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Chapter One: Getting Started
What is Advanced Placement (AP) History?
What is History?
How This Book Can Help You
What is Advanced Placement (AP) history?
When starting any course of study it is good to know what you are getting into. To do this we can start by learning about the Advanced Placement Program and the College Board, which oversees it. This chapter aims to give students, teachers, administrators, and parents a brief overview of the AP History Program.
What is the College Board and what can it do for you?
The College Board, founded in 1900, oversees the AP program. Its mission is to help prepare students for college-level study and to encourage the opportunities that higher learning makes possible for young people. You may already have had the experience of taking the PSAT and SAT exams, which the College Board also administers. The College Board also helps teachers and schools navigate the transition between high school and college in many ways. Their website is huge and has a lot of valuable information about applying to college, getting scholarships, and of course doing well on the tests that they administer. There is no better place to get information than at its source, so my advice is to usethe College Board and learn all you can from them.
The College Board on the Web:
Main Site: collegeboard.com
AP Test Prep: collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/prep.html
AP History Test Strategies:
AP Central: apcentral.collegeboard.com/
World History: collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/sub_worldhist.html
What is the AP Program and how can it benefit you?
The Advanced Placement program was started in the 1950s when the U.S. government was concerned about the education of its brighter students who were complaining that some high school courses were too easy for them. A suggestion was made to allow high school students to take college-level courses while still in high school. After taking a college course, they could earn advanced standing or college credit if they did well on the final examination. This was back in the days when the United States felt the need to produce top scientists to compete with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Remember Sputnik? Thus, the AP has its own place in American educational history. Over the years, more and more AP subjects were added until today there are dozens of different AP courses being taught at thousands of schools all over the world. Typically, a school will be able to offer a few AP courses, and the high school faculty who teach them are given special training to teach at the college level.
All the AP courses are designed to simulate a freshmen (first year) college survey course in the subject being studied. Some are one year long and others are one-semester courses. At the end of each course an exam is given that is scored from 1 to 5 (5 is the highest score possible). We will discuss the world history exam in detail in Chapter 2.
What is History?
History is more than just things that "happened" in the past. We can try to study what took place yesterday, or 4,000 years ago, but we can't look at the sum total of all human history until we understand how to approach it. Clearly, "history" is not just the class you take to learn about the past. Many people think back on history classes and remember a mind-numbing list of names and dates that they struggled to remember for tests. These names and dates may be a part of our knowledge of the past but they are not history. An overemphasis on the memorization of famous people (mostly men) and dates has made it difficult for many to see the subject for what it is. And because of this, history has suffered from poor teaching in many schools throughout America and the world. So, then, what is history? You can look at it as a kind of detective story where one tries to find evidence about what happened in the past.
Ideally, the more witnesses or perspectives you can gather, the closer you can get to what actually happened. But even if dozens of people witness a very public event with cameras rolling, such as President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas over 35 years ago, it does not mean all the questions get answered. That's where the detective work comes in. You have to ask questions and look for the answers. Who was there? Why did this happen? What is the meaning of the event to us years later? You can guess all you want but in the end, history is only what you can prove. And for that you need evidence. Evidence can be many things, but it is mostly found in the form of documents that are left from the time period. These are the primary sources that historians use to write history and comment on the past. One of the cornerstones of this course is working with documents, and the AP will ask you to analyze documents in groups and answer questions about them. In this way you will play the role of the historian and detective trying to find something you can prove about the past. It's not an easy job but it's how history is done. So, on the AP test, more than being just a student of history, you will also be an historian.
How This Book Can Help You
This book is designed to give the reader a condensed overview of the Advanced Placement World History course along with some sample examinations. For the student reader, the book provides a review of major points covered by the Advanced Placement (AP) examination in world history. When used in combination with a course or comprehensive textbook, it will ensure that you are well-prepared for the exam. Here are some suggestions about how to use this book, in addition to the information about the AP program and the College Board we have already learned.
For the Student
This book will show you how the AP World History course is organized and how the exam is structured so you will know what is waiting for you in May. While you do not need to take an AP World History course to take the exam, it is definitely to your advantage for you to do so. A good course at your school with an experienced teacher will lay the foundation for your success when you take the test near the end of the school year. If you are using this book to prepare for the AP exam and not taking a course at your school, then you will need to get a good college history textbook and study that as well. Closer to the exam, you can switch over to this book and use it for review. In addition to being a review of world history, this book goes into some detail about the AP exam and how it is scored. The main goal is for you to know exactly what you will face in the May examination.
It is not realistic to buy this book in April and expect to use it successfully in the last weeks before the exam. It is better to read it over a period of months and slowly review the material as you prepare for the exam. A suggested timeline for the use of this book is as follows:
Read Chapters 1, 2, and 3.
Take the first practice test and do not time it. Score it yourself and note what areas you need to work on.
Read Chapter 4 to learn the Six Themes of AP World History.
Go over the World Geography Review in Chapter 4.
Read Chapter 5 and do the Review Questions.
Read Chapter 6 and do the Review Questions.
Read Chapter 7 and do the Review Questions.
&#!49; Read Chapter 8 and do the Review Questions.
Read Chapter 9 and do the Review Questions.
Read Chapter 10.
Set aside a good time, perhaps a Saturday, for your final Practice Test.
