AP World History is a fascinating survey of the evolution of human civilization from 1200 CE to the present. Because it spans almost 1,000 years and covers massive changes in power, culture, and technology across the globe, it might seem like an overwhelming amount of info to remember for one test.
This article will help you organize your studying by
providing links to online AP World History notes and advice on how to use these notes
to structure and execute a successful study plan.
2021 AP Test Changes Due to COVID-19
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, AP tests will now be held over three different sessions between May and June.
Your test dates, and whether or not your tests will be online or on paper, will depend on your school. To learn more about how all of this is going to work and get the latest information on test dates, AP online review, and what these changes means for you, be sure to check out
our 2021 AP COVID-19 FAQ article
How to Use These AP World History Notes
The notes in this article will help you review all the information you need to know for the AP World History exam.
If you are missing any notes from class or just looking for a more organized run-through of the curriculum, you can use this guide as a reference.
During your first semester of AP World History, study the content in the notes that your class has already covered.
I’d recommend conducting a holistic review of everything you’ve learned so far about once a month
so that you don’t start to forget information from the beginning of the course.
In the second semester, after you’ve made it through most of the course, you should
use these notes in conjunction with practice tests
Taking (realistically timed) practice tests will help verify that you’ve absorbed the information.
After each test, assess your mistakes and take note of where you came up short. Then,
focus your studying on the notes that are most relevant to your weak content areas
. Once you feel more confident, take and score another practice test to see whether you’ve improved. You can repeat this process until you’re satisfied with your scores!
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Background: AP World History Themes and Units
Before we dive into the content of the AP World History test, it’s important to note that the exam underwent
some significant changes in the 2019-20 school year
From now on, the test will focus on the modern era (1200 CE to the present)
, covering a much smaller period of time. As such, its name has been changed to
AP World History: Modern
(a World History: Ancient course and exam are currently in development).
Other than this major content change, the format of the exam will remain the same (since 2018).
Now then, what exactly is tested on AP World History? Both the course and exam are divided into six themes and nine units.
Here are the current World History themes:
- Theme 1: Humans and the Environment
- Theme 2: Cultural Developments and Interactions
- Theme 3: Governance
- Theme 4: Economic Systems
- Theme 5: Social Interactions and Organization
- Theme 6: Technology and Innovation
here are the units
as well as how much of the test they make up, percentage-wise:
AP World History Unit
% of Exam
|Unit 1: The Global Tapestry||1200-1450||8-10%|
|Unit 2: Networks of Exchange||8-10%|
|Unit 3: Land-Based Empires||1450-1750||12-15%|
|Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections||12-15%|
|Unit 5: Revolutions||1750-1900||12-15%|
|Unit 6: Consequences of Industrialization||12-15%|
|Unit 7: Global Conflict||1900-present||8-10%|
|Unit 8: Cold War and Decolonization||8-10%|
|Unit 9: Globalization||8-10%|
You should examine all content through the lens of these themes and units.
AP World History is mostly about identifying large trends that occur over long periods of time. In the next section, I’ll go through the different time periods covered in the curriculum, with links to online notes.
Much like these gentlemen, AP World History is very trendy. Except AP World History would never wear that godawful scarf.
AP World History Notes
The following AP World History notes are organized by rough time period.
Most of the notes come from
, which has detailed outlines that go over every chapter from the fourth edition of the textbook
World Civilizations: The Global Experience
I’ve also included links to notes that cover broader thematic concepts
, which I’ve labeled as “overall notes” at the beginning of each of these sections.
Unfortunately, these notes still follow the old course curriculum
in that they cover thousands of years of human history and not merely the modern era. As a result, don’t expect the new World History themes and units to align directly with what’s on the CourseNotes website.
One of the biggest issues with these notes is that
it can be hard to pick out key concepts
. There are no bold terms or summaries at the ends of the outlines. If you need a more engaging format to hold your attention, I suggest buying a
World History review book
instead or printing out the notes so you can highlight important points.
Background Information: 600 CE to 1450
While the new AP World History: Modern exam technically only covers as far back as 1200 CE, it’s a good idea to
give yourself basic background knowledge
on what happened around the world in the few hundred years or so before then. Once you get to the notes that start around 1200 CE, pay more attention, as this content will likely show up on the exam.
