AP U.S. History Exam Information

Learn What Score You'll Need and What Course Credit You'll Receive

President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial

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United States History is the second most popular Advanced Placement topic (after English Language), and over half a million students take the exam every year. With the exception of a few elite schools, most colleges and universities will award college credit for a score of 4 or 5 on the AP U.S. History exam. 

About the AP U.S. History Exam

The AP U.S. History exam takes 3 hours and 15 minutes. The time is broken down into a 95-minute section of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, and a 100-minute free-response section in which students write two essays. The exam covers the history of the United States from 1491 to the present.

With 501,530 test-takers in 2018, the exam is the second most popular of all AP subjects. By comparison, 303,243 students took the AP World History Exam, and just 101,740 students took the AP European History Exam.

The Advanced Placement United States History course and exam cover seven broad themes:

  • American and National Identity. This theme includes topics such as foreign policy, citizenship, and constitutionalism. Students need to understand how American national identity and American exceptionalism developed.
  • Politics and Power. This broad theme covers the development and evolution of different political and social groups over time.
  • Work, Exchange, and Technology. With this theme, students need to understand how systems of economic exchange have developed including the ways that technology has affected those systems. 
  • Culture and Society. This theme includes a wide range of topics such as important artistic and scientific ideas, the relationship between religious groups and politics, and the evolving place of gender and race in United States history.
  • Migration and Settlement. The United States is a country composed largely of immigrants, and this theme covers everything from colonial settlement, later immigration trends, and internal migration. 
  • Geography and Environment. With this theme, students need to understand how the geography and natural resources of North America have affected both social and political developments in the U.S.
  • American and the World. The final theme focuses on the evolving relationship between the United States and world affairs.

AP United States History Score Information

Advanced Placement exams are scored using a five-point scale. The mean score for the U.S. History exam was a 2.66 in 2018, almost unchanged from 2017. 51.8% of students scored a 3 or higher indicating that they might qualify for college credit.

The distribution of scores for the AP U.S. History exam is as follows:

AP United States History Score Percentiles (2018 Data)
Score Number of Students Percentage of Students
5 53,424 10.7
4 92,518 18.4
3 114,067 22.7
2 113,597 22.7
1 127,924 25.5

Reporting of AP exam scores to colleges is usually voluntary, so students who score down in the 1 and 2 range can choose to keep their scores from the admissions folks.

College Credit and Course Placement for AP US History

Many colleges and universities have a history requirement, and a high score on the AP U.S. History exam will sometimes fulfill that requirement.

The table below provides some representative data from a variety of colleges and universities. This information is meant to provide a general overview of the scoring and placement information related to the AP US History exam. For other colleges, you'll need to check the school's website or contact the appropriate Registrar's office to get AP placement information. You'll also want to check with the schools below to make sure you are getting the most up-to-date information.

AP U.S. History Scores and Placement
College Score Needed Placement Credit
Hamilton College 4 or 5 1 semester credit toward general requirements
Grinnell College 4 or 5 HIS 111 and 112
LSU 3, 4 or 5 HIST 2055 or 2057 (3 credits) for a 3; HIST 2055 and 2057 (6 credits) for a 4 or 5
Mississippi State University 3, 4 or 5 HI 1063 (3 credits) for a 3; HI 1063 and HI 1073 (6 credits) for a 4 or 5
Notre Dame 5 History 10010 (3 credits)
Reed College 4 or 5 1 credit; no placement
Stanford University - No credit for AP U.S. History
Truman State University 3, 4 or 5 HIST 104 (3 credits) for a 3 or 4; HIST 104 and HIST 105 for a 5
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3, 4 or 5 8 credits; fulfills American History requirement
Yale University - No credit for AP U.S. History

A Final Word About AP U.S. History

If you're a senior taking AP United States History, you obviously won't have a test score in time for college applications. Nevertheless, the course will still help you in the college admissions process. The admissions officers want to see that you have taken the most challenging courses available to you, and Advanced Placement can play a meaningful role on that front, especially if you have strong grades from the first marking period.

Finally, don't be discouraged if you received an exam score that doesn't earn you college credit. Your efforts haven't been wasted, for taking AP classes helps prepare you for college-level courses and will help you succeed in college.

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Grove, Allen. "AP U.S. History Exam Information." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/ap-us-history-score-information-786952. Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). AP U.S. History Exam Information. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-us-history-score-information-786952 Grove, Allen. "AP U.S. History Exam Information." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-us-history-score-information-786952 (accessed June 6, 2023).