On behalf of all the scholars who can see that history is a wonderful adventure, welcome to the world. School’s out, and it’s time to have some fun getting credit for what you know. While you’re in the game, you can make sure you’ve got the right stuff to make it through the AP U.S. History exam. AP U.S. History For Dummies contains all the information you need to know to tackle the AP exam head-on and emerge triumphant.

Millions have made it through the AP U.S. History examination before; it’s the most widely taken single-subject test in the Advanced Placement world. If you’re holding this book with slightly shaky hands because you’re not sure you know enough to get a good score on the Big AP, you’ve come to the right place. On the other hand, if you race through the past so quickly that you feel like you already know most of the important stuff, this is a good time to test your knowledge. If you hated history and had to slap yourself awake through every dull lecture, now is the time to see the past come alive.

Please accept the apologies of all good adventure historians for any harm that instructors who parade historic humans as if they were plaster saints have done you. You didn’t deserve to be crammed full of names, dates, and places without being shown the rainbow bridge of history that makes what happened before you were born important to everything you are today. Remember, no one ever lived in the past. Everybody you read about in history was struggling in their present, just like you, with no idea how it would turn out. The decisions they made, whether trying to do the right thing or swept away by emotion, form the world in which all Americans will live until they too can change their little bit of history for the sake of their children and their children’s kids.

The history of the United States IS important. The U.S. and the New World arrived on the global scene like sunshine through the clouds. The late 1700s saw an almost-religious belief in the power of human progress and reason. That belief was called Enlightenment. The founding of the United States became Enlightenment in action. The U.S. is far from perfect, and its growth has included the subjugation of Africans, American Indians, and other minorities. Without ducking that reality, the United States has also been a meeting place for people and ideas from all over the world — the most diverse and unified society that history has ever produced.

The human beings who make up the United States have been brave and sometimes selfish but are usually welcoming of newcomers and eager to share their ideals of freedom with the world. You read a lot about Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism in history, as if the U.S. had some sort of cosmic advantage. The United States doesn’t have to be exceptional or manifest to be beautiful; in a way, it’s better for being the product of human possibility. The story of the U.S. is a great example of people from all nations working together to promote tolerance and real democracy. The fate of the United States is very probably a window unto the future of the world. When the Enlightenment came to the New World, it was just an idea; now it’s a nation.

About This Book

I’ve designed AP U.S. History For Dummies so that you know the particulars of the exam itself thanks to the first sections, have access to the important points of U.S. History in the middle sections, and have a good practice run thanks to the practice exams in a later section.

Like the Internet, the book is also set up so you can hit it and quit it. You can bounce around between practice tests (Part V) and exam strategies (Part II) or just spend a few moments mentally downloading a little knowledge about a specific time in the United States’ past, like Jacksonian Democracy (Part III). The words in italics — like Erie Canal (1817) — are especially likely to show up on the Big AP test. You also want to pay attention to the review questions scattered throughout the history sections.

Sometimes you may like to just skim through the pages to pick up the Tips and Warnings. That’s fine as far as it goes, but be advised: To really understand the game, you’ve got to watch the whole field, not just the play action. Read the sections around the Tips to see why the Tips are important.

Conventions Used in This Book

In this book, I used the following conventions:

● Where I mention a Web site, I use monofont to indicate the address.

● Bold text highlights key words in bulleted lists and the action parts of numbered steps.

● Important words are set in italics and followed closely by a definition.

● In the history sections, important names, events, and concepts also appear in italics, followed by a key date in parentheses. This date isn’t the only important date for that topic; it’s just a key year associated with the name and a quick reference to help you keep concepts in order. The AP U.S. History exam is too hip to ask you to remember a lot of dates, but you do need to know the general order of events and trends.

What You’re Not to Read

If you’re pressed for time and need to read through this book in a hurry, feel free to skip over the sidebars. They contain interesting information, but nothing you absolutely need to know in order to pass the test.

