Exam preparation materials


Cracking the Multiple-Choice Section


As we mentioned in the introduction, to do well on the multiple-choice section of the AP World History Exam, you need to know two things: (1) world history (à la Advanced Placement), and (2) how to show that you know world history. One way to prove that you know world history is by correctly answering the number of multiple-choice questions necessary to score 3 or above.

Obvious, right? Then why is it that lots of students who know world history don’t get a great score on the test? Could it be because there are 70 questions to answer in 55 minutes? Or is it because they know the history but don’t know how to wade through the answer choices efficiently?

Students often don’t perform to the best of their ability on the AP World History Exam because in addition to knowing the history, they need to know how to analyze the questions, get rid of the bad answer choices, and find the correct answer in a short period of time. That’s what this chapter is all about.


As of May 2011, the AP exams no longer subtract one quarter of a point for incorrect answers—the infamous “guessing penalty.” Instead, students are assessed only on the total number of correct questions. It is really important to remember that if you are running out of time, you need to fill in all the bubbles before the time for the multiple-choice section is up. Even if you don’t plan to spend a lot of time on every question and even if you have no idea what the correct answer is, you need to fill something in. We don’t recommend random guessing as an overall strategy, but taking smart guesses at the right time can substantially increase your raw score on the multiple-choice section of the test. Let’s see when guessing can help you.

There are four answer choices for each multiple-choice question. If you were able to eliminate just one wrong answer for each question on the entire multiple-choice section, random odds say you would get one-fourth of the questions correct. That’s about 17.5 questions—round up to 18 questions or points. Even if you get rid of just one wrong answer from each question throughout the test, you begin to gain points. When you get to questions in which you can’t eliminate any options, use what we call your letter of the day (LOTD). Selecting the same answer choice each time you guess will increase your odds of getting a few of those skipped questions right.

And Furthermore

Guessing also raises your score because it saves you time. Seventy questions in 55 minutes is a lot. In fact, it’s about 45 seconds per question. How can you possibly answer that many questions in that short a period of time? Two ways: Guess and Go, or Don’t.

Guess and Go

Consider the following thought processes of two AP World History test takers on this question:

  1. Signed in 1215 C.E., England’s Magna Carta was a document that

(A) increased the wealth of the European nobility

(B) established England as a monarchy under King Richard

(C) guaranteed individual liberties to all men

(D) contained articles that were the foundation for modern justice

(E) declared the king of England to be leader of the Church of England

Student One

    The Magna Carta—I know it was that charter in England in the 1200s that made the king accountable for his actions, so the answer can’t be (A) and doesn’t really match (E), either—cross those off. Who was that king? Was it John? I think so. That gets rid of (B). Now, is it more accurate to say that the original document guaranteed individual liberties to all men or that some of the articles became foundations for modern justice. Individual liberties for all men … hmmm … foundations for modern justice. Both sound possible. Was it liberties for all men? I thought so but maybe not or not all men or not at the time. Did the Magna Carta influence modern justice? I think so but in what way exactly? Could it be described as foundational to modern justice? Hmmm.…

Student Two

    The Magna Carta—that charter in England in the 1200s that made the king accountable for his actions. Cross off (A). And it wasn’t about religion, so cross off (E). The king was … John … yeah, King John. That gets rid of (B). (C)…hmmm … did the Magna Carta guarantee individual liberties to all men? Maybe, not sure so leave it. (D)…did it contain articles that became foundations of modern justice? Could have. Guaranteed for all men or foundations of modern justice? I’m not sure, but I think (C) is too strong—guaranteed for all men. I’ll guess (D).

Next question. The printing press was invented by Gutenberg sometime near the Reformation. 
Cross off (A) and (C)…

In the above scenario, Student One continues to deliberate between (C) and (D) while Student Two goes on to the next question. What’s the difference? Student Two did all the work she could, considered the remaining options, then took a smart guess and moved on. Student One did all the work he could, then got stuck trying to make a decision between the two remaining options. As the test progresses, Student One will lag further and further behind Student Two, not because he knows less world history, but because he is less willing to take that guess and move on. To do well on the AP World History Exam, you need to do what you can but then be willing to take your best guess and move on to the next question.


Imagine that you are an AP World History Exam writer (you never know, it could happen). As you begin, you first formulate the question portion of the question (or the stem), then craft your correct answer. But your work does not stop there.

Once you are satisfied with the correct answer, you need to create four wrong answer choices. How would you come up with respectable wrong answer choices quickly? Probably by looking at closely related facts or words that remind you of the question, or by thinking of almost-true and partially true answers. In other words, you create distractor answers that appear to be likely options. Distractors are meant to trip up a test taker who doesn’t know the history, doesn’t know how to wade through multiple-choice answers, or is rushing to finish.

For example, let’s say you have crafted a question about a similarity between Christianity and Islam.

  2. The spread of Islam and the spread of Christianity were similar in that members of both religions




(D) actively strived to convert members of other belief systems


Now that you have your question and your correct answer, what wrong answers could be inserted that might attract a tester who is unsure of the correct response? You could insert something that is true about one religion but not necessarily of the other. For example, look at choices (A) and (B).

