by Ali Kinkade
If you’re a student trying to make your transcripts look better for college but who is wary of APs, AP History could be a good fit — and actually may be a better experience than standard history! Why? Here are several reasons:
EFFECTIVE LEARNING STRUCTURE
Most importantly, AP History is an incredibly effective way to study history. It frees students from the need to memorize a bunch of dates and instead allows them to think creatively and critically about historical events and sources, which makes those historical events easier to remember.
Here’s a little case study on learning about World War Two. In an AP World History class, you’d focus on the causes and the effects of World War Two. World War Two sets up new global conflicts: after the dust settles, the two main world powers are the United States and the Soviet Union. African and Asian countries that were colonized by European powers won their independence as a result of World War Two, because war is expensive and European powers couldn’t afford to keep their colonies going and because Hitler made fascism look bad.
A multiple-choice question might be “What were the results of World War Two?” You can use context and the historical patterns you’ve learned throughout your class on the AP exam even if you aren’t quite sure what to do.
The "normal" way of studying World War Two may also include some of these things, but your teacher may be a military history buff or have you memorize a bunch of names and dates. A multiple-choice question for a standard history class may be something like “what was the date of the battle of Stalingrad?” That’s going to be harder to remember because it isn’t connected to larger historical themes!
FREEDOM OF STUDY
The writing-based portion of the exam makes some students nervous, but it also provides freedom for students to study the things they’re interested in during the school year. For example, a recent essay question asked students to identify and explain ways that industrialization in the 19th century was a turning point in global history. You can approach this question correctly from multiple angles: you can write about the change in women’s roles, the change in political balance of power, the change of the class structure — so yes, while AP History requires a high level of thought, it also rewards your interest!
When I first start working with a history student, we spend some time talking about their interests so we can track those interests through history: some students love women's history, some love diving deep into religious or political ideologies, some love learning about royalty. We can find ways to connect your interests to historical themes that AP wants you to understand!
The AP skills and rubrics you’ll learn in your first AP History class are the same skills and rubrics you’ll need in any other AP History class you take -- if you take AP World sophomore year, for instance, you’ll have all the skills you need to take APUSH junior year! You’ll also find similarities in the skills you need in non-history AP classes as well (the DBQ in AP History is similar to the synthesis essay in AP Lang, for example).
The AP journey is also more easily supported with tutors, prep books, and online resources, because we know exactly what AP is looking for, while knowing what a teacher in "normal" history is looking for can be a bit more difficult for students looking to match up their in-class experience with resources. An AP tutor can also tell you things like “your teacher is focusing a lot on the French Revolution and that isn’t as big of a piece of the curriculum in AP World, so don’t worry about knowing those details on the test” or “your teacher hasn’t gone over the sea-based empires in Southeast Asia, so let’s take some time to talk about how those might appear on the exam.”
Not only is AP History an excellent addition to many students’ high school transcripts, it can be a positive experience and introduce new passions and ways of thinking about the world! Talk to us if this is something you’re considering, and we can guide you further.