US History I

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (the Declaration of Independence, 1776) . . . With these words, the Continental Congress set in motion what has become the great American democratic experiment . . . the structured, purposeful establishment of a new nation. 200 years of exploration by many countries and British colonization has been followed by over 240 years of nationhood.

The History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877 exam covers material that is usually taught in the first semester of a two-semester course in United States history. The exam covers information from the age of exploration and earliest colonization to the end of reconstruction following the Civil War. Before 1790, the history of the British colonies is given the focus. The heaviest emphasis of the exam is on the decades following nationhood.

The exam contains approximately 120 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. The College Board sets the parameters for the exam which we have listed here.


  • Identification and description of historical phenomena
  • Analysis and interpretation of historical phenomena
  • Comparison and contrast of historical phenomena

The subject matter of the History of the United States I exam is drawn from the following topics.


  • Political institutions, political developments, and public policy: 30% of the exam
  • Social developments: 30% of the exam
  • Economic developments: 10% of the exam
  • Cultural and intellectual developments: 20% of the exam
  • Diplomacy and international relations: 10% of the exam


  • 1500-1789: 30% of the exam
  • 1790-1877: 70% of the exam

The following themes are reflected in a comprehensive introductory survey course.

  • The impact of European discovery and colonization upon indigenous societies
  • The nature of indigenous societies in North America
  • The origins and nature of slavery and resistance
  • Immigration and the history of ethnic minorities
  • Major movements and individual figures in the history of women and the family
  • The development and character of colonial societies
  • British relations with the Atlantic colonies of North America
  • The changing role of religion in American society
  • The content of the Constitution and its amendments, and their interpretation by the Supreme Court
  • The development and expansion of participatory democracy
  • The growth of and changes in political parties
  • The changing role of government in American life
  • The intellectual and political expressions of nationalism
  • Major movements and individual figures in the history of American literature, art, and popular culture
  • Abolitionism and reform movements
  • Long term democratic trends: immigration and internal migration
  • The motivations for and character of American expansionism
  • The process of economic growth and development
  • The causes and impacts of major wars in United States history

Each college sets their own credit-granting policies for the exam, so check with your college admissions office, test center, or academic adviser before taking the test.