How Hard is AP World History?

If you are looking for the answer to – Is AP World History hard – the short answer is that it is a rigorous and intellectually challenging high school course. AP (advanced placement) World History: Modern class is not easy, and it is all about exploring the complexities of world history at an accelerated, college-level pace. Also, it covers everything for various time periods, from the very first civilizations to the modern era. Further, the course examines different parts of the world and ideas in history, examining various regions, societies, and themes.

Moreover, it will improve your critical thinking skills, especially how you analyze and research things. Getting a high score is a big challenge because there is so much to learn.

However, how tough it is can be different for each person. Some students might find it very hard, while others might not see it as difficult. It depends on your interests and what you are good at.

The best part. If you do well in this AP Exam, it can be super helpful for college! Advanced placement classes like this one can get you college credit. It gives you a head start in your college classes because you will already be familiar with complex historical concepts. Plus, colleges like it when they see that you took Advanced placement courses because it shows you are ready for the challenges of college. So, even though it is a challenge, it can open many doors for your future!

Read on, explore the course, and understand – Is AP World History hard? Further, discover how to succeed and set yourself up for a great college future!

How Hard is AP World History?

What does the AP World History Course & Exam Format include?

Understanding the format of the AP World History exam is crucial for success as well. Also, it helps to understand – Is AP World History hard for you? The Advanced Placement World History course details and the previous years’ practice tests can give you an idea of the subject’s difficulty.

On the other hand, if you find it interesting, it may not be that challenging for you. The exam is divided into two main sections:


Course Synopsis & Skills To Learn
In this course, you will explore the history of the world from 1200 CE to today. You will learn by studying texts, visual sources, and other historical proof, and you will express your historical ideas. It covers everything from cultural, economic, and political to social developments.

Skills You Gain

● Checking Sources: Primary & Secondary

● Develop the ability to examine the claims, evidence, and reasoning presented in sources.

● Capacity to contextualize historical events and draw connections

● Create historical claims or theses & get skilled in expressing and supporting these claims through clear       and persuasive writing.

Course Content
1 The Global Tapestry (c. 1200–c. 1450)
  • Formation, expansion, and decline of states worldwide
  • Exploration of political, social, and cultural developments during this period
2 Networks of Exchange (c. 1200–c. 1450)
  • Connections through global trade
  • The impact of trade networks on people, cultures, and environments
3 Land-Based Empires (c. 1450–c. 1750)
  • Study of empires governing vast contiguous territories
4 Transoceanic Interconnections (c. 1450–c. 1750)
  • Advancements in ocean exploration
  • Development of maritime empires and cross-cultural encounters
5 Revolutions (c. 1750 – c. 1900)
  • Exploration of political ideas and technological developments
  • Effects on governments, societies, and economies
6 Consequences of Industrialization (c. 1750 – c. 1900)
  • Acquisition and expansion of colonies and territories by different states
7 Global Conflict (c. 1900 –present)
  • Study of major global conflicts in this era
8 Cold War and Decolonization (c. 1900 – present)
  • Colonies’ trying to get independence and the power struggle between capitalism & communism internationally
9 Globalization (c. 1900 – present)
  • Causes and effects of modern world connectivity
* Exam weightage differs for each unit of the course content.
  Exam Pattern & Scoring Style
Duration: 3 hours – 15 minutes
  • Section IA: Multiple-Choice Questions (55 Questions) – 40% of Score
    Duration: 55 minutesSection IB: Short Answer Questions (3 Questions) – 20% of Score
    Duration: 40 minutes
  • Section II: Free Response Questions (2 Questions) – 40% of Score

Duration: 1 hour – 40 minutes

– Document-Based Question (DBQ) (1 Hour (including 15 minutes of reading time) – 25% of Score

– Long Essay Question (LEQ) (40 minutes) – 15% of Score

Each exam component focuses on a specific topic, theme, and context to ask about.

*2023-24 Rubric Updates

For the 2023-24 school year, the college board has changed how they score the AP World History: Modern document-based question (DBQ) and long essay question (LEQ).

These changes only apply to how they score the DBQ and LEQ and don’t impact the course or exam. The exam format, what the course covers, and the skills you need for the exam all stay the same.


  • The current course, AP World History: Modern, covers 1200 to the present time period, with the possibility of an AP World History: Ancient course in the future.

