Course Spotlight: AP European History

by Gerardo Hurtado, class of 2020

AP European History intimidates many incoming sophomores. But I will say that the course is immensely valuable in terms of academic skills; and further, I believe that it is nearly essential to future academic success. The course spans four centuries of European history and the development of wars, religion, and nations. It is relatively pain-free; each day, the teacher lectures for fifty minutes. We follow lecture notes, printed packets containing every detail (the bolded ones are necessary), while the teacher provides a slideshow with visuals that enhance understanding of the topic. After the completion of a unit, anywhere from two to four weeks long, there are written and multiple-choice exams on the unit. The multiple-choice questions are primarily stimulus-based, meaning that the questions are accompanied by a related source (historical images or excerpts). The essays are either three SAQs (short answer), one LEQ (long essay), or one DBQ (document-based question). However, these essays are not graded specifically on writing ability; the purpose isn’t to write beautifully, but to state the facts and respond to the prompt, so do not fear if you have difficulties with writing.

This is, in my opinion, the most applicable part of this course; you learn the essentials of AP essay writing, which will further carry on to the MAJORITY of AP courses – almost all require some written portions. Moreover, the course is interesting. Sure, European history can seem intimidating; but the reality is that the course is largely conceptual, focusing on major topics across several nations. It is not tedious nor mind-numbing. It is interesting, eye-opening, and relevant to today. Much of what I learned deepened my overall understanding of the world and history; the origins of government, religion, and world affairs.

What is required for AP European history is moderate studying and discipline. I define “moderate studying” as the equivalent of 10 minutes a day, 5 days/week reviewing lecture notes and/or using Quizlet as a tool to review key terms from the chapter/unit. Discipline is necessary because some people may find lecture as monotonous. But I assure you that you can quickly adjust to listening to a history lecture, and if that is not sufficient, you can create diagrams or flowcharts or any other visuals which can help you understand a topic.

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