Foolish Assumptions

Because you’ve picked up this particular book, I assume certain things about you:

● You plan to take the AP U.S. History exam soon, and you want to be prepared.

● You want a good idea of exactly what’s on the AP U.S. History test, particularly how the test is set up and just how much writing you’ll need to do.

● You’re a busy person who has no time for useless information or explanations.

You’ve already read a lot of high-quality U.S. History in your classes, and you’ve done some essay-writing on the subject.

You have a reasonable grasp of U.S. History but need a convenient refresher.

How This Book Is Organized

If you dropped by the Table of Contents on your way to this Introduction, you may have noticed that AP U.S. History For Dummies is divided into six nutritious dishes. You can consume these parts in any order you want, save some for later, or share them with a friend. Here’s what you’ve got to help you through the big exam:

Part I: College Credit, Here I Come!

In this section, you meet the powerful secret society that controls your Advanced Placement test destiny, the College Board. With the information you gain here, you can decide whether Advanced Placement is just another Establishment buzzkill or whether the whole process may somehow be for your own good. You discover how to use the PES dispenser tactic (political, economic, and social history) to pop your way through the big exam. What kind of score can you get on the Big AP test, and what’s that going to mean for your college education? Part I is where you find out.

The College Board actually influences the way AP history is taught. This part tells you what the CB told your teacher and fills in any blanks that your dear instructor may have neglected. As you prepare, you want to keep your mind in mind. You can soak up some tips for psyching yourself up so you can prepare better and more quickly and pick up some mental test taking tools.

Part II: Answering the Questions:

Three Kinds, Three Strategies

Multiple-Choice, Document-Based Question, and Regular Essay — they all show up at the AP Inquest. This part of the book shows you the right approach (actually, several alternate keys) to each of the question types. Each kind of question gets its own chapter; you can pick up a specialist technique for each situation, just like a rock climber approaches each face with a different look.

For multiple-choice, you discover how to maximize your chances for a hit when you’re not sure of the right answer and how to avoid the Question Troll of losing points for wrong guesses. Using a little knowledge to pry apart the five choices can increase your odds.

Almost nobody gets all the multiple choice questions right; you just want to nail timing and answer management to score as high as you can in the minutes you’ve got.

The Document-Based Question on every AP U.S. History test introduces a dilemma for many exam pilgrims. For once, the test is actually giving you some of the much-desired answer right before your eyes. You could, like, just write the essay on how cool all those eight to ten original pictures and documents really are. That’s a mistake. Chapter 5 shows you how to handle documents like a professor, combining their meaning with outside knowledge in the proof, analysis, and thesis (PAT) method.

In Chapter 6, you figure out how to write essays that teachers feel good about praising in the short time they have to evaluate your hard-earned creativity. Discovering how to list your evidence and plan your thesis are two of the keys to writing clear, fast, and grader-friendly essays.

Part III: Early U.S. History: From Dinosaurs to the Civil War

As you move into actual history, you start with the most test-worthy parts of the 95 percent of the human past in North America from which few written records still exist. As you cruise through the history sections in Parts III and IV, you want to pay special attention to the words that show up in italics with a date like Christopher Columbus (1492). The Big AP seldom questions you on exact dates, but you need to keep the people, trends, and events in the right general chronological order so that you can keep the development of history straight. The date in parentheses helps you associate a time with each fact.

American Indians lived in the New World — including the area that would become the U.S. — for thousands of years; settlers have only been here for a few hundred. The colonies had a rocky beginning but soon developed a personality of their own that included good-to-know political, economic, and social differences. Because about 20 percent of the questions on the test will deal with the time before the Revolution, you need to jump on board before you get to George Washington.

The American Revolution was a watershed event in the history of the world and also the formal beginning of the United States. The new country faced rebellion, political repression, and the threat of foreign attack, and that was all before it was 20 years old. Having survived to be a strong young adult, the U.S. grew and matured but with a terrible problem at home: slavery. The solution began with brothers shooting each other in the Civil War. About 30 percent of the Big AP will cover the period between the Revolution and the Civil War, which this part covers.

