Is AP European History Hard? A Complete 2022 Guide

The AP European History exam can be a challenging way to earn college credit. See if you should take AP European History.

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by Ellery Weil

Published on April 14, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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Is AP European History Hard? A Complete 2022 Guide
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Many high school students take AP courses to challenge their minds, boost their college applications, and even earn college credit. AP European History is a popular AP course for students interested in history.

Many students wonder if AP European History is a hard class before signing up for it. As one of the more advanced AP humanities courses, with a very challenging AP exam, AP European History is often considered one of the hardest AP courses, but many students also find it fascinating and rewarding.

What Does AP European History Cover?

AP European History covers the history of Europe since the beginning of the Renaissance, or roughly the year 1450 to the present day. Students in this course will learn the skills needed to do historical research, including how to read primary sources, determine how reliable they are, and contextualize them in history more broadly.

The course attempts to cover significant developments across Europe over the more than five centuries covered and their impact on the wider world. The course is broken into nine units, which are as follows:

What Determines the Difficulty of AP European History? 3 Key Factors

When considering how difficult AP European History is, you will need to consider a few factors. The AP exam, and its pass rate, are important. However, you should also consider your comfort with the course material, your subject skills, and your academic background.

The Pass Rate

How many students in a given course pass their AP exam, and how many get a perfect score, can tell you a lot about how difficult most students find the course. Higher pass rates and more perfect scores are often a sign of an easier class for most students.

AP European History has a pass rate of 54.6%, with 10.6% of students earning a perfect score. This is significantly below the average for all AP classes, meaning AP European History is one of the harder AP classes.

AP European History Exam Pass Rates
AP Class/Exam Pass Rate (3 or Higher) Perfect Score (5)
AP European History 54.6% 10.6%
All Other AP Classes 64.2% 16.8%

Source: College Board

While AP exam statistics are an important starting point, they do not determine how difficult you will find the class. Many factors go into that, including some that are particular to you, or factors like the quality of the teacher, which is particular to your school.

The Course Material

Many students find classes that cover a broad swath of material more difficult than classes with a more narrow focus. The AP European History curriculum covers over five hundred years of European history from many different perspectives, which many students may find challenging.

However, AP European History covers far less material than AP World History, so students who did well in that course may find AP European History easier.

Your Subject Skills

As with all AP classes, your personal academic background will go a long way in determining how hard you find the class. Students with a strong aptitude for history and other humanities subjects are more likely to find the course easy than students who prefer STEM courses.

AP European History requires a large amount of essay writing and is well suited to students with strong written communication skills.

When Should You Take AP European History?

Students typically take AP European history their junior or senior year of high school. While there is no official rule preventing students from taking AP European History during their sophomore or freshman year, it is considered a particularly challenging course, better suited for students who have already had several years of high school history.

AP European History is one of three history courses offered through the AP program. Many students take AP European History only after doing well in AP World History: Modern or AP United States History in a previous year.

AP European History Exam: What You Need to Know

Before you take the AP European History exam, you should know how it is structured and scored and what scores students usually receive on the exam. Below is a table of how common different scores are on the exam, with the most common scores being a 2 or 3.

AP European History
Exam Score Number of Students Percentage of Students
5 8,918 10.6%
4 16,302 19.4%
3 20,799 24.7%
2 27,369 32.5%
1 10,849 12.9%

Source: College Board

How Is the AP European History Exam Structured?

There are three parts to the over 3-hour long AP European History exam. Section I is broken into two parts, while Section II is a single part.

Part A of section I contains 55 multiple choice questions, to be completed in 55 minutes. Part B, which is 40 minutes long, consists of three short answer questions. This is followed by a break, and then 1 hour 40 minutes for section II, which is made up of two longer essay-style questions.

How Is the AP European History Exam Scored?

The AP European History exam, like all AP exams, is scored 1-5, with 5 being the highest. The test is broken into a multiple choice section worth 40% of your score, three short answer questions (roughly a paragraph each) worth 20% all together, and 2 longer free-response questions worth 40% in total.

Students who struggle with longer essays may want to study particularly for the free-response questions. These essays are typically a few pages long.

How the AP European History Exam is Scored
Section 1 60%
Part A: Multiple-Choice Questions 40%
Part B: Short Answer Questions 20%
Section 2 40%
Free-Response Document-Based Question 25%
Free-Response Long Essay Question 15%

Source: College Board

AP European History: What Score Do I Need for College Credit?

On your AP European History exam, a score of 3 or better is considered passing, and signifies that you have mastered a college-level course. However, many colleges require a score of 4 or higher for you to receive credit towards your degree.

Some schools award more credit for higher scores, and others do not award credit at all. Check online what scores your college requires to earn credit towards your degree.

Should I Take AP European History?

Students considering taking AP European History have many different things to consider. The difficulty of the course and the exam is an important factor, but also worth considering is your own personal course load, how interested you are in the subject, the quality of the teacher, and even things like if you might want to study history in college.

If you're torn on whether or not to take AP European History, consider asking advice from students at your school who have taken the class before. They can offer you a valuable perspective on what taking AP European History is like at your particular high school.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP European History

true Is AP European history worth it?

Whether or not it is worth it to take AP European History depends on an individual student's personal circumstances. For students with a strong interest in history, whose school offers AP European History from a teacher with a good reputation, and who have room in their schedules, AP European History is probably worth it.

However, given the time commitment of the course and the difficulty many students have with the exam, AP European History may not be worth it for students who do not enjoy history or who are already struggling with their course load.

true Is AP European history harder than AP U.S. history?

Both AP U.S. History and AP European History are considered among the hardest AP classes, and many students find the exams in both courses especially challenging. Whether you will find AP U.S. History or AP European History more difficult depends on mainly individual factors.

These include things like your personal level of interest in each subject, your background knowledge of history, and the quality of the teachers at your particular high school for each course.

true Should I take AP European history or World history?

Like AP European History, AP World History is considered one of the harder AP courses. In the event that your school offers both, and you are not sure which AP course to take, you will have to consider your school and personal circumstances.

Ask students who have taken each course which one they enjoyed more, found easier, and took more interest in. You should also consider whether you would prefer the broader, global focus of AP World History or AP European History's narrower focus on a single continent.

AP World History challenges students. But how hard is the exam, and should high schoolers sign up for AP World History? Considering taking AP U.S. History? Learn how difficult this course and exam are and get tips on how you can earn the score you want. Learn how to find the "easiest" AP classes, which have more flexible study requirements, and earn college credit through classes with high exam pass rates.

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