Have someone act as a proctor if possible. The proctor administers and times the exam. It is vital that someone starts and stops you so you are familiar with the time needed for each part of the exam. If there is no one to help you with this, get an alarm clock that will sound when your time is up for each section of the test. It's best to take the practice or mock exam about three weeks before the AP exam (that would be around April 20th). Score the multiple-choice section yourself, but try to get a teacher or trusted peer who is willing to score the essays using the guidelines in this book.
Banzai Approach to AP Exam Review, or "Eight Days of Spring Lost"
So you waited longer than you should have to get ready. While it isn't advisable to try to cram all of world history into a couple of weeks, I can make some suggestions for a shorter course of test preparation, assuming that you have been taking an AP World History course during the school year. Below is the "Banzai" approach to the AP World History exam, if you have only ten days left. It will mean working every day, but if the test is just around the corner, take a look.
The world history exam is usually offered in the first ten days in May. In 2005, it will be on May 3rd. So if you are doing the last minute Banzai review you should get started by April 23rd. This will allow you to get some feedback on your essays before the real test.
Day One: Read Chapters 1, 2, and 3.
Day Two: Read Chapters 4 and 5, and do the Review Questions.
Day Three: Read Chapter 6 and do the Review Questions.
Day Four: Read Chapter 7 and do the Review Questions.
Day Five: Read Chapter 8 and do the Review Questions.
Day Six: Read Chapter 9 and do the Review Questions.
Day Seven: Read Chapter 10.
Day Eight: Take Practice Test One. Score the multiple-choice section yourself and have a trusted teacher or peer read your essays and grade them.
For the Teacher
The test guide you are reading is not designed as a textbook. It condenses major themes and some content from the six periods of the course, which may be useful to you. Real college- level world history texts have the difficult task of attempting to cover all of human experience and can approach 1,000 pages of dense information. If you are a first-year AP teacher, this book can be useful in giving you a quick look at the AP program and examples of how the examination is configured. It could also be incorporated into your class in April or May as you get closer to the actual exam. One of the practice exams from the book could be used as a "mock" test for your students to give them a real taste of having to sit for hours and write multiple essays about history. After many years in the AP and IB classroom, I am convinced that a "mock" exam is a worthwhile exercise. It is an experiential taste of what the students will go through in May.
Your closest regional College Board office can answer many other questions about teaching this course and has many consultants in the field helping schools to implement any AP course extant. Go to the AP Central website and register yourself there -- it's packed full of information about each AP subject, and sections of it are designed to help rookie and veteran AP teachers alike. Make sure to download the official updated course description from this website. The College Board permits you to make copies of this document for your students. You also can order the AP World History exam used in 2002. This will be very valuable in that you can see exactly how the test is configured, as well as see sample student responses with commentary and scores.
I can also recommend the following web site designed by Jay Harmon, who both teaches AP World History and is also an AP examiner. He gives a lot of helpful background and suggestions for someone getting ready to teach AP World History. So check out
and connect yourself with your colleagues teaching AP History.
Once you have taught the course for a year you may also want to sign up to be an AP Reader. That means you get to go to Lincoln, Nebraska in June and score the AP World History essays with other history teachers from all over the United States. It is an experience not to be missed and gives one invaluable insights into the assessment mechanism used by the AP program. I can tell you it is impressive. If you become an AP Reader, you'll take many things back to the classroom with you and also meet some great colleagues in the bargain. Information about becoming an AP Reader is online at AP Central. You can even send in your application electronically.
For the High School Counselor/AP Coordinator
If you are overseeing or coordinating the AP program at your school, you may know that the College Board has special materials to help you organize those AP courses that your school has chosen to offer. This book is one of many test prep guides that you can stock on your shelves for student use. You can also check them out from your office as students get ready for the exam in May. There are two practice exams in this book that the students can take at any time. I have suggested that they take one about three weeks before the actual AP exam. Your office may be a convenient place for the students to take this "mock" exam, and perhaps you can arrange for a "mock proctor" as well. They will appreciate your help with this.
For the Parent of an AP Student
No one is more important than the parent in helping an AP student succeed with his or her studies. A 16- or 17-year-old who chooses college-level study needs support in school, but also needs considerable support at home. Parents need to know that the first month of an AP course will mean a real adjustment in terms of how much study is dedicated to one course. It will present new challenges in the areas of time management and making priorities. In that first month, when the reading and writing piles up, there may be signs of panic and stress. Experienced AP teachers have seen this a lot, and encourage their students to rise to this new level of academic study. Parents can do the following to help their son or daughter adjust to the higher expectations of the AP curriculum:
Ask your student how the course is going in the first two weeks. Find out from them what they may be experiencing for the first time.
Try to get a sense of how much nightly reading the course is asking the student to do.
Encourage your son or daughter to do something for the course every day. Help them see that while it is a long haul, it can be segmented into one day at a time.
When the time comes for them to choose study over a social commitment/desire help them know they have made the right choice
Should your student talk about quitting the course because it takes too much time or is just too tough, help them to hang in there for another week or so. So often if they can make it through the first quarter or marking period, they will stick with it.
If your son or daughter is the kind who worries about grades, help them see that the rigorous study they are doing is going to help them do better in college later on. Students who focus on their Grade Point Average (GPA) sometimes see their grades slip, especially in that first month. Help them see that they are doing well as long as they are becoming better writers and students of history. If getting into a selective college is a family concern, know that the AP course on the high school transcript will enhance their school record, not diminish it.
Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan, Inc.
Excerpted from Kaplan AP World History 2004 by Kaplan Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan. Excerpted by permission.
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