Part IV: U.S. History from After the Civil War to the Days of the Internet

In this last half of U.S. history (to the present day, of course), you get a grasp on the facts that form a core part of 50 percent of your score on the AP Showdown. Reconstruction started with an impeachment hearing in the North and ended with a political deal in the South; you want to understand the background. Social and economic trends became increasingly important as ex-slaves, working people, and women fought for equal rights. As the 1800s drew to a close, the U.S. stepped on to the world stage with old Rebels and Yankees fighting on the same side in the Spanish-American War.

Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick whacked the way toward the Progressive Era. You can come to terms with how the pace of reform ebbed and flowed through the 1900s. America’s first European war, also known as World War I, was followed by the Great Depression and then World War II. As that war ended, the U.S. was front and center as a world leader — no more hiding behind the great oceans. This Part also covers the background of the Cold War and the beginning of the policy issues that still face the United States. Social and economic changes continued to roll as the U.S. sailed into the 2000s.

Part V: Practice Makes Perfect:

Two Tests Plus the Answers

This is the part where you can test your skills. Either you take the tests first to find out what you need to study or you study first, take the tests, and then study some more on the parts where you need help.

These For Dummies practice tests are beyond realistic. The real test will be a confusing jumble of dates and question styles. Fortunately, you have to go though the actual AP only once. To allow you to reinforce the sections in your test armor that are a little thin, I’ve arranged the practice tests mostly in chronological order. That allows you to pick out any eras or topics in which you seem to need help. You’ll see a few out-of-chronological-order questions just to let you know what the real test will feel like.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

In the final part of your For Dummies AP U.S. History tune-up, you get to experience fun with a purpose. First you review ten monster events AP wants you to know. In the monster events category: colony set-up, working colonies, Revolution, Confederation becomes Constitution, prequel to Civil War, Jacksonian democracy, the Civil War goes down, U.S. grows to big dog, the country adjusts to world power, and, finally, the evolution of government support. This list allows you to review your foundation of understanding and pick up a few fun facts.

The next top-ten list on the menu is ten trends that never go away. Read and remember as you review U.S. diversity, American identity, culture, demographics, economics, women, minorities, reform, internationalism, and spirituality.

The Supreme Court is the important third branch of the U.S. government, and its decisions both determine and reflect social trends. The final list follows the top ten hits of the Supreme Court as it has handed down decisions over the years.

Where to Go from Here

At some point, you have to stop adjusting your equipment and just jump into the adventure. Here are three basic approaches; you can mix and match in any way that makes sense to you. When test day comes, it’s going to be all about you, what’s in your head, and what you can do with it. So make your For Dummies equipment work for your style of studying — just get moving now.

The old front-to-back approach actually has a lot to recommend it. By starting at the beginning, you have the test elements and exam-taking strategy in mind when you read the history section. This method can be useful in putting the history happenings into possible questions as you read. The reason you bought this book was presumably to get insider info on answering AP exam questions, not just to review history.

The middle, front, back strategy lets you start with the history and gain some context and confidence before you plunge into the cross fire of possible exam questions and strategy. Plus, if for some unknown reason you don’t actually have time for the strategy or practice sections, you’ve at least read the history and sample questions. Warning: If you don’t have experience with Document-Based Questions (DBQ’s), at least read Chapter 5 on this topic. Students who try to answer a DBQ for the first time on the big exam are speeding without a steering wheel.

If you’re the kind of person who jumps into the lake to see how cold the water is and then decides which way to swim, you may just want to jump right into the practice tests and see how you do. Warning: Unless you ace both tests, don’t get overconfident — each test covers only half of U.S. History. Be honest with yourself: don’t peek at the answers. The real AP exam isn’t a crossword puzzle.

Good luck, and may your placement be advanced.



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