testing.
In the meantime, students and teachers preparing for next week’s test might want to browse these videos on the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s website. Some are mainly motivational and offer logistical tips, as in “dress comfortably” for the test and “have a quiet, early evening” beforehand. (There are so many tips provided, in fact, that they might not be great for already anxious students.) Other videos include short interviews with historians on core concepts in U.S. history that are likely to show up on the exam. There’s also a sheet with essential questions for teaching U.S. history, which, based on the comments, teachers seem to love. It’s all free, though you may have to register for some resources.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.