The AP program in United States History is designed to provide students with the analytical skills and enduring understandings necessary to deal critically with the problems and materials in United States history. The program prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by making demands upon them equivalent to those made by full-year introductory college courses. Students should learn to assess historical materials—their relevance to a given interpretive problem, their reliability, and their importance—and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. An AP United States History course should thus develop the skills necessary to arrive at conclusions on the basis of an informed judgment and to present reasons and evidence clearly and persuasively in an essay format.

The exam is 3 hours and 5 minutes in length and consists of two sections: a 55-minute multiple-choice section and a 130-minute free-response section. The free-response section begins with a mandatory 15-minute reading period. Students are advised to spend most of the 15 minutes analyzing the documents and planning their answer to the document-based essay question (DBQ) in Part A. Suggested writing time for the DBQ is 45 minutes.Parts B and C each include two standard essay questions that, with the DBQ, cover the period from the first European explorations of the Americas to the present. Students are required to answer one essay question in each part in a total of 70 minutes. For each of the essay questions students choose to answer in Parts B and C, it is suggested they spend 5 minutes planning and 30 minutes writing.Both the multiple-choice and the free-response sections cover the period from the first European explorations of the Americas to the present, although a majority of questions are on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.