  2. The spread of Islam and the spread of Christianity were similar in that members of both religions

(A) were required to make a journey to the Holy Land once in the course of their lifetimes

(B) believed that their main prophet (Jesus for Christians, Mohammad for Muslims) was the one true son of God


(D) actively strived to convert members of other belief systems


(A) is true of Islam but not Christianity, and (B) is true of Christianity but not Islam. What else could you fill in? Something that is true of both religions but does not answer the question. To do this, you must make sure that part of the answer choice (often the second half) makes that choice clearly wrong. For example, look at answer choice (C). Alternatively, you could fill in something that was entirely true—but that didn’t answer the question being asked. Check out answer choice (E).

  2. The spread of Islam and the spread of Christianity were similar in that members of both religions

(A) were required to make a journey to the Holy Land once in the course of their lifetimes

(B) believe that their main prophet (Jesus for Christians, Mohammad for Muslims) was the one true son of God

(C) ascribed to a monotheistic view in which the only way to salvation is through the rejection of all other beliefs, both sacred and secular

(D) actively strived to convert members of other belief systems

(E) considered actively pursuing good deeds, good words, and good thoughts essential to keeping universal chaos in check

Notice how (C) begins with something that is true of both religions, but then incorrectly describes rejecting beliefs that are both sacred and secular. It also does not have to do with the spread of the religions. A tester who reads this question in a hurry might see:

Islam and … Christianity were similar…(C), ascribe to a monotheistic view. That’s it.

Or, perhaps you might see Christianity and Islam and think:

Monotheistic, good words and deeds and thoughts … that sounds familiar … those concepts go together! Let’s pick (E).

You get the idea. Why are we making you create AP World History questions? So that you can avoid the mistakes you are expected to make on the exam. How often have you read the answer choices to a question, assuming each is a plausible answer but only one of them is right? When you do that, you spend a whole lot of time considering the options. For example:

(A), Were required to make a journey to the Holy Land once in the course of their lifetimes. Well, I know that Muslims have to. Did early Christians have to? I don’t think so, but maybe. I guess it’s possible. What about (B)? Major prophet … Jesus or Mohammad, son of God. Well, Jesus, yes. Mohammad was the main prophet … do Muslims consider him the son of God? I don’t know for sure. I don’t think so, but I guess it is possible too. Well, how about (C)? Ascribe to a monotheistic view … yes … salvation through the rejection of other beliefs? Hmmm … both sacred and secular. Hmmm … well, the first part is true. I’m not so sure about that second part, but maybe it was true. I don’t know what the rule was about secular beliefs. Then again, the question is about the spread of religion, so it really doesn’t answer the question. What about (D)? Actively strive to convert members. Well, yes, I think both of these religions did that. That’s a possibility. (E), Good deeds, good words, good thoughts, cutting down on chaos? All of those sound logical and related to the kind of things Christianity and Islam care about, so that could work…

Processing each answer choice as if it is a good possibility leads to considering far too many things that a critical eye would see as wrong right away. Instead, work through this question assuming each answer is wrong until proven right.

(A), Were required to make a journey to the Holy Land … Muslims yes, but I don’t think Christians. Cross it off. (B), Jesus or Mohammad, one true son of God. True for Jesus, I don’t think so for Mohammad. Cross it off. (C), Monotheistic, yes, reject other beliefs, not sure, skip it and come back. (D), Actively strive to convert members of other belief systems. Definitely. Check (E) to be sure, good behavior to … reduce universal chaos? Too cosmic for Christians and Muslims, not it.

Notice how you can process answers much more quickly and efficiently when you are reading them with a critical eye? Different approaches may very well get you to the correct answer, but it will take a whole lot longer. You could also get caught up in a wrong answer, spending too much time trying to figure out why it might be right instead of remembering that it is probably wrong. On the other hand, reading with a critical eye allows you to cross off answers more aggressively, so by the time you get to (D), you feel pretty sure that it is the answer. And what if we had crossed off all the answer choices? No problem. Just start over and read a little more carefully. It is better to be a little too aggressive than to consider every answer choice a viable option.

Process of Elimination

Every time you read an AP World History Exam question, remember that four of the five answer choices you are reading are wrong. Use the Process of Elimination (POE) to get rid of what you know is wrong as you go through the choices. Then deal with any answer choices you have left. For most questions, you will be able to eliminate one to three answer choices relatively quickly. That leaves you with two to four answer choices to consider and take a better-than-blind guess among. We will talk more about POE throughout the rest of this chapter. Just remember to read answer choices as “wrong until proven right” and you’ll be on your way to showing what you know on the multiple-choice part of this test.

If you can’t eliminate any answers, it’s best to skip the question altogether. Mark these skipped questions in some distinctive way so that you can come back to them later if you have time, and make sure you leave a space on your answer sheet. Always keep in mind that the multiple-choice section is difficult, if not impossible, for most students to finish—a score of 50 is good! Focus on accuracy as you work through this section.


To do well on the multiple-choice section of the exam, you need to solve each question step by step. The best way to learn this process is to take a look at a sample AP World History Exam question.

