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5-Week Study Plan for Mastering the AP U.S. History Exam

Week 1: Foundations of American Society


Explore the early dynamics between Native societies, European explorers, and colonial beginnings, setting the stage for the complex tapestry of American history.

Key Topics

  • Native American societies pre-contact

  • European exploration impacts and motivations

  • Colonial America's economic, social, and political foundations

Skill Development

  • Analyzing Sources: Practice distinguishing between primary and secondary sources. Focus on understanding bias, perspective, and context.

Activity: Timeline Creation

  • Task: Develop a detailed timeline that includes major European explorations, first contacts with Native Americans, and the establishment and development of key colonies, highlighting the effects on native populations and ecosystems.

  • Guidance: Utilize online databases for primary sources and maps to enhance your timeline. Pay special attention to changes in native societies post-contact.


  • Textbook Chapters: Refer to your APUSH textbook for comprehensive coverage of periods 1 and 2.

  • Primary Sources: Library of Congress and National Archives for documents and maps from the era.

  • Video Resources: Crash Course US History videos on colonization and early colonial conflicts.

Week 2: The Road to Independence and Early U.S. Government


Investigate the build-up to the Revolutionary War, the philosophical underpinnings of the Constitution, and the formation of the United States government.

Key Topics

  • Causes and outcomes of the American Revolution

  • The drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution

  • Early Republic challenges and successes

Skill Development

  • Argumentation: Learn how to craft coherent thesis statements and support arguments with evidence.

Activity: Persuasive Essay

  • Task: Assume the role of a Federalist or Anti-Federalist and write a persuasive essay either supporting or opposing the ratification of the Constitution, using period-appropriate justifications.

  • Guidance: Reference the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers for arguments and rhetoric used during the period.


  • Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers: For direct insight into the debates surrounding the Constitution.

  • APUSH Review Books: For summaries and analyses of period 3, focusing on key events and concepts.

  • Interactive Resources: Use online forums like AP Classroom for practice questions and peer discussions.

Week 3: Expansion, Conflict, and Change


Cover significant developments including the Manifest Destiny, Civil War, Reconstruction, and the transformative effects of the Industrial Revolution.

Key Topics

  • Manifest Destiny and its impacts on American society and territories

  • The Civil War: key battles, strategies, and figures

  • Reconstruction policies, successes, and failures

  • The Gilded Age and the onset of rapid industrialization

Skill Development

  • Comparison and Synthesis: Enhance your ability to draw connections between historical events and periods, understanding their causes and effects.

Activity: Comparative Analysis

  • Task: Compare and contrast the Reconstruction policies and their varying impacts on the South and the nation as a whole. Visual aids like charts or Venn diagrams are encouraged.

  • Guidance: Evaluate different sources for perspectives on Reconstruction, including speeches by political leaders and accounts from Southern and Northern newspapers.


  • Textbook Chapters: Detailed exploration of periods 5 and 6, focusing on industrialization's social and economic changes.

  • Primary Sources: Diaries, letters, and newspaper articles from the Reconstruction era, available through university archives online.

  • Documentaries: PBS and History Channel documentaries on the Civil War and Reconstruction for a visual and narrative overview.

Week 4: The United States on the World Stage


Delve into the era of American imperialism, the global conflicts of the World Wars, and the subsequent shifts in international relations and domestic policies.

Key Topics

  • The Spanish-American War and the Philippines

  • WWI and its diplomatic and home front impacts

  • The Great Depression's causes and effects

  • WWII: Global strategies, home front mobilization, and aftermath

Skill Development

  • Causation Analysis: Focus on identifying and understanding the cause-and-effect relationships in major international and domestic events.

Activity: Annotated Map Project

  • Task: Create an annotated map highlighting WWI and WWII's key events, including battles, treaties, and alliances. Provide brief descriptions for each annotation, explaining their significance.

  • Guidance: Use digital mapping tools for an interactive experience. Incorporate various sources for a comprehensive understanding of each event's impact.


  • APUSH Textbook: In-depth review of period 7, focusing on America's role in world affairs.

  • Primary Source Collections: Government posters, speeches, and international treaties from both World Wars.

  • Multimedia Resources: BBC

Week 5: Modern America and Comprehensive Review


Analyze the transformations in American society from the Cold War era to the present day, followed by a structured review of all historical periods covered in the APUSH curriculum.

Key Topics

  • Cold War dynamics, including key events, policies, and international relations

  • Civil rights movements and the struggle for equality across different demographics

  • Political and social developments from 1980 to the present, including technological advancements and their impact on society and economy

  • Review of APUSH periods 1 through 9, with a focus on synthesizing themes and understanding overarching trends and developments

Skill Development

  • Review and Synthesis: Integrate knowledge from multiple historical periods and themes, refining your ability to draw connections and contrasts.

  • Test-taking Strategies: Hone skills specific to the APUSH exam format, including time management, question analysis, and strategic guessing.

Activity: Mock Debate on Policy Decisions

  • Task: Organize a mock debate on a significant historical policy decision, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Vietnam War policies, or recent economic regulations. Research to support your position with historical evidence and anticipated counterarguments.

  • Guidance: Use a structured debate format to ensure balanced participation and coverage of multiple perspectives. This activity encourages critical thinking and the application of historical evidence in argumentation.

Comprehensive Review Strategy

  • Days 1-3: Thematic Review Sessions

  • Divide the review into thematic sessions (e.g., political developments, social movements, economic changes) that span across different periods. This approach helps in making connections across time and understanding the evolution of ideas and institutions.

  • Day 4: Full-Length Practice Exam

  • Take a timed, full-length practice APUSH exam to simulate test day conditions. This helps in assessing readiness and identifying areas needing further review.

  • Day 5: Review and Reflect

  • Spend the day reviewing the practice exam, focusing on missed questions and difficult sections. Engage in reflective activities like journaling about areas of improvement or discussing challenging topics with peers or mentors.


  • AP Classroom: Access APUSH practice questions and the personal progress check feature for feedback on your understanding of the material.

  • Review Books: Utilize APUSH review books for concise summaries of key periods and themes, as well as for practice questions and exams.

  • Online Forums: Platforms like Reddit’s r/APStudents or College Confidential can provide community support, study tips, and resources shared by fellow APUSH students.

  • Documentaries and Podcasts: Explore modern history through documentaries and podcasts available on streaming services, which can provide additional insights and help reinforce your understanding of recent historical events.

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