AP World History Exam Information

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

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China. Marianna / Flickr

World History is a popular Advanced Placement subject, and in 2017 nearly 300,000 students took the AP World History exam. Many colleges have a history requirement as part of their general education programs, and a high score on the exam will often fulfill the requirement and qualify students to take upper-level history courses.

About the AP World History Course and Exam

AP World History is designed to cover the material one would encounter in a two-semester introductory-level college world history course, although the reality is that very few colleges will award two semesters of credit for the course. The course is broad and covers important people and events from 8000 B.C.E to the present. Students learn to make historical arguments and historical comparisons, and they learn how to analyze and write about both primary and secondary sources. Students study how to contextualize historical events, and how to understand cause and effect in relation to historical phenomena.

The course can be broken down into five broad themes:

  • The ways that humans have been shaped by the environment as well as the way that humans have affected and transformed the environment.
  • The rise and interaction of different cultures, and the ways that religions and various belief systems have molded societies over time.
  • Issues of state including the study of agrarian, pastoral, and mercantile states, as well as the ideological foundations of governing systems such as religion and nationalism. Students also study types of states such as autocracies and democracies, and conflicts and wars between states.
  • Economic systems including their creation, expansion, and interaction. Students study agricultural and industrial systems as well as systems of labor including free labor and coerced labor.
  • Social structures within human societies including those based on kinship, ethnicity, gender, race, and wealth. Students will study have different social groups are created, sustained, and transformed.

Along with the five themes, AP World History can be broken down into six historical periods:

Name of Time Period Date Range Weight on Exam
Technological and Environmental Transformation 8000 to 600 B.C.E. 5 percent
Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies 600 B.C.E to 600 C.E. 15 percent
Regional and Interregional Interactions 600 C.E. to 1450 20 percent
Global Interactions 1450 to 1750 20 percent
Industrialization and Global Integration 1750 to 1900 20 percent
Accelerating Global Change and Realignments 1900 to the Present 20 percent

AP World History Exam Score Information

In 2017, 298,475 students took the Advanced Placement World History exam. The mean score was a 2.76. 55 percent of students received a score of 3 or higher, meaning they might qualify for college credit or course placement.

The distribution of scores for the AP World History exam is as follows (2017 data):

  • 5 - 8.5 percent
  • 4 - 19.9 percent
  • 3 - 26.7 percent
  • 2 - 29.6 percent
  • 1 - 15.4 percent

College Credit Course Placement for AP World History

Most colleges and universities have a history requirement and/or a global perspectives requirement, so a high score on the AP World History exam will sometimes fulfill one or both of these requirements.

The table below presents some representative data from a variety of colleges and universities. This information is meant to provide a general overview of the scoring and placement practices related to the AP World History exam. For other schools, you'll need to search the college's website or contact the appropriate Registrar's office to get AP placement information.

AP World History Scores and Placement
College Score Needed Placement Credit
Georgia Tech 4 or 5 1000-level history (3 semester hours)
LSU 4 or 5 HIST 1007 (3 credits)
MIT 5 9 general elective units
Notre Dame 5 History 10030 (3 credits)
Reed College 4 or 5 1 credit; no placement
Stanford University - no credit or placement for the AP World History exam
Truman State University 3, 4 or 5 HIST 131 World Civilizations before 500 A.D. (3 credits) for a 3 or 4; HIST 131 World Civilizations before 500 A.D. and HIST 133 World Civilizations, 1700-Present (6 credits) for a 5
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3, 4 or 5 8 credits and World History placement
Yale University - no credit or placement for the AP World History exam

A Final Word on AP World History

Keep in mind that college placement isn't the only reason to take AP World History. Selective colleges and universities typically rank an applicant's academic record as the most important factor in the admissions process. Extracurricular activities and essays matter, but good grades in challenging classes matter more. The admissions folks will want to see good grades in college preparatory classes. Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate (IB), Honors, and Dual Enrollment classes all play an important role in demonstrating an applicant's college readiness. In fact, success in challenging courses is the best predictor of college success available to the admissions officers. SAT and ACT scores have some predictive value, but the thing they best predict is the income of the applicant.

If you're trying to figure out which AP classes to take, World History is often a good choice. It is a popular exam ranking below just five subjects: Calculus, English Language, English Literature, Psychology, and United States History. Colleges like to admit students who have broad, worldly knowledge, and World History certainly helps demonstrate that knowledge.

To learn more specific information about the AP World History exam, be sure to visit the official College Board website.