APUSH Study Plans

Study Plans for the AP U.S. History Test

Studying for the AP U.S. History exam can seem daunting because of the sheer volume of material covered in a yearlong course. Whether you have taken the course over a semester or over two years, the exam measures your knowledge and skills in exactly the same way. It is only through the thorough study over the course of the year that you will earn a high score on the AP exam. Kaplan’s AP U.S. History guide is an excellent addition to the class notes, reading notes, and practice essays you have accumulated throughout the year. This guide is not intended to replace your assigned readings, a textbook, or your instructor. You can, however, use this guide to assist you in studying throughout the year or closer to your exam.

Some students prefer to review what they learned last in class and work their way back to the beginning of the course as they study. This is perfectly acceptable. However, other students prefer to begin their studies with the material that is most distant—material learned at the beginning of the course. Again, this is a perfectly logical way to attack the material. Other students choose to skip around and study only those sections of the course with which they had difficulty. Whatever approach you decide to take, make sure it best suits your needs and helps you feel prepared and secure in your abilities in AP U.S. History.

There is one method we advise against. We do not recommend cramming material into your brain in the weeks before the AP exam. Students who score well on the exam are students who have carefully studied U.S. history and have both a breadth and depth of understanding of the material and how to think historically. Take your time. Allow yourself the opportunity to practice your material often by starting your review early.

Regardless of where you will take your AP U.S. History test, everyone preparing for the AP exam has a Friday morning in early May earmarked as Test Day. You may be reading this in September. For others, mid-April. Yet in some cases it may already be May! Whatever your situation, we have provided study calendars below that you can use to set some goals.


UnitTime PeriodMain Concepts
11491-1607Native Populations, European Expansion, African Slavery
21607-1754Colonization, Conflict in North America, Colonial Societies
31754-1800The American Revolution, Formation of U.S. Government, Migration
41800-1848Defining America, Technological and Agricultural Developments, Early U.S. Foreign Policy
51844-1877Expansionism, The Civil War, Post-War America
61865-1898Railroads and the Rise of Big Business, Industrial Growth
71890-1945World War I, The New Deal, World War II
81945-1980Post-War America, The Cold War, Civil Rights
91980-PresentNew Conservatism, The End of the Cold War, The 21st Century


August/ SeptemberWow! You’re ahead of the game and have already thought about studying for the AP exam—you’re off to a great start! Go through the reading calendar provided by your instructor By the end of September, you should have completed your study and review of all concepts in Unit 1.
OctoberBy the end of this month, you should have completed review of concepts that are featured in Unit 2.
NovemberFunny how fast time flies! Be sure to make special arrangements for family holidays and gatherings that may change your study time. By the end of this month, you should be through Unit 3 and well into Unit 4.
DecemberThis month’s about the Civil War! Make sure you’ve completed Unit 5 by New Year’s Eve!
JanuaryDuring this month, you should devise a plan to review all of the material you have covered during the Fall semester. Don’t let final exams get you down. Use this time as an opportunity to revisit the content you covered in September! Additionally, you should be through Unit 6!
FebruaryDon’t let time slip away! This month takes you from the 19th century to the mid-20th century in Unit 7.
MarchYou’re in the home stretch! In March, you should cover Unit 8 and the first part of Unit 9. You should also go back through the material you covered during the first part of the Spring semester to get a head start on your review.
AprilCan you believe that the exam is only a month away? Complete the guide in the first two weeks of April and concentrate on reviewing all of the concepts during the last two weeks, concentrating on areas where you can improve the most.
MayThe exam is in a few days. Relax, but don’t let up. Keep going over your trouble spots and practice writing. Good luck!


Quarter One By Thanksgiving, you should be partially through Unit 4.
Quarter TwoBy your semester finals, you will need to have studied through Unit 6.
Quarter ThreeThis can be a stressful period—the bulk of your review and study to occurs here. You should have all the material through Unit 8 read by the end of this quarter.
Quarter FourYou do not have much time in this quarter before the exam so you need to finish the guide and start reviewing all materials from the beginning. Remember to concentrate on the areas with the most room for improvement.


When reviewing your notes and books for your regular tests during the school year, highlight those areas in your notes that you think you have forgotten (or never fully understood). That way, when the AP exam rolls around, you’ll be able to revisit those notes and fix up your weak spots.

The I have a month Study Calendar

With only a month or so before the exam, you don’t have time to lose!

We recommend that you make a goal of covering multiple units each week, with one day dedicated to reviewing those chapters before moving on. Be sure to concentrate on the material and chapters where you experienced difficulties over the course of the school year.

Three Days Before the Test

It’s almost over. Eat an energy bar, drink some soda—do whatever it takes to keep going (but don’t overdose on sugar and caffeine). Here are Kaplan’s strategies for the three days leading up to the test.

Take a full-length practice test under timed conditions. Use the techniques and strategies you’ve learned. Approach the test strategically, actively, and confidently.

WARNING: Do not take a full-length practice test if you have fewer than 48 hours left before the test. Doing so will probably exhaust you and hurt your score on the actual test. You wouldn’t run a marathon the day before the real thing.

Two Days Before the Test

Go over the results of your practice test. Don’t worry too much about your score or about whether you got a specific question right or wrong. The practice test doesn’t count. But do examine your performance on specific questions with an eye to how you might get through each one faster and better on the test to come.

The Night Before the Test

DO NOT STUDY. Get together the supplies you will bring to the test center.

Know exactly where you’re going, exactly how you’re getting there, and exactly how long it takes to get there. It’s probably a good idea to visit your test center sometime before the day of the test so that you know what to expect—what the rooms are like, how the desks are set up, and so on.

Relax the night before the test. Do the relaxation and visualization techniques. Read a good book, take a long hot shower, watch some bad television. Get a good night’s sleep. Go to bed early and leave yourself extra time in the morning.

The Morning of the Test

First, wake up. After that . . .

Eat breakfast. Make it something substantial but not anything too heavy or greasy.

Don’t drink a lot of coffee if you’re not used to it. Bathroom breaks cut into your time, and too much caffeine is a bad idea.

Dress in layers so that you can adjust to the temperature of the test room.

Read something. Warm up your brain with a newspaper or a magazine. You shouldn’t let the exam be the first thing you read that day.

Be sure to get there early. Allow yourself extra time for traffic, mass transit delays, and/or detours.


Pay close attention to how much time you have for each section. Move quickly at the beginning and keep checking your progress periodically.

During the Test

Don’t be shaken. If you find your confidence slipping, remind yourself how well you’ve prepared. You know the structure of the test; you know the instructions; you’ve had practice with—and have learned strategies for—every question type.

If something goes really wrong, don’t panic. If the test booklet is defective—two pages are stuck together or the ink has run—raise your hand and tell the proctor you need a new book. If you accidentally mis-grid your answer page or put the answers in the wrong section, raise your hand and tell the proctor. He or she might be able to arrange for you to re-grid your test after it’s over, when it won’t cost you any time.

After the Test

You might walk out of the AP exam thinking that you blew it. This is a normal reaction. Lots of people—even the highest scorers—feel that way. You tend to remember the questions that stumped you, not the ones that you knew.

We’re positive that you will have performed well and scored your best on the exam because you followed the Kaplan strategies.. Be confident in your preparation and celebrate the fact that the AP test is soon to be a distant memory.