Textbook Chapter Notes
The Rise and Spread of Islam
Abbasid Decline and the Spread of Islamic Civilization to South and Southeast Asia
African Civilizations and the Spread of Islam
Civilization in Eastern Europe: Byzantium and Orthodox Europe
A New Civilization Emerges in Western Europe
The Americas on the Eve of Invasion
Chinese Reunification and Renaissance
Spread of Chinese Civilization in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam
Mongolian Civilization and the Last Great Nomadic Challenges
The West and the Changing World Balance
Early Modern Period: 1450 to 1750
Textbook Chapter Notes
The Modern Era: 1750 to 1914
Textbook Chapter Notes
1914 to Present
Textbook Chapter Notes
You can also check out
these helpful mini-outlines on each world region
. They give you the status of each region at different periods in history in the areas of politics, economics, social class/gender, scientific advances, art and culture, empire, and religion.
Ah, the earth is such a beautiful and historic place!
AP World History Exam: 4 Essential Study Tips
Here are a few study tips that will help you prepare strategically for the AP World History exam. In addition to these tidbits of advice, you can
check out this article with a longer list of the best study tips for this class
#1: We All Scream for Historical Themes
I’m sure you’ve been screaming with delight throughout your entire reading of this article because the themes are so thrilling. Seriously, though, they’re super important for doing well on the final exam. Knowledge of specific facts about different empires and regions throughout history will be of little use on the test if you can’t weave that information together to construct a larger narrative.
As you look through the notes,
think carefully about how everything connects back to the six major themes of the course
For example, if you’re reading about the expansion of long-distance trade networks in the early modern period, you might start to think about how these new exchanges impacted the natural environment (theme 1).
If you get into this mode of thinking early, you’ll have an easier time writing high-quality essays on the final exam.
#2: Practice Outlining Essays (Especially the DBQ)
It’s critical to write well-organized, coherent essays on the World History test
, but statistics indicate that a large majority of students struggle with this aspect of the exam.
from the DBQ scoring looked like this:
- 79% of students earned the thesis point
- 30% of students earned the contextualization point
- Evidence: 11% of students earned all 3 evidence points; 41% earned 2 points; 40% earned 1 point; 8% earned 0 points
- Analysis & Reasoning: 2% earned 2 points; 15% earned 1 point; 83% earned 0 points
So clearly, it can be tough to do well on the DBQ. However, I guarantee you can
score well on the DBQ
and other essay questions
consistently practice writing outlines
that follow the instructions and stay focused on the main topic. Try to become a pro at planning out your ideas by the time the exam rolls around.
#3: Know Your Chronology
You don’t need to memorize a ton of exact dates, but
need to be aware of the basic order in which major events happened in each region of the world
. If someone tells you the name of an empire or dynasty, you should know which centuries it was active and what caused its rise and fall.
Pay attention to the overall developments that occurred in world history during each period designated by the course.
What types of contact were made between different regions? Where were trading networks established? What were the dominant powers?
Multiple-choice and essay questions will ask you to focus on certain time periods and regions, so you should know the gist of what was going on at any given juncture.
#4: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
necessary to know the names of every single region in a particular empire and the exact dates when they were conquered.
You’re not expected to have a photographic memory. AP World History is mostly about broad themes.
You should still include a few specific details in your essays to back up your main points, but that’s not nearly as important as showing a deep understanding of the progression of human history on a larger scale.
Don’t let yourself get to this point. In terms of sweating the small stuff, I mean. You can do crunches while you study if you want. Maybe you can create your own smash hit training program that helps people exercise and study for AP tests at the same time, and you’ll be so rich you won’t even have to go to college. You’re welcome.
Conclusion: How to Study With AP World History Notes
A well-organized set of notes can help ground your studying for AP World History. With so much content to cover, it’s best to
selectively revisit different portions of the course based on where you find the largest gaps in your knowledge
. You can decide what you need to study based on which content areas cause you the most trouble on practice tests.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while studying the above AP World History notes:
- Connect facts back to the themes
- Practice writing essay outlines
- Know the basic chronology of events
- Don’t worry too much about small details
If you meticulously comb through your mistakes and regularly practice your essay-writing skills, you’ll be on the right track to a great AP World History score!
What’s a document-based question? How do you write a good response?
Read this article to
learn more about the most challenging question on the AP World History test
If you’re taking AP World History during your freshman or sophomore year, check out this article for
some advice on which history classes you should take
for the rest of your time in high school.
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