Thus, AP World History no longer includes ancient history, as the College Board made changes in 2019 based on feedback and student performance.

  • The exam is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest perfect score. Earning top AP scores requires a balanced performance across both sections, showcasing your mastery of historical content and analytical skills.
  • Many students take this course in their sophomore year and later pursue AP US History. However, is AP World History hard for them? Well, it is more recommended for students in junior year or senior year. Students with robust research, analytical, and communication abilities usually excel in this test, while those with weaker writing skills might find it more challenging. Notably, most of your AP test grade relies on short answers and essay questions.

Different Statistics to Understand: ‘Is AP World History Hard?’

The perceived difficulty of the AP World History exam can vary among students. Further, the College Board designs the exam to challenge students, but it also aims to make it fair. However, it is important to note that the difficulty level may fluctuate every year. This means, It may feature different levels of challenging questions or require a deeper understanding of certain historical periods or events.

Let us analyze the data to understand: ‘Is AP World History hard?’

Total Students Appearing In The Exam

As shown in the table below and graphical representation, the total number of students remains more than 3 lakhs from 2019 to 2023.  It is one of those courses with the highest number of students. Other AP exams with an increased range of students are United States History (highest), Psychology, Government & Politics United States, etc.

Year Total Students
2019 313,317
2020 302,942
2021 302,232
2022 314,716
2023 356,000

Table: No. of Students Appearing For AP World History Exam (2019-23)

Analysis of Student Performance and Pass Rates in AP World History

In recent years, the percentage of students earning a score of 3 or higher, considered passing, generally ranges from 50% to 65%. Further, the rate of students getting the perfect score has been consistently lower. This low percentage indicates that the course and exam are indeed challenging. It is essential to acknowledge that the material and assessment in this course are rigorous.

5 4 3 2 1
2019 8.70% 19.00% 28.30% 28.90% 15.10%
2020 9.20% 22.80% 28.20% 26.10% 13.70%
2021 10.00% 18.00% 24.00% 30.00% 18.00%
2022 12.90% 21.70% 27.20% 23.80% 14.40%
2023 15.00% 22.00% 28.00% 22.00% 13.00%


Table: Score Distribution (2019-23)

The year 2023 has proved to be the best in comparison. The percentage of total test takers getting 3+ and a perfect high score of 5 has been the highest in the last 5 years and shows an increasing trend. Also, the number of total students appearing for the exam has been the highest in 2023.

Year 3+
2019 56.00%
2020 60.20%
2021 52.00%
2022 61.80%
2023 65.00%

Table: % of Students Getting 3+ Score (2019-23)

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Difficulty Level Compared to Other AP Courses

Is AP World History Hard compared to other AP exams? Well, this comparison of difficulty can be subjective. However, many students and educators agree that the AP World History test is among the more demanding ones due to its extensive curriculum and the need for robust analytical skills. It often requires students to think critically about global events, synthesize information, and connect historical periods and regions, which can be intellectually demanding.

65% of Advanced Placement World History exam takers passed in 2023, slightly lower than the average 68% pass rate for all AP courses. Moreover, fewer World History students achieved a perfect score of 5.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the pass rates have been on the rise, as previously mentioned.

Tips for Excelling in AP World History

Indeed, here are some concise tips and habits to excel in your AP World History exam:

Understand the Course Concepts Well

Learn about historical periods, important events, and major themes. Use course materials, best books, notes, expert AP classes, tutors, and the internet to understand the material.

Undefined Practice Past Tests

Do old exam papers to understand how the questions are asked. It helps you feel more at ease with the test. Also, you will get confidence as you practice more and will get an idea of what score you are getting.

Undefined Time Management

When taking the test, manage your time smartly. Set time limits for each part of the exam to ensure you finish everything on time.

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Conclusion: Is AP World History Worth Taking?

To all the High school students asking – Is AP world history hard? Should I take it? – it is important to note that this course is a compelling option. It indulges in an exciting historical period. Moreover, this exam is worth taking if you are considering a major in History, International Relations, Political Science, Public Policy, Law, etc. Also, it is an ideal choice for various professions such as a teacher, historian, lawyer, International Relations, journalist, archeologist, etc.

Consider talking to your school’s teachers and former students who have taken the AP class and make an informed decision. Their insights can help you determine if the Advanced Placement World History class is the right fit for you.

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