  3. When the Europeans arrived in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1400s and 1500s, the African slave trade was

(A) just beginning

(B) well established and about 500 years old

(C) still under the control of Muslim traders

(D) not economically viable and did not interest the Europeans

(E) already providing large numbers of slaves to Asia


First you must make sure that you understand what the question is asking. Read the sample question again. What is it really asking? If you are having trouble figuring it out, answer the questions When?, Who?, What? For example, in the above question about slave trade, you can answer in the following way:

When?   1400–1599

Who?   Europeans and sub-Saharan Africa

What?   Slave trade

Then, rephrase the question so that it is clear to you.

What was up with the African slave trade in the 1400–1500 period?


Once you’ve rewritten the question, take a moment to call up the relevant history that you know. If it is a topic you know well, it will be easy to come up with an answer. If you can’t come up with a full answer, think of a few key points that you do know about the topic. Here’s an example of what you might know about the slave trade from 1400–1500.

It already existed in both Africa and Europe, so it wasn’t new.

If you can’t answer the question completely, you can still use what you do know to get rid of wrong answer choices using the Process of Elimination.


Even if you do not know exactly what was going on with the slave trade in the 1400s and 1500s, you can use the little you do know to eliminate wrong answer choices. Remember to read each answer choice with a critical eye, looking for what makes it wrong. Cross off the choices that you know are wrong; leave ones that you are uncertain about or you think are right.

Let’s review what we know so far about the question. When? 1400–1599. Who? Europeans in Africa. What? Slave trade. What do you know about slave trade in 1400–1599? It was not new. Armed with this information, take a look again at the answer choices.

(A) just beginning

(B) well established and about 500 years old

(C) still under the control of Muslim traders

(D) not economically viable and did not interest the Europeans

(E) already providing large numbers of slaves to Asia

Take a look at answer choice (A). Was it just beginning? No. Cross off (A)—this cannot be the answer to the question. You may not be sure about (B) or (C), but what about (D)? Was slavery economically viable or interesting to Europeans? It must have been or it would not have become so extensive. Your common sense tells you that (D) cannot be the answer, so cross it off and move along to (E). Asia? You may not remember where slaves were sent, but think about it in the other direction—do you remember hearing about black people anywhere in Asia’s history? You shouldn’t because it didn’t happen, so (E)’s gone, too. If you have no idea between (B) and (C), at least it’s now a 50-50 shot, so what should you do? Guess and move on.


After using POE, you have a fifty-fifty shot of guessing the right answer on our sample question. Let’s look at answer choice (C). The Europeans arrived on the west coast of sub-Saharan Africa while the Muslims were on the east coast. Remember the Indian Ocean trade and the Swahili culture? If that is the case, then (C) cannot be the answer. The answer must be (B): well established and about 500 years old.

Can you see how taking a moment to frame the question can help you find the right answer quickly and easily? Knowing just some of the information can be enough to get you to a smart guess. This does not mean that you should not learn as much of the history as possible. The more you know, the easier it will be to eliminate wrong answer choices and zero in on the correct answer. However, using the steps and POE will help you get to the right answer quickly by making the most of the information you know.


Let’s walk through the Four Steps to solving an AP World History multiple-choice question again.

  4. Matrilinearity was found in which of the following societies?

(A) Rome

(B) Sumer

(C) Bantu

(D) Byzantium

(E) Aryan India

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

What does matrilinearity mean? Matri is like matriarch—has to do with females or females as leaders. Linear means in a line like lineage.

When?   Looks like early times

Who?    Female rulers

What?   Early rulers who were woman

So in which society did the rulers come from the female line?

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

Not sure. Definitely not Rome, probably not Byzantium either. They had major male-dominance going on.

Step 3: Process of Elimination

I know that (A) and (D) are out, so I’ll cross them off. (B), (C), and (E) remain.

Step 4: Guess and Go

I don’t know about any of these three societies, so I’ll guess (C).

As it happens, you’re right—the answer is (C): Bantu. Even if you didn’t pick (C), if you eliminated as many as you could and then wasted no further time fretting over the unknowns before you picked one and moved on, then you did the right thing. Good job!


Now it’s your turn. Use the Four Steps to solve the following multiple-choice question.

  5. Which of the following is an example of Chinese influence in Japan during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries?

(A) The expansion of European culture to the island of Japan

(B) The adoption by Japan of the Chinese civil service exam for government employees

(C) The Taika Reforms enacted after the death of Prince Shotoku

(D) The conversion of most Japanese Shinto to Buddhism

(E) The proliferation of the opium trade

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

Step 3: POE

Step 4: Guess and Go

Here’s How to Crack It

First, note that the question is asking for an example of China’s influence on Japan during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries (there is your When? and Who?). What do you know about Japan during this time period? China had just started to influence Japan. Lots of reforms took place, but Japan didn’t adopt everything Chinese—for example, Confucianism. Knowing that, let’s use POE.

(A) is about European culture. Had European culture touched Japan at this time? No, it had barely touched China let alone Japan, so cross off (A). (B) is out if you remember that Japan did not embrace Confucianism, and that Confucianism was a big part of Chinese government and the Chinese civil service exam. You may not remember anything about the Taika Reforms, but you might recall that while the Japanese embraced Buddhism, they did not give up Shinto but rather practiced both simultaneously. That eliminates (D). You may remember that opium was important to China, but note that the question talks about the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries—if it was Europeans who brought opium to China, it wouldn’t have been that early, so it can’t be (E). Your answer must be (C).


