THEMATIC LEARNING OBJECTIVES FROM THE COLLEGEBOARDThe content learning objectives for the AP U.S. History course and exam are organized under seven themes, which are topics of historical inquiry to explore throughout the AP U.S. History course. Themes capture "big ideas" in American history and the exam will assess students' understanding of them. All questions on the AP U.S. History Exam will measure student understanding of the specified thematic learning objectives.
- Identity: This theme focuses on the formation of both American national identity and group identities in U.S. history. Students should be able to explain how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history, with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities. Students should be able to explain how these sub-identities have interacted with each other and with larger conceptions of American national identity.
- Work, Exchange, and Technology: This theme focuses on the development of American economies based on agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing. Students should examine ways that different economic and labor systems, technological innovations, and government policies have shaped American society. Students should explore the lives of working people and the relationships among social classes, racial and ethnic groups, and men and women, including the availability of land and labor, national and international economic developments, and the role of government support and regulation.
- Peopling: This theme focuses on why and how the various people who moved to, from, and within
the United States adapted to their new social and physical environments. Students examine migration across borders and long distances, including the slave trade and internal migration, and how both newcomers and indigenous inhabitants transformed North America. The theme also illustrates how people responded when “borders crossed them.” Students explore the ideas, beliefs, traditions, technologies, religions, and gender roles that migrants/immigrants and annexed peoples brought with them and the impact these factors had on both these peoples and on U.S. society.
- Politics and Power: Students should examine ongoing debates over the role of the state in society and its potential as an active agent for change. This includes mechanisms for creating, implementing, or limiting participation in the political process and the resulting social effects, as well as the changing relationships among the branches of the federal government and among national, state, and local governments. Students should trace efforts to define or gain access to individual rights and citizenship and survey the evolutions of tensions between liberty and authority in different periods of U.S. history.
- America in the World: In this theme, students should focus on the global context in which the United States originated and developed as well as the influence of the United States on world affairs. Students should examine how various world actors (such as people, states, organizations, and companies)
have competed for the territory and resources of the North American continent, influencing the development of both American and world societies and economies. Students should also investigate how American foreign policies and military actions have affected the rest of the world as well as social issues within the United States itself.
- Environment and Geography (Physical and Human): This theme examines the role of environment, geography, and climate in both constraining and shaping human actions. Students should analyze the interaction between the environment and Americans in their efforts to survive and thrive. Students should also explore efforts to interpret, preserve, manage, or exploit natural and man-made environments, as well as the historical contexts within which interactions with the environment have taken place.
- Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture: This theme explores the roles that ideas, beliefs, social mores, and creative expression have played in shaping the United States. Students should examine the development of aesthetic, moral, religious, scientific, and philosophical principles and consider how these principles have affected individual and group actions. Students should analyze the interactions between beliefs and communities, economic values, and political movements, including attempts to change American society to align it with specific ideals.