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History isn't just facts; even more important is the meaning behind the facts. These meanings are called trends or themes. When you've got the themes, you have a framework on which to remember the facts. Plus, the AP is really big on themes. The main themes fall into these three categories: political events and decisions, economic realities and incentives, and social trends and conditions. Connect these themes (use the acronym PES to help you remember what the themes are), and you'll connect to success on exam day.

The multiple-choice section on the AP History exam will include questions that fall into these three categories:

- 35 percent on political institutions and policy

- 40 percent on social history, including cultural developments

- 25 percent on economic and international relationships

Half the credit on the AP U.S. History test comes from 80 multiple-choice questions. Your score on this section depends on preparation and reasoning skill which will be held together by your understanding of political, economic, and social (PES) trends. The other half of the credit on the big test comes from just three essay questions. Anybody can memorize facts; leaders are the people who can use those facts successfully. Political, economic, and social trends let you show how the facts come together.


Throughout this book, the political, economic, and social topics are presented in italics with a date, like Progressives (1910). If the important topic is a law, the date is when it was passed, like the Seventeenth Amendment (1913). If the topic is an institution like Hull House (1889) or a person like John D. Rockefeller (1885), the date is a key year in what could be a long career. The AP test doesn't care much about exact dates, but you do need to be able to keep key events in chronological order.

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