Self-studying US history AP

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Discus: SAT/ACT Tests and Test Preparation: July 2004 Archive: Self-studying US history AP
By Aim78 (Aim78) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 11:44 pm: Edit

So whaddya think? I should have taken this in Junior year, but decided to take regular US History because I dreaded the rumors about the class. The problem is, EVERYONE takes APUSH. I'm one of the few that didn't.

Is it feasible? Would it make up for not taking the class if I added "self-studying AP US History" as a side-note on my college apps?

By Macramequeen (Macramequeen) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:44 am: Edit

I was considering the exact same thing! But there's just SO much to remember for APUSH and the essays and ehh I don't know I'm gonna have a hard enough year as it is so yeah what DO you people think?

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:30 am: Edit

There's a lot of info from what I hear, but Senior year is not going to be as frantic for me, especially 2nd semester. I think I'll have time.

By Number9 (Number9) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:51 am: Edit

I had an AP class junior year. We covered up until the Civil War, and the material we covered wasn't in depth by any means.

So I began to self-study. The class was going nowhere. I bought 2 review books -- REA and PR. I would read a set era from REA, then read the same era from PR afterwards. REA gives you all the details you need to know, and then by reading PR, you reinforce the larger, more important concepts/facts. I didn't use any textbooks, and as I said, the class was horrid and barely helped. It took me about 1.5 months to read through PR and REA. I did all the practice tests out of REA, and only one from PR. I was the only one from my class to get a 5 on the actual test (I'd say little over half the class got 1s, to reinforce my emphasis on how the course didn't help). I would also suggest going to the APStudent forums. They attract a considerable AP US History audience, and the discussions will definitely help.

That's the advice I can offer. I have a really good memory, so that obviously helped me too.

By Ryan2288 (Ryan2288) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:30 am: Edit

I would consider getting Amsco and REA, those seem to have the best reviews. Im using Amsco right now and will buy REA later, both seem to look informative and REA has 6 practice tests which should really help.

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:31 am: Edit

How is Cliffs? That's the only one I have right now. What do you think of online sources, like wikipedia? Couldn't I just read about history there using Cliffs as a guide?

By Jblackboy05 (Jblackboy05) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:07 am: Edit

I think that's its not a good idea to self-study for APUSH, I think that u need a teacher to show u how to write the DBQ and to help analyze trends and the importance of certain info. A teacher is needed because they know whats going to be on the test every year(i.e. supreme court cases, people, events, certain trends). Even though its a rigourous class I would not trade my experience for anything...btw I got a 5...partly due to a great teacher. I advise u to try to get into the course if u can because you'll really benefit in the long run.

By Skiowad (Skiowad) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:21 am: Edit


Got a 4, cuz of a great teacher (bad writer, thats y its not a 5)

If you are though, get as many books as possible. REA, PR, Amsco (i guess, never heard of it), and get The American Pageant. That's what we used and what most on this board uses. Try those at amazon. IT will cost alot. good luck again

By Number9 (Number9) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:24 pm: Edit

>>I think that's its not a good idea to self-study for APUSH,


>>I think that u need a teacher to show u how to write the DBQ and to help analyze trends and the importance of certain info.

My teacher didn't assign a single DBQ to us the entire year. He told us what one was a couple days before the test. Everyone was left in the dark.

>>A teacher is needed because they know whats going to be on the test every year(i.e. supreme court cases, people, events, certain trends).

My teacher didn't have any predictions...

I honestly don't see it being that hard to get a 5. I don't recommend Amsco, as its not needed. You should only need PR and REA.'s forums filled the teacher void for me. They are the ones who taught me about the DBQ fomats, and what was predicted.

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

But is it really necessary to buy all of these books when all the historical information I need is on the net? If College Board has an outline of things you need to know for the test, couldn't I just read up on all of it?

By Macramequeen (Macramequeen) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:34 pm: Edit

I guess the memorization would be work but do-able. The DBQs I could probabaly bs, but the essays seem hard. What if I got a question I knew nothing about? How do you write those?

By Obilisk18 (Obilisk18) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:34 pm: Edit

Here's my take on self-studying a subject: you should do so only if it's a very strong subject for you and your schedule permits you the time. I self-studied World History this year and while I was happy with my 4, I think it detracted from my other scores. This was mainly because I didn't start studying for it until roughly a week before the test and so was forced to devote basically all my free time to it. Because of this I did very little review of US History and didn't bother to learn any terms for the English Language. I got 4's on both and think I would have managed 5's had I spent the time I used to study World History, studying the subjects I actually had classes in. Don't do this. Start at the beginning of the year and you should be fine. It's really not a hard test as long as you learn the facts (their's not nearly as much connecting of different time periods on the mc as their is on the World History test). If I were you, I would consider self-studying World History instead though (that is, if you haven't already taken it). It's an easier exam in my opinion because it's very general. I don't think I could have self-studied US History in week. I would have been overwhelmed. I would have managed a 3 at best, probably a 2. But over the school year, if you're strong in the subject, and your schedule isn't hugely rigorous, go for it.

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 08:29 pm: Edit

I enjoy reading about history from interesting sources. Wikipedia is very easy to read. Couldn't I just use Wikipedia + Cliffs + the College Board outline? I'll have tons of practice writing essays in English AP next year, so that should help prepare me. I think I'm at a slight advantage over the Juniors because as a Senior I have more writing experience and I've already taken regular US History.

By Gagner (Gagner) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 01:16 am: Edit

History essays are a tad different from English essays. I got a 4 on US but a 5 on Euro and World. I think all AP's are self studiable (maybe except for foreign languages and mu theory.. those you can self study but'll take longer than a year to start from scratch).

Anyways, REA's my pick. Also, I have my notes posted and all the online websites that have GRREAT notes pooled together on

By Conker (Conker) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:17 am: Edit

This is a copy of my post in another thread. I hope it helps! There's one thing I would like to add. If you're pretty confident with your multiple choice (raw score: at least 70), then I highly recommend spending extra time on your DBQ and ONE of your FRQ's, and filling in just a thesis for your other FRQ. If you got a 65 raw score on MC, and scores of 7, 5, and 1 on your DBQ and 2 FRQ's respectively, you would have an easy 5.

You can score a 5 with just a few (all free!) things:

- Outlines
My teacher supplied us with great outlines (ostensibly, because I didn't read them), but you can easily find them online, esp. if you're using Pageant.

- Released Exams
Your teacher probably (and should) have past administrations of the exam, namely the 1988, 1996, and 2001 administrations. I think some have 1984 as well, although it is no longer for sale. If he/she doesn't, you can purchase tests online from Collegeboard.

Perhaps the best online resource you'll ever find. They summarize the major periods, link to relevant websites, and offer quizzes for every unit. Best of all, they have more practice DBQ's than you'll ever need.

- Past FRQ's and DBQ's from
If you register at, you get access to the free-response section from the past 5 years (I think). They are excellent practice, and may even give you a general sense what next year's DBQ will be about.

PR is excellent, primarily for the quality of its tests. Its review really helps you get an overview of the different periods, even if its not that comprehensive. It's an added plus for sure, but it's certainly not necessary.

REA offers a lot of interesting trivia that would be great for your essays, but in general you're probably best without it. The tests are nothing like the real AP exam, and the review is so restricted chronologically that it's difficult to get an overview of the trends.

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