Not all questions are asked in a straightforward manner on the AP World History Exam. For example:

  6. All of the following are results of bubonic plague, which swept through China and Europe from the 1200s to the 1600s, EXCEPT

(A) social unrest

(B) tremendous population loss

(C) a decrease in wages

(D) less rigidity between social classes

(E) violence against some European Jewish communities

Approach these questions using the same Four Steps. During Step 1, rephrase the question to make it clear what you have to do to find the right answer.

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

When?   1200–1699. Into the Age of Exploration, Renaissance, etc.

Who?   China/Europe

What?   Bubonic plague. Lots of people died, had an impact on everyone

Four of the following things happened because of bubonic plague. Which one didn’t?

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

I know a lot of people died and there were not enough people to work, and that everyone had to draw together to get things done, but I forget what else happened.

Step 3: POE

Remember that on EXCEPT or NOT questions, four of the answer choices are true while one is not true. Instead of trying to choose the answer, make a note next to each as to whether it is true or not. Then pick the “not.”

(A) social unrest

not sure

(B) tremendous population loss


(C) a decrease in wages

not sure

(D) less rigidity between social classes


(E) violence against some European Jewish communities

not sure

Step 4: Guess and Go

Because you are looking for the answer that is not true, cross out (B) and (D). Now consider (A) and (C). Could social unrest have been the result of thousands of people dying? Sounds plausible, so cross off (A). Similar logic would apply to (E), but if you’re worried about whether that was one of the specific kinds of social unrest that occurred, consider that you can pick (C) confidently if you remember that the massive labor shortage actually raised the average wage for both farm laborers and skilled artisans.

By the way, the bubonic plague led to less rigidity between social classes because it decimated the population of all social classes, and therefore people needed to learn new skills (beyond their traditional classes) to make up for the loss of people in other social classes. This led to an overlap in social and economic classes.


Remember that you are on a fairly tight time schedule for this test. You need to make sure that you spend your time on questions that will pay off. If you read a question and have absolutely no idea what is being asked or know as soon as you read a question that you do not know the subject matter, mark it in some way, then move on. Better to skip a few along the way than to run out of time before you get to questions at the end that you know about. After you go through the section once, you can always return to any remaining questions.

Notice that Steps 1 and 2 can vary quite a bit based on the question. Also, the more you can frame the history in Step 2, the easier it will be to cross off wrong answer choices and zero in on the right answer. For example, instead of just saying that the What? in the last question was thebubonic plague, we took a minute to add what that meant at the time: lots of people died, had an impact on everyone. Taking a moment to think of this additional information helped get to the answer quickly and easily.


Step 1 and Step 2

Take a few moments to practice Steps 1 and 2. The better you are at interpreting questions and coming up with your own answers before you get to the answer choices, the easier it will be to POE and Guess and Go! Answers can be found here.

  1. During the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union were reluctant to become involved in direct military conflict mainly because of

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

  2. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European mercantilism in Latin America led to

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

  3. One way in which the Maya, the Songhai, and the Gupta cultures were similar is that they

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

  4. The teachings of Confucius encouraged people to

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

Step 3 and Step 4

Here are the answer choices that go with the questions you just worked through. Now that you’ve framed the history, use that information to POE and Guess and Go. Be sure to check EVERY answer before picking one! Answers can be found here.

  1. During the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union were reluctant to become involved in direct military conflict mainly because of

(A) pressure from many of the nonaligned nations

(B) the role of the United Nations as peacekeeper

(C) increased tensions in the Middle East

(D) the potential for global nuclear destruction

(E) the threat of penalties handed down by the International Criminal Court at the Hague

  2. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European mercantilism in Latin America led to

(A) the exploitation of people and resources

(B) the European Renaissance

(C) the Protestant Reformation

(D) the growth of democratic forms of government

(E) the Enlightenment

  3. One way in which the Maya, the Songhai, and the Gupta cultures were similar is that they

(A) developed great civilizations without major influence from Western Europe

(B) emerged as a result of nationalist movements of the twentieth century

(C) thrived due to a prosperous trade economy with Portugal and other European nations

(D) became dependent on slave trade in order to maintain enough laborers to tend to their profitable sugar cane crop

(E) disappeared due to the ravages of European diseases

  4. The teachings of Confucius encouraged people to

(A) embrace a heliocentric view of the solar system

(B) follow a code of moral conduct

(C) accept the teachings of the Pax Romana

(D) worship the one true God who watches over and cares for his people

(E) join the civil service



You will occasionally see a question that asks you to interpret an illustration such as a painting, poster, political cartoon, or map. Treat these questions as you would any other. Just follow the steps and don’t read too much into the illustration. Try the following example:

The above poster was most likely used as

(A) British propaganda during the Boer War

(B) American propaganda during World War II

(C) British propaganda during World War I

(D) American propaganda during World War I

(E) American Ku Klux Klan propaganda during Reconstruction

In the space on the next page, solve this question using the Four Steps. Study the poster for clues as to the When? Who? and What?

