AP World History: Key Concepts and Review Materials


The Advanced Placement (AP) World History course offers a comprehensive exploration of global history from ancient civilizations to the present day. The associated AP World History exam challenges students to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts and historical developments. In this article, we'll delve into the essential concepts of AP World History and suggest review materials to help students prepare effectively for the exam.

Key Concepts in AP World History

1. Periodization:

   Understanding the key periods in world history is fundamental. AP World History is divided into six chronological periods, spanning from prehistory to the contemporary era. Mastery of these periods is crucial for contextualizing historical events and developments.

2. Historical Themes:

   Recognizing overarching themes allows students to make connections across time and space. Common themes include globalization, technological developments, cultural interactions, social structures, political systems, and economic patterns.

3. Cultural Developments:

   AP World History emphasizes the influence of culture on societies. Students should be familiar with the major cultural and intellectual movements, such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and various religious traditions that shaped different regions.

4. Political Structures:

   Examining different political structures and systems is essential. This includes understanding the development of empires, monarchies, democracies, and other political entities and how they evolved over time.

5. Economic Systems:

   Economic developments have played a crucial role in shaping world history. Students should grasp the key economic systems, trade networks, and the impact of technological innovations on economic structures.

6. Social Structures:

   The examination of social structures involves understanding class systems, gender roles, and societal hierarchies. This concept extends to analyzing how social structures changed over time and influenced historical events.

7. Global Interactions:

   AP World History emphasizes global interactions and exchanges. Students should be familiar with major trade routes, cultural diffusion, and the consequences of global connections on societies and economies.

8. Technological Innovations:

   Technological advancements have significantly shaped historical developments. A solid understanding of key inventions and their impact on societies is crucial for success in the exam.

Review Materials for AP World History

1. AP World History Textbooks:

   Utilize reputable AP World History textbooks that cover the entire curriculum. Recommended options include "World Civilizations: The Global Experience" by Peter N. Stearns and "The Earth and Its Peoples" by Richard Bulliet.

2. Review Guides and Prep Books:

   Invest in review guides and preparation books specifically tailored for the AP World History exam. The "Barron's AP World History" and "Princeton Review: Cracking the AP World History Exam" are popular choices that provide comprehensive content review and practice exams.

3. Online Resources:

   Leverage online platforms such as Khan Academy, College Board's AP World History course page, and other educational websites that offer videos, quizzes, and interactive lessons to reinforce key concepts.

4. Document-Based Question (DBQ) Practice:

   The DBQ is a crucial component of the AP World History exam. Practice writing responses to sample DBQs to hone your skills in analyzing historical documents and constructing coherent arguments.

5. Flashcards:

   Create or use pre-made flashcards to review key terms, events, and concepts. Apps like Quizlet offer a variety of AP World History flashcard sets created by students and educators.

6. Practice Exams:

   Regularly take practice exams under timed conditions to simulate the actual exam experience. This helps you build endurance and identify areas that may need additional focus.

7. Documentary Films and Videos:

   Supplement your studies with documentary films and educational videos that cover specific historical periods or events. Platforms like YouTube and streaming services often host quality content suitable for AP World History review.

8. Study Groups:

   Form or join study groups with classmates to discuss key concepts, share insights, and quiz each other. Collaborative learning can enhance understanding and retention of information.


Success in the AP World History exam hinges on a solid grasp of key concepts, historical developments, and effective study strategies. By incorporating comprehensive review materials, engaging in active study methods, and practicing with sample questions, students can confidently navigate the complexities of world history and perform well on the AP exam. Remember to approach your studies with a strategic mindset, emphasizing both breadth and depth of understanding across the diverse periods and themes covered in AP World History.