In them. That gives you one minute

In this lesson, we explore the multiple choice section of the AP European History exam and discover a few useful techniques that can help when a student just doesn’t know the answer.

Mastering Multiple Choice Questions

So, it’s almost test day! First of all, congratulations! You’ve gone through an entire course, learned loads of information most people don’t learn until university, and now you’re on the verge of gaining college credit for all that hard work. The first section you will have to complete to gain that credit is a multiple-choice test. This lesson will detail exactly how the sections and questions of the test are structured (an important part of understanding any test) along with some tips for tackling the tougher questions on the AP exam.

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Managing Time

The first thing you should always be mindful of when completing the multiple-choice section on any exam is the time. Though it sometimes changes, as of 2015, the AP European History course is comprised of 55 multiple-choice questions, and you have 55 minutes to answer all of them.

That gives you one minute to answer each question! Make sure you keep track of the time throughout the test. if you are falling behind that 40-second benchmark, you may want to speed up your decision-making process.Whatever you do, be sure to fill in an answer for every question. The AP test does not count off points for wrong answers, so it only makes sense to have every question answered, regardless of how sure you are that they are all right.


The 55 multiple-choice questions on the test are designed to test over the entire period. Exactly half the questions test the time period from 1450 up until the French Revolution, and the other half tests from the French Revolution to present day.

The topics of the test are also divided equally. One third tests your knowledge of cultural and intellectual topics, one third tests your knowledge of political and diplomatic topics, and the final third tests your knowledge of social and economic topics.Considering this, it makes sense to have equal command of all of your test material before the test. As a result, you should pay particular attention to topics or time periods on which your understanding is weaker. For example, if you know far more about the French Revolution than the English Civil War, you should study the English Civil War more.

As each portion of history has an equal chance of being on the test, it makes sense for you to make sure your knowledge is as well-rounded as possible.The multiple-choice questions themselves will be rather straight forward. You will be asked a question, and there will be five possible answers given. Only one answer for each question will be correct. You will never face a ‘choose all that apply’ type of question. However, there are often questions which state that ‘all of the following answers are correct except’ the correct answer. Because of this, be sure to carefully read each question before answering.

Sometimes, there may be a picture or map in the test, and one or a group of questions will ask you to analyze the image and answer the questions that follow accordingly. The amount of these types of questions varies from year to year, but there is almost always at least one.


You may think these multiple-choice questions are hard to prepare for, and to some extent you’re right. However, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a better chance of answering questions correctly. When reading each question, try to cover up the answers with a sheet of paper or your hand. As you are reading the question, try to anticipate what the answer will be before you look at the answers. If the answer you thought of is one of the choices, great! Circle it, check quickly to see if any other answer might be better, and move on.

This should lead to some rapid responses, which will save you time that can be used on more difficult questions.Sometimes you are faced with a question to which you simply just don’t know the answer. Perhaps you missed that day in class or your brain has just failed you in the moment.

It’s okay, it happens. However, while we may not be able to be 100% sure of our answers on questions like these, we can do everything within our power to maximize our chances of getting the question right. We do this by making educated guesses.

Educated guesses are still guesses, but they are guesses we make after eliminating several other answers we know to be wrong, thereby maximizing our chances of getting the answer right. Let’s take the following question as an example:Who was the first king of the Tudor Dynasty (1485-1603) in England?A) Henry VIIB) George IIIC) Louis XIVD) James IE) Philip VThis question would seem daunting if you did not immediately know the answer is A) Henry VII. You could just fill in a bubble and move on, but then your chances of getting it right are only 20%. Instead, let’s dig deeper: look at each answer individually and determine what you know about each answer.For example, if you know that George III was the king of England during the American Revolution, then you probably know that the American Revolution occurred far after 1603, the end date of the Tudor Dynasty which the question gives you, so it can’t be him. You may also know that Louis XIV was the Sun King, the famed 17th- and 18th-century King of France, so it can’t be him, either. You may even know, if you have a better understanding of the Stuart Dynasty, that James I was the first king of that dynasty in England, so it can’t be him, either.

Now, instead of randomly guessing between five choices, you have used your knowledge, which at first seemed irrelevant, to narrow down your choices to two possible answers. Even if you’ve never heard of Henry VII or Philip V, your odds of getting the question right have jumped from 20% to a whopping 50%. Sure, it’s still a coin flip on that one question, but if you have to guess on 10 questions over the course of the test, the math says you’ll get three more right if you can narrow down your choices to two rather than just guessing randomly.Now that you have this technique down, prepare on your own. Your teacher may have practice test questions on which you can hone your skills, and there are various websites (including this very one!) where practice questions are also available. The more you study and prepare now, the more confident you will be and the better you will perform on test day.

Lesson Summary

Multiple-choice tests seem like they should be tough to study for.

Most people think you either know the answer or you don’t. However, you can aid your performance on the AP multiple-choice exam by practicing several techniques and understanding how the test is designed. With 55 minutes to answer 55 questions, you have one minute to answer each question. Pay attention to the time and change your pace accordingly.Be sure to fill in each answer! As the exam is designed to test each topic and time period of European history equally, focus most of your pretest studying on areas where you feel your knowledge is weaker.

Read each question carefully. If you don’t know the answer, make an educated guess by thinking about the answers instead of the question. Rather than panicking about what you don’t know, think about what you do know about the answers, and see if you can eliminate any of the choices. With these techniques in mind, practice on sample questions you can find in the days leading up to the test. Good luck!


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