How Do I Self-Study AP European History?

7 min readnovember 15, 2021

Thomasina Lester

Thomasina Lester

AP European History 🇪🇺

335 resources
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Thinking about self-studying AP European History? If the course isn't available at your school or if you're homeschooled, self-studying is the perfect alternative!
It's important to understand what comes with self-studying to adequately prepare yourself for the process. Consider what you would like to get out of self-studying the course.
Fiveable is here to help you get the most out of your experience and overcome any challenges you may face! Check out the AP Euro hub!

⚖️ Weighing the Pros and Cons of Self-Studying

✅ Pros
  • Can take AP exam if you're homeschooled or if the AP class isn't available at your school
  • Can earn college credit
  • Can find your own pace
  • Can learn content that you might not have otherwise
  • Can learn new skills, such as discipline and time management
❌ Cons
  • Might be difficult to create your own course structure and follow it, especially if you have a busy schedule
  • Might be difficult to find someone familiar with the subject to provide feedback
  • Might be challenging to stay motivated, especially if history isn't your favorite
  • Might be an overwhelming process
  • Might not be worth self-studying, depending on your future plans

📜 The College Board's Course and Exam Description (CED)

The College Board's CED is the core document used by teachers to structure their own classes, but it can be overwhelming on page 1 of 285. As a student, you might have trouble understanding the technical language of the CED at first, but don't let that discourage you!
If you have the time toward the beginning of the self-studying process, browse through the CED, and find the sections that will help you the most. Alternatively, you could use the CED to ensure that you covered all the required content prior to reviewing for the exam.
Use the CED to learn about the typical structure of the course and the expected structure of the exam, which are outlined below to get you started.

Basic Course Structure: AP European History

Unit TitleTime PeriodExam Weighting
Unit 1: Renaissance and Explorationc. 1450 – c. 164810–15%
Unit 2: Age of Reformationc. 1450 – c. 164810–15%
Unit 3: Absolutism and Constitutionalismc. 1648 – c. 181510–15%
Unit 4: Scientific, Philosophical, and Political Developmentsc. 1648 – c. 181510–15%
Unit 5: Conflict, Crisis, and Reaction in the Late 18th Centuryc. 1648 – c. 181510–15%
Unit 6: Industrialization and Its Effectsc. 1815 – c. 191410–15%
Unit 7: 19th-Century Perspectives and Political Developmentsc. 1815 – c. 191410–15%
Unit 8: 20th-Century Global Conflictsc. 1914 – present10–15%
Unit 9: Cold War and Contemporary Europec. 1914 – present10–15%

Basic Exam Structure: AP European History Exam

Section #Question TypeNumber of QuestionsExam WeightingTiming
1Multiple-Choice (MCQ)5540%55 minutes
1Short-Answer (SAQ)320%40 minutes
2Document-Based (DBQ)125%60 minutes (recommended)
2Long-Essay (LEQ)115%40 minutes (recommended)

Helpful Sections 💡

Course at a Glance: pg. 24–27
This layout provides an overview of each unit and its topics. Reference this chart to plan your next steps.
Exam Overview: pg. 235–240
This section breaks down every part of the exam and what knowledge is being tested. Take the time to work through all of the information and understand the format.

🗓️ Creating an Effective Study Schedule

If you're self-studying, one of the best resources that you can create for yourself is a study schedule. This study schedule will look different for every student, but make sure that you define a clear and realistic structure that includes all of the information you'll need for convenience.
If you take the time to create a high-quality study schedule before you begin self-studying, you can save a lot of time in the long run. You'll minimize confusion and feel less overwhelmed!
The CED will be very helpful during this step of self-studying! You can determine how long you should focus on certain concepts and build a sense of familiarity with the course. Remember to account for your classes and activities, breaks, and review time before the exam. Find what works for you and make the study schedule your own!

🔎 Finding the Best Resources

📚 Textbook and Prep Books

👉 Best AP European History Textbooks and Prep Books by Thomasina Lester [link]
To have a comprehensive and structured source of content, look into textbooks and prep books. Textbooks can be incredibly expensive, but they serve as a good option if you can find one for a fair price or if your school can provide one. A good alternative is a prep book, as they are more affordable and cover the most important information of the course.
Take a look at Fiveable's study guides if you're a fan of written content! Our study guides follow the CED and are easy to read.
Here are a few of the most popular prep books:
  • The Princeton Review: Cracking the AP European History Exam
  • Barron's AP European History
  • 5 Steps to a 5: AP European History
  • REA's Crash Course for AP European History

📺 Videos

Videos are a great alternative to lectures or explanations provided by a teacher! Youtube is the best website to visit for these resources, but you'll need to find the ones that work for you.
Fiveable offers live streams that are perfect for self-studiers! Tune in to learn something new or review a certain topic. Check the calendar for upcoming events!
Here are a few student favorites to get you started:

➕ Other Resources

Watch movies and TV shows or read historical books to have fun and study the content! While you shouldn't self-study using only these resources, they can mix things up and help you remember certain events.
Here are a few recommendations that you might enjoy:
Movies and TV Shows
  • Luther (2003)
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
  • Amazing Grace (2006)
  • October Sky (1999)
  • The Queen (2006)
  • Sister Wendy's American Collection (2001)
  • A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman
  • A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
  • The Great Cat Massacre by Robert Darnton
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King

📝 Practice Exams

Take advantage of the free-response questions that the College Board releases every year! They are accompanied by samples and scoring, which makes it easy to see what the exam readers want to identify in your work.
Answer the released free-response questions yourself, rather than reviewing sample answers. Consistent practice makes perfect. Respond to the problems in testing conditions (timed with no resources) and use the scoring guidelines to reflect on your work.

👩‍⚖️ Getting Feedback

👉 AP Euro Practice Prompts:
One of the most important parts of any AP course, but especially history courses, is the ability to gain feedback from other students and teachers. While the term "self-studying" implies working alone, don’t devalue the potential of collective knowledge.
Try to find an AP World History or AP US History teacher at your school who is willing to review your free-response questions (same rubrics across courses). If you can find a teacher who has knowledge of European history, their feedback will be even better! If you're homeschooled, look into homeschooling groups or reach out to teachers at your local school who may be able to help out.
If you don't have access to teachers in your area who are able to help you in self-studying, look to the internet! Fiveable has an amazing community of students and teachers who are ready to help you. Reddit is also a great place to find fellow students, try checking out subreddits like r/APStudents or r/APEuro.

5️⃣ Taking the Exam

Make sure that you know the process in place to register and take the exam at the end of the school year. Contact the AP coordinator at your school to discuss the exam details, including ordering the exam and determining the exam location. If you're homeschooled, you should contact schools in your area for more information about their exam policies. Start this search early in the school year to ensure that you meet any deadlines.

✨ Staying Motivated and Confident

Taking the leap to self-study for an AP exam, especially a content-heavy subject like a history course, is already an accomplishment! You have already shown that you have a special amount of drive and dedication. Work hard and take breaks. Remember that you are capable of success!
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🎨Unit 1 – Renaissance & Exploration
⛪️Unit 2 – Reformation
👑Unit 3 – Absolutism & Constitutionalism
🤔Unit 4 – Scientific, Philosophical, & Political Developments
🥖Unit 5 – Conflict, Crisis, & Reaction in the Late 18th Century
🚂Unit 6 – Industrialization & Its Effects
Unit 7 – 19th Century Perspectives & Political Developments
💣Unit 8 – 20th Century Global Conflicts
🥶Unit 9 – Cold War & Contemporary Europe
📚Study Tools
🤔Exam Skills
👉Subject Guides

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