5 Steps to a 5: AP European History 2024 - Bartolini-Salimbeni B., Petersen W., Arata K. 2023

STEP 3 Develop Strategies for Success
5 The Multiple-Choice Questions


Summary: The multiple-choice questions of the new AP European History Exam are all based on a “visual stimulus,” making them a little different from the multiple-choice questions you are used to. This chapter will help you learn what to expect and develop a strategy to successfully approach these questions.


Key Ideas:

Image Use the process of elimination to find the best answer.

Image If you can’t eliminate all but one answer choice, take a guess. In fact, don’t leave any multiple-choice answers blank; there’s always a chance you will guess correctly.


Section I, Part A, of the AP European History Exam consists of 55 multiple-choice questions to be completed within 55 minutes. The questions come in sets of two to five questions, which are tied to a “visual stimulus.” The visual stimulus presents a primary or secondary source, a historian’s argument, or a historical problem. We will look at an example in a minute, but first let’s remind ourselves of what we already know about multiple-choice questions.

Passive Knowledge and the Process of Elimination

All multiple-choice exams test passive knowledge. The multiple-choice section of the AP European History Exam will test your passive knowledge of European history from roughly 1450 to the present. That is, it will test your ability to recognize the best answer out of a group of possible answers to a specific historical question. The word best is important. It means that all multiple-choice questions are answered through a process of elimination; you begin by eliminating the one that is most clearly not the “best” and continue until you have a “survivor.” In this process of elimination three types of answers will appear. There are typically two answers that are definitively wrong, if you have an understanding of the question’s content. These should be eliminated first. Then there is an answer that is meant to work as a distraction. This answer is one that appears to have attributes that could be correct, but are ultimately overshadowed by the “best” answer, which will be most correct.

Putting Your Historical Thinking Skills to Use


Remember that the point of each section of the AP European History Exam is to test your ability to use the thinking skills of the historian. Recall that the three main categories of historical thinking skills are reasoning chronologically, putting information in context, and arguing from evidence. Although you won’t create your own argument from evidence in the multiple-choice section, you will be asked to identify which answer choice is supported by the evidence in the visual stimulus. That means that you will find the best answers to the questions by using all three of these types of historical thinking skills. Let’s look at another example.

Here is a set of multiple-choice questions similar to the ones you will encounter on the AP European History Exam. Following the questions is an explanation of how you would arrive at the best answer.

Questions 1 and 2 relate to the following passage:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. . . . From these things it follows as a necessary consequence that, since the Holy Ghost did not intend to teach us whether heaven moves or stands still, whether its shape is spherical or like a discus or extended in a plane, nor whether the earth is located at its center or off to one side. . . . I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree: “That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”

Galileo Galilei, Letter to Christina, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, 1615

1. Galileo was participating in what intellectual and cultural development?

A. The consolidation of political power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

B. The rise of natural philosophy and the Scientific Revolution

C. The Great Voyages of Exploration and early colonization

D. The Industrial Revolution

Read the passage (the visual stimulus), and scan the four possible answers. It is possible that you recognize that the correct answer is B, because you know that the historical context with which Galileo is associated is the rise of natural philosophy and the Scientific Revolution. But suppose for a moment that you were taking the exam and drew a blank on Galileo. You could still answer the question fairly quickly by asking yourself a series of chronological and contextual questions about the possible answers. First, you notice that the passage is dated 1615. Can you eliminate any of the answers based on that chronology? Yes, D can be eliminated because you know the Industrial Revolution was a late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century phenomenon. C also is improbable because most of the Great Voyages occurred earlier than 1615. Now examine the contexts of the remaining answers. Does the passage seem to have anything to do with the context of sea voyages? No, so C can definitely be eliminated. Does the passage seem to have anything to do with the consolidation of political power? No, so A can be eliminated. Finally, contextual reference to the conflict between the authority of the church and concern for how the heavens move confirms that the context for this passage is the rise of natural philosophy and the Scientific Revolution.

2. Galileo’s philosophy has brought him into conflict with which of the following?

A. The King of France

B. The barons of industry

C. The Holy Roman Emperor

D. The authority of the Catholic Church in Rome

Here again, you may know that natural philosophers like Galileo came into conflict with the Catholic Church in Rome. Conversely, the other choices can be eliminated through a combination of chronological reasoning (industrialization, and therefore, the creation of barons of industry, is a nineteenth-century phenomenon) and contextualization (arguments about the movement of the heavens have no contextual relationship to political rulers like the King of France or the Holy Roman Emperor).

About Guessing


Should you guess? Total scores on the multiple-choice section are based solely on the number of questions you answer correctly. Points are not deducted for incorrect answers, and no points are awarded for unanswered questions. In other words, there is no guessing penalty. If you are unsure of an answer, take a guess.

Further Practice with Multiple-Choice Questions

In this book you’ll find test-like multiple-choice questions at the end of each content review chapter in Step 4. Use these to practice your strategy for attacking the multiple-choice section of the AP European History Exam. Use the explanations provided to help you understand any questions you get wrong. It’s a good idea to read the explanations, not only for the questions you missed, but also for any that you were unsure of or for which you didn’t understand one of the answer choices. Additional practice for the multiple-choice questions can be found in the Practice Exams in Step 5. To gain more practice and become more proficient, access the sample multiple-choice questions provided online at the College Board website (www.collegeboard.org).