Ultimate Guide to the AP African American Studies Exam
- What Does the AP African American Studies Exam Cover?
- AP African American Studies Course Content
- How Long Is the AP African American Studies Exam? What Is the Format?
- Best Ways to Study for the AP African American Studies Exam
- How AP Classes Impact Your College Chances
AP African American Studies is a pilot course that is simultaneously being offered and being developed. Unlike many other AP courses, AP African American Studies is profoundly interdisciplinary. Students delve into literature, politics, geography, and even science with the ultimate goal of understanding the varied, impressive, and intense experiences of African Americans.
Because this is a new exam that covers a wide range of content, you may be experiencing some anxiety about not knowing what to expect. We are here to walk you through what to expect on exam day and to give you guidance on how to prepare for the AP African American Studies exam. Read on!
Overview of the AP African American Studies Pilot
The projected timeline for introducing the AP African American Studies exam is as follows:
- 2022-23: First pilot at 60 schools across the country.
- 2023-24: Pilot expands to hundreds of additional high schools.
- Spring 2024: Pilot students take the first AP African American Studies Exams.
- 2024-25: All schools can begin offering AP African American Studies.
- Spring 2025: AP African American Studies Exams available to all students.
What Does the AP African American Studies Exam Cover?
The AP African American Studies exam measures student mastery of specific skills relevant to understanding African American history and experiences. Specifically, the exam tests the following skills:
- Applying disciplinary knowledge
- Source analysis
Applying disciplinary knowledge involves being able to effectively explain developments, patterns, and processes, and how they work in history. Source analysis involves being able to identify and analyze a source’s claims, evidence, and reasoning, as well as its perspective, purpose, context, and audience. Argumentation involves using effective and relevant evidence to identify, infer, and support a claim.
AP African American Studies Course Content
The AP African American Studies course consists of four units, covering African American experiences from diaspora to the present. Below is a look at how the units break down and what percentage of the exam score each constitutes. Further details about these units and the sources students will study in each of them can be found in the AP African American Studies course overview.
AP African American Studies Unit
Topics You May Cover
Percentage of Exam Score
Unit 1: Origins of the African Diaspora
Unit 2: Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance
Unit 3: The Practice of Freedom
Unit 4: Movements and Debates
How Long Is the AP African American Studies Exam? What Is the Format?
The AP African American Studies exam is one of the shorter AP exams. Students sit for the exam for two hours and 30 minutes.
Students’ grades are a result of their performance on three sections:
- 60 multiple choice questions
- 4 free response questions
- 1 project or written argument (completed before sitting for the exam, but turned in with the exam)
Number of Questions
Project: Written Argument**
**The written argument should be 1200-1500 words and students should be given at least 15 instructional hours to complete it.
Multiple Choice Section
On the AP African American Studies exam, the 60 multiple-choice questions are divided into sets of three or four questions that respond to a stimulus. Stimuli are elements like historical primary sources, literary sources, maps and charts, or images of art and architecture.
Up to half of the stimulus materials on the exam will have been seen by students as they work through the required course content. Additionally, four or five of the various sets of questions will ask students to respond to paired stimuli (like two images or a text and an image).
Free Response Section
The free response section consists of four questions. Students are expected to spend 20 minutes on each question. The first free response question asks students about a text-based source, the second free response question asks students about a non-text-based source, and the third and fourth free response questions each ask students to explore a broader thematic topic.
Project or Written Argument
The project or written argument is a unique element of this new exam. Throughout the course—and before the exam—students are expected to select a research topic, conduct research using primary and secondary sources, then develop an evidence-based written argument about their topic. These written arguments are expected to be 1200-1500 words and to engage at least four scholarly sources. Some example topics provided by the College Board include:
- The role of religion in African American resistance to enslavement
- The impact of the G.I. Bill
- The legacy of redlining
- Movements led by Black women: Combahee River Collective and beyond
- The Harlem Renaissance: major works, figures, influences
- Black families in the 20th century
- Medical ethics: The Tuskegee Study; Henrietta Lacks
- Gay life and expression in Black communities
Best Ways to Study for the AP African American Studies Exam
Step 1: Assess Your Skills
Taking a formative assessment or diagnostic assessment is a good way to begin your exam preparation process. If you know where you are, you can find out where you need to go. Formative assessments provide insight into areas of strength and areas for improvement that then will guide your studying process.
While no practice exams for the AP African American Studies exam are available just yet, come Winter/Spring 2024, the College Board should be posting examples.
Step 2: Study the Material
When you take your formative assessment, some areas needing improvement will surely emerge. These may be content related—such as not fully understanding the events of the Civil Rights Movement or being confused about the order of events during the Nadir. On the other hand, especially for this exam, these might be form related. For example, you might be outstanding at analyzing historical primary sources, but perhaps understanding the arguments of images and propaganda causes you trouble.
Once you identify the areas you struggle with, paying attention to both content trends and format trends, then you’ll know where to start your studying.
Make use of all the resources you have available to you as you study. These could include commercial study guides or materials other AP African American Studies teachers have posted for free online.
Step 3: Practice Multiple Choice Questions
The great news about the multiple choice questions on this exam is that you have access to many of the stimuli that you will be asked about. The College Board guarantees that up to half of the sets of multiple questions will be asking about stimuli that are included in the required course materials.
This means that it is of the utmost importance that you study the required course materials and understand the arguments, context, purpose, and audience of every graph, image, and text that comes up throughout the course.
To prepare for the sets of questions about unfamiliar stimuli, find your own external stimuli that relate to the course content and develop questions about them. When taking a test like the AP African American Studies exam—a test interested in how you think—developing your own practice questions can be just as helpful as answering those presented to you.
Step 4: Practice Free Response Questions
The most important thing in the free response section is clearly and effectively communicating your argument in a way that is digestible to an AP reader. Because of this, as you practice free response questions, it’s important to let others read your answers.
Ask your friends, family, classmates, and teachers where you could be more clear or where you need to expand on your thinking. Too many students lose points in the free response section due to ineffective or insufficient communication. When you practice free response questions, you should not focus simply on identifying an image’s purpose correctly or a text’s argument correctly, but should focus also on communicating how you made that identification.
Step 5: Take Another Practice Test
Taking another practice test will show you how far you’ve come since you began studying. Comparing your two practice tests will reveal patterns, which should tell you where to focus your energy as you continue studying.
Step 6: Exam Day Specifics
If you’re taking the AP course associated with this exam, your teacher will walk you through how to register. If you’re self-studying, check out our blog post How to Self-Register for AP Exams.
For information about what to bring to the exam, see our post What Should I Bring to My AP Exam (And What Should I Definitely Leave at Home)?
How AP Classes Impact Your College Chances
AP scores are not required when applying for college, and even if you submit them, the impact on your application is small. That said, the number of AP courses you take and the grades you get in them can have a big impact on your chances of acceptance, as colleges care a lot about your academic rigor.
CollegeVine makes it easy to understand the impact of your AP classes with our free Admissions Calculator. We’ll let you know how your coursework stacks up compared to accepted students at your dream schools, plus give you tips to improve your profile.