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

Step 3: POE

Step 4: Guess and Go

Here’s How to Crack It

The question asked what the poster was used for. You probably guessed the What? to be propaganda. For the When? and Who?, look at the words at the top of the poster. Did you remember that Hun was the term used by the British in reference to the Germans? If you did, you could eliminate (B), (D), and (E) for having nothing to do with the British. Even if you didn’t recognize that term, look at the smaller type underneath—England? Belgium? Whatever else it might be, it’s definitely not the American KKK and Reconstruction. Because the British were referencing the Germans, the answer must be (C) British propaganda during World War I. If you knew that the term Hun referred to the Germans in WWI, but did not remember who said it, you could have eliminated all but (C) and (D) and then taken a smart guess.


Sometimes you will be given a quotation and asked to either interpret the quote or identify the person who said it. As always, use the steps to frame your answer and take a smart guess. Try the next one using the Four Steps.

“Which, O Bhikkhus, is this Middle Path the knowledge of which the Tathagata has gained, which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom, which conduces to calm, to knowledge, to the Sambodhi, to Nirvana?”

The person who would most likely be associated with this quote is a

(A) Muslim

(B) Christian

(C) Polytheist

(D) Buddhist

(E) Zoroastrian

Here’s How to Crack It

Many times the key to solving a quotation comes from only one or two words of the quotation. In this case, the word is Nirvana. Nirvana has to do with what religion? If you remember, great. If you cannot remember exactly which religion strives for Nirvana, you probably know that it is Eastern. Let’s say you remember that it is one of the Indian religions. What answers can you eliminate? (B) and (C). From there, take a smart guess between Muslim and Buddhist. The answer is (D): Buddhist.


While POE is a great thing, some AP World History questions can be tough. You will often be able to get it down to two or three choices, but then you will really need to know your stuff to find the right answer. To be totally prepared for the exam, make sure you know the history in Part II of this book, and don’t be afraid to do as much as you can before you Guess and Go.


That’s pretty much all you need to know to score your best on the multiple-choice section of the exam. Oh yeah, that, and a bunch of history. Most of the rest of your work in this book will be about reviewing the history. Remember, however, what we said at the beginning of this book—knowing the history is really important, but knowing how to demonstrate that you know it is just as important. That’s where your multiple-choice strategy comes in.

As you practice, remember to process everything using the Four Steps.

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

Step 3: Process of Elimination (POE)

Step 4: Guess and Go

If you know the history in Part II of this book, use these steps, and have an essay strategy, you will be able to show what you know.


Now that you have the basics of cracking these types of questions let’s practice.

Answers can be found here.

  1. The primary purpose of the Dawes Plan was to

(A) contain the spread of communism to newly formed nations in sub-Saharan Africa through direct economic support

(B)   ensure that Latin American nations maintained economic ties with the United States

(C) allow Germany to rebuild its economy while also fulfilling its reparation responsibilities after World War I

(D) temporarily occupy Japan as it transitioned from a monarchy to a democracy after World War II

(E) officially establish the United States as a member of the League of Nations

  2. The concept of bushido is most similar to

(A) feudalism

(B) chivalry

(C) manorialism

(D) meritocracy

(E) primogeniture

  3. The Han dynasty (200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.) had a stable government for centuries, due in part to all of the following EXCEPT

(A) the strong military force with which the government, under the leadership of Ashoka, the Warrior Emperor, expelled the Hun invasion

(B) the adoption and growth of the Confucian system of civil administration

(C) the Mandate of Heaven, which inclined Emperors to rule fairly and justly

(D) the creation and exportation of goods such as paper, silk, and gun powder along the Silk Road

(E) the continuation of currency reforms from the previous dynasty and establishment of reliable coinage

  4. Common to Latin American revolutions before 1915 was

(A) the influence of European intellectual movements

(B) the important role played by women in instituting change

(C) the installation of representative democracies in nearly all new nations

(D) the importance of foreign intervention in the success of revolutions

(E) the leadership of slaves

  5. The Peace of Augsburg was an example of

(A) imperial despotism

(B) gentlemen’s agreement

(C) mutual defense

(D) enlightened absolutism

(E) religious tolerance

  6. Which of the following is an accurate list of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council?

(A) China, Japan, United States, Russia, Great Britain

(B) China, Russia, United States, France, Great Britain

(C) Russia, Japan, United States, Italy, Great Britain

(D) Russia, China, United States, France, Italy

(E) Russia, Japan, United States, France, Great Britain

  7. The Siege of Vienna was important because it

(A) marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman military conquests in Europe

(B) was the first attempt of the Ottoman Empire to advance into Western Europe

(C) precipitated a Christian Crusade to retake Vienna from the Turks

(D) was the first time a secret alliance between European nations was tested

(E) involved the first use of tanks in combat

  8. All of the following are examples of attempts by early humans to gain control over nature EXCEPT

(A) digging irrigation ditches

(B) constructing sundials

(C) plowing fields

(D) domesticating animals

(E) settling in river basins

  9. The establishment of the Hanseatic League (1241 C.E.) was significant because it

(A) set a precedent for large, European trading operations

(B) organized to become the first joint-stock company

(C) comprised nearly 50 port cities along the Mediterranean Sea

(D) held exclusive rights to trade along the Silk Road

(E) was an important precursor to the establishment of the United Nations

10. “Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.”

The above quote is from which of the following texts?

(A) The Vedas

(B) Homer’s Iliad

(C) Hobbes’ Leviathan

(D) The Code of Hammurabi

(E)   Genesis




Step 1 and Step 2

1. Try to anticipate the answer on this one even before you look at the answer choices. Why would two superpowers not want to fight each other?

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

Why were the U.S. and the Soviet Union reluctant to get into direct military conflict during the Cold War?

Step 2: When? Who? What?

When? The Cold War era

Who? The United States and the Soviet Union

What? Reluctance to get involved militarily

Try to think of everything you know about “military conflict” during the time period of the Cold War. The Cold War was after World War II, right? How did World War II end in Japan? Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? That was during the Cold War. What did that involve?

2. Notice that this question tells you that European mercantilism occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A lot of times, questions give you information. Look at the questions themselves as clues.

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

When? The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

Who? Europeans doing, Latin Americans receiving

What? Mercantilism

What did European mercantilism in Latin America lead to in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

If you remember what mercantilism was, this question is a gift. If you don’t remember mercantilism, think about everything you know about Europe’s involvement in Latin America during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

3. Sometimes you’ll get questions that seemingly don’t give you very many clues in the question to work with.

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

When? The question doesn’t say, but it certainly isn’t contemporary (the verb were) and it doesn’t refer to the same time period. When the test writers ask you to compare cultures, remember that those cultures may have existed during different time periods.

Who? The Maya, the Songhai, and the Gupta

What? Similarities. Any similarity. Just one. That’s all you need.

How were the Maya, Songhai, and Gupta cultures similar?

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

It’s hard to anticipate what the answer is going to be, but even if you don’t remember the details of all three cultures, if you remember one or two, you should focus on the details that you remember so that you can pick an answer choice that is consistent with what you do know.

4. Sometimes questions rely on very specific knowledge of just one thing. In this case, it’s just one person.

Step 1: Read the Question and Put It in Your Own Words

When? The question doesn’t tell us, but we know it was during and possibly after the life of Confucius.

Who? Confucius

What? Teachings and encouragement

Confucius encouraged people to do what?

Step 2: Answer in Your Own Words

Even though this question seems like it doesn’t give you very much information, it does if you remember some basics. If you recall that Confucius lived in China and lived a long time ago, that’s enough to start focusing on the answer. All you have to do is think of everything you know about traditional China and you can start to zero in on an answer.

Step 3 and Step 4

Now evaluate the answer choices and use POE to get rid of bad answers.

1D Focus on answer choices that make the most sense. You should certainly be attracted to answer choice (D), because even if you don’t remember much about the Cold War, it just makes sense that global nuclear destruction would make two countries reluctant to fight. If you recall that the two superpowers had nuclear weapons and that WWII, which preceded the Cold War, ended with the United States dropping atomic bombs on Japan, answer choice (D) should definitely stick out. (A) doesn’t make much sense, because nonaligned nations means that they didn’t take sides in the Cold War, which means that they probably didn’t impact it very much. Neither does (E)—the International Criminal Court wasn’t established until 2002. You might be attracted to (B), but if you recall that both the United States and the Soviet Union were members of the United Nations Security Council, making the organization somewhat useless in addressing Cold War concerns, so this answer choice doesn’t make much sense. Finally, (C) definitely describes an event that was true during the Cold War era, but it wasn’t the cause for the reluctance for direct military conflict. Direct military conflict in the Middle East was somewhat common, just not between the Soviet Union and United States (except, to a certain degree, in Afghanistan). Make sure you focus on the who in the question. Even if you aren’t sure of why answer choices (A) through (C) are incorrect, it’s hard to argue with answer choice (D). When you find an answer choice that has to be true, it probably is. Because only one answer choice can work, the other four can be eliminated.

2A Mercantilism was all about exploitation. The policy advocated the creation of colonies for the purpose of increasing exports from the mother country while not technically increasing imports to the mother country (mercantilist countries essentially stole resources from the colonies). If you remember anything at all about mercantilism, you gotta go with (A). Even if you don’t remember anything about mercantilism, you still should go with (A) because you should know that Europe colonized Latin America.

All of the other answer choices can be eliminated if you focus on the When?Who?, and What? of the question. (B) can be eliminated because the European Renaissance had nothing to do with Latin America. (C) and (E) can be eliminated because the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment were events that primarily affected Europe, not Latin America—and not because of Latin America, either. You can be even more comfortable crossing off (C) if you also remember that Latin America is extremely Catholic as opposed to Protestant. Finally, cross off (D); democracies didn’t start developing until long after the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It wasn’t until after the American and French Revolutions that democratic movements started to get rolling, and it wasn’t until the twentieth century that democracies started taking root in Latin America.

3A Even if you just remember one of the three civilizations, you can get this question correct because (A) applies so clearly to any one of them. If you remember that the Maya, for example, existed for centuries before the first Europeans arrived in the New World, you’re done. Even if you’re not sure about the other four answer choices, (A) is definitely true. The same, of course, is true of the Songhai in Africa and the Gupta in India.

The other answer choices make no sense even if you remember the When? and What? of just one of the cultures. All of the cultures existed long before the twentieth century, so get rid of (B). None of the cultures traded with Portugal. Think of the time periods here. The Gupta Empire existed in the fourth through sixth centuries 
C.E. Portugal had been part of the Roman Empire and wasn’t even a country, but more of a region, and was being invaded by Visigoths during this time period. As for (D), you can eliminate it as soon as you see “sugar cane” as a profitable crop because it doesn’t fit with any of the cultures. Finally, it isn’t (E) for the very same reason that it is (A)—these civilizations developed without major influence, immunological or otherwise, from Europe.

4B If you remember anything about Confucius or traditional China, (B) is the obvious choice here; Confucius’ code of conduct clearly dominated the culture of traditional China.

The other answers have no connection with Confucianism. (A) is out, because Ptolemy of Alexandria (second century 
C.E.) and Copernicus (sixteenth century C.E.) were the two figures most closely associated with the heliocentric model. (C) is about thePax Romana, which describes the period of stability in the Roman Empire between the reigns of Augustus (27 B.C.E.–14 C.E.) and Marcus Aurelius (161–180 C.E.). As for (D), Confucianism is generally considered a system of ethics, not a religion in the strictest sense. Last, but not least, while (E)’s reference to civil service may be very tempting, remember that it was China’s famous civil service exam itself that was based on Confucianism, not that Confucianism encouraged people to seek civil service positions.


1C Germany could not repay its war debts to France and England (no surprise given the state of the economy), so France sent troops into the Ruhr Valley where German steel was manufactured. This further compromised Germany’s ability to fulfill its obligations, and again brought Europe to the brink of war. Charles Dawes (an American banker) developed a more flexible repayment schedule for Germany based on economic growth. The Dawes Plan also gave low-interest loans to Germany to help jump-start key industries.

This is a bit of a factoid (don’t get it confused with the Dawes Act, which is something completely different!), but remember that anything you can think of that’s related may help you cross out answers. If you remember that this had to do with America and Europe, you could go ahead and cross out at least (A), (B), and (D). If you know the Dawes Plan related to World War I, you have another good reason to get rid of (D), which describes something that happened after World War II. If you know beyond that that the U.S. never joined the League of Nations, (E) starts to look pretty unlikely. But if you can’t remember anything about the Dawes Plan, don’t waste time fretting—move on to something you know better!

2B Bushido is a term associated with the shogunate period in Japan. The aristocratic-warrior class of the samurai followed a strict code of honor known as bushido. It is most similar to chivalry, because both stressed discipline, respect, and bravery.

Using POE, you can get rid of (A) and (C) because even though the code of bushido was practiced during Japanese feudalism, it isn’t the same thing as feudalism or manorialism, both of which were also practiced in Europe. Feudalism and manorialism were social and politicalstructures, ways of organizing society, not what would be described as “concepts.” Also, guilds are organizations, not “concepts.” While (D) is a concept, so that’s good, it has nothing to do with bushido. Finally, (E) refers to the practice—not really a concept—of passing land down to the landowner’s firstborn son. Not bushido. Meritocracy is a concept that suggests that people who rise in a social system do so because of their merits (like doing well in school) as opposed to for other reasons (like inheritance, race, or money).

3A Ashoka ruled the Mauryan empire in India during the third century B.C.E. The Han Dynasty, on the other hand, was in China. Its stability was due to all four reasons in the incorrect answer choices.

Using POE, you can eliminate any answer choices that were true of the Han dynasty. (B) was definitely true of the Han dynasty (and through much of China’s history). The adoption of Confucianism as the basis of state administration led to the creation of a highly skilled government bureaucracy, which of course led to stability. (C) is incorrect: According to the Mandate of Heaven, a king or emperor ruled only with the approval of Heaven, and would continue to prosper only if they ruled justly and wisely. The Mandate was a belief which arose during the earlier Zhou dynasty and was influential in the Han dynasty and beyond. And finally, both (D) and (E) helped to expand and stabilize the economy of Han China, and the ensuing prosperity further promoted China’s stability.

4A The Enlightenment in Europe had a profound effect on educated people beyond Europe’s shores, especially in Europe’s colonies. The writings of intellectuals such as Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu impacted the American Revolution, French Revolution, and Latin American revolutions.

Even if you’re not sure of the right answer, you can eliminate the wrong answer choices that don’t make sense, or that are inconsistent with what you remember about history. Eliminate (B); Latin American society was highly patriarchal, as were most societies prior to 1915. Latin American states were no longer using slavery by 1915, so eliminate (E), too. That leaves you with (A), (C), and (D). (C) can be eliminated: Many Latin American nations became dictatorships. (D) can be eliminated because the revolutionaries were born in Latin America and succeeded with the support of popular uprisings, not foreign armies. That leaves you with (A), which makes a lot of sense. The Enlightenment inspired revolutions in general, such as the American Revolution and the French Revolution. It just makes sense, then, that it also impacted the Latin American independence movements of the nineteenth century, especially when you consider that San Martin and Bolivar were educated peninsulares, who were well-schooled in European affairs.

5E During the mid-fifteenth century, Charles V had a difficult time preventing Protestantism from spreading through the Holy Roman Empire. In 1555, he and the prevailing German princes signed the Peace of Augsburg, which allowed each prince to choose the religion his subjects would follow.

Using POE, you can eliminate (A) because despotism and peace don’t typically mix and (D) because enlightened absolutism is an oxymoron—an internally contradictory idea. (B) would mean the Peace of Augsburg was an informal agreement, and (C) makes it sound like a military strategy—neither of these is true, as it was a formal agreement to end religious conflict.

6B If you don’t remember all the permanent members, use POE with the ones of which you are sure. The United States is in all the choices so that won’t help. You probably know that Japan is not a permanent member because the council was established right after WWII and Japan was not high on anyone’s list at that time. In fact, Japan was occupied by the United States and forced to demilitarize, so it certainly would not be on the security council. Eliminate (A), (C), and (E). That leaves you with (B) and (D), Great Britain versus Italy. Again, because of when the council was formed, your best guess is (B), Great Britain. Remember, Great Britain still had an empire through the 1940s.

7B In 1529, Ottoman Turks tried (unsuccessfully) to capture the Austrian city of Vienna. Beginning in the 1300s, the Turks began to make inroads into Europe, first in the Balkans, then by taking Constantinople (which then became Istanbul), then conquering parts of Romania and Hungary.

To use POE, try to remember that the Siege of Vienna occurred in the sixteenth century. That means that (C), the Crusades, is out because they began in 1096 and ended in 1302. (A) is also out because the Ottoman influence in Europe lasted into the twentieth century. (D) has to go because, first of all, it doesn’t make sense because there’s no way the test writers could know if and when all secret alliances were tested because some of them are “secret” and perhaps still unknown. (D) also doesn’t work because the siege of Vienna had nothing to do with Austria’s alliances (secret or otherwise)—the Ottomans wanted to make inroads into Western Europe for their own expansionist purposes, not because they were trying to test alliances in Europe. Finally, the first use of tanks in combat, as mentioned in (E), was the British Army in 1916, during World War I. At that point in time, Austria-Hungary and its allies (including Germany and the Ottoman Empire) still had the upper hand, so Vienna shouldn’t have been under siege.

8E Settling in a river basin exemplifies how nature often controlled where people needed to live in order to survive, not the other way around. This is especially true if you remember that civilizations continued to settle in river basins even though they were often devastated by unpredictable floods.

To use POE, first remember that four of the answer choices are examples of peoples’ attempts to control nature and one is not—your answer is the one that is not an example of this. (A), (C), and (D) are direct efforts to use or harness natural resources in order to grow or otherwise provide food. (B) is more subtle—while sundials did not give humans control over the elements of time, they did give humans the knowledge required to use patterns of time for their own purposes.

Tip: Notice how one answer is not like the others; comparing answers is a great way to see small, yet crucial, differences that can help you eliminate wrong answers. (A), (B), (C), and (D) are all material things or techniques, while (E) denotes a different kind of activity.

9A The Hanseatic League was a major trading operation comprised dozens of northern European cities. The existence of the league helped pull Europe out of the relative isolation it experienced under feudalism during the Middle Ages by increasing contact among different parts of Europe, which then led to increased trade between Europe and other parts of the world. By establishing a monopoly on trade in northern Europe, the Hanseatic League helped contribute to a culture of expansionism and mercantilism, which of course dominated developments during the Age of Exploration.

Using POE, you can eliminate (B) because a “league” isn’t a company but rather an association, and joint-stock companies didn’t come onto the scene until after the Commercial Revolution in the sixteenth century (the Muscovy Company—founded in 1555—and the Dutch and British East India Companies—both chartered in the 1600s—were among the first). If you can remember the “where” of the Hanseatic League, that will help you quickly eliminate (C) and (D) because the league was in northern Europe and primarily served as a way of regulating trade among northern European ports. It was not, however, a global body; nor was its purpose to police the government interactions of its member states, so it isn’t a precursor to the United Nations. Cross off (E).

10B This one might be tough if you’re not familiar with the details of any of these texts, but you can still use clues from the passage. We know there’s a reference to a goddess, and there are other characters that seem godlike (“hero” and “king of men”). We also know there’s a group referred to as the Achaeans. The quote also has a poetic quality to it—“Sing, O goddess” and “Many a brave soul did it send” aren’t exactly everyday ways of speaking.

Through POE, we can probably eliminate (D) because it doesn’t sound like a legal code. You can get rid of (C) if you know that Hobbes was an English writer during the Enlightenment who wrote about things like the social contract and free will; this doesn’t seem to fit. Nor, particularly, does Genesis, as Genesis is not big on goddesses, which is probably a good reason to get rid of (E). That leaves you with (A) and (B). The Vedas, if you recall, is a collection of the essential beliefs and mythologies of Hinduism. The Iliad is a poem of ancient Greek mythology. Poetic language fits both, and both traditions have gods, so it’s a toss-up, unless you remember that Achilles (as in Achilles heel) is a Greek warrior. You may remember that Achaeans were Greeks (recall the Achaean League). Whenever you have quotations, look for clues that help you identify the culture. Then go with the author who is from that culture.

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