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Pre-AP World History and Geography focuses deeply on the concepts and skills that have maximum value for high school, college, careers, and civic life.

Three enduring ideas this social studies course is built around make it engaging and relevant:

  1. History is an interrelated story of the world.
    The course explores the invisible structures and forces that shape and reflect the regions, communities, governments, economies, and cultures of humanity. These big ideas help students develop an organized and meaningful understanding of time and space.
  2. History and geography are inherently dynamic.
    As historians and geographers uncover new evidence, current assumptions are challenged, and previous arguments and narratives gain complexity, nuance, and context. This course teaches students how to examine sources and data, establish inferences, and ultimately build and critique arguments.
  3. Historians and geographers are investigators.
    Learning in Pre-AP World History and Geography is designed to be a disciplinary apprenticeship where students participate in the process of discovery. Students will play the role of historian and geographer by practicing the detective skills and using the tools of each field of study.

Areas of Focus

The Pre-AP World History and Geography areas of focus are practices that students develop and leverage as they engage with content. These areas of focus are vertically aligned to the practices embedded in other history and geography courses in high school, including AP, and in college, giving students multiple opportunities to strengthen and deepen their work with these skills throughout their education.

Pre-AP World History and Geography Areas of Focus:

  • Evaluating evidence: Students acquire knowledge by evaluating evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources.
  • Explaining historical and geographic relationships: Students explain relationships among events and people by marshalling evidence for causation, comparison, and continuity and change over time.
  • Incorporating evidence: Students demonstrate command of quantitative, qualitative, and spatial data by effectively incorporating them into written and oral arguments.


These ideas cut across all units of the course, offering students a broad way of thinking about the discipline.

  • Humans and the Environment
  • Governance
  • Economic Systems
  • Culture
  • Society

Course at a Glance

Before implementing the Pre-AP World History and Geography course, schools select one of two available pathways. This encourages a deep study of a few historical periods and provides an opportunity for schools to choose the pathway that is the best fit for their state standards and district course sequences. Model lessons and assessments are based on the selected pathway.

  • Both pathways begin with the study of geography and world regions.
  • Pathway 1 moves from geography and world regions to developments in world history from the ancient period through c. 1450 CE.
  • Pathway 2 moves from geography and world regions to developments in world history from c.1450 CE through the present.

The tables below show the units, the recommended length of each unit, and the key topics in each.


Timeframe: 7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Principles of geography
  • Regionalization
  • Spatial reorganization
  • Human adaptations to the physical environment
  • Comparison of world regions

Timeframe: ~7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Human adaptation and migration in the Paleolithic World
  • Causes and effects of the Neolithic Revolution
  • Origins of complex urban societies in the Ancient World
  • Pastoralism in ancient Afro-Eurasia
  • State formation in ancient Afro-Eurasia
  • Development of ancient Afro-Eurasian religions
  • Development of ancient Afro-Eurasian societies

Timeframe: ~7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Classical empires in East Asia
  • South Asian states and Dharmic religions
  • Greek and Hellenistic states in the Classical Mediterranean
  • The Classical Roman Mediterranean
  • Classical societies in Afro-Eurasia
  • Trade networks and cultural encounters in the Classical World
  • The end of Classical empires and the consequences in Afro-Eurasia

Timeframe: ~7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Early Islamic states
  • Postclassical states: Byzantine Empire and European kingdoms
  • Postclassical states in East Asia
  • The Mongols and the revitalization of the Silk Roads
  • Trans-Saharan trade and the spread of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Long-distance trade and diffusion in the Indian Ocean basin
  • Postclassical Americas

Timeframe: ~7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Causes and consequences of Iberian maritime exploration and colonialism
  • Columbian exchange and Atlantic slavery
  • Origins and impact of the Western European empires in the North Atlantic
  • Early modern and Islamic empires
  • Land-based empires: Early modern China and Russia
  • Early modern religion
  • Early modern Western society and culture

Timeframe: ~7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Causes of the Atlantic revolutions
  • Effects of the Atlantic Revolutions
  • The First Industrial Revolution
  • The Second Industrial Revolution
  • Imperial expansion in the late 19th century
  • Reactions to imperialism
  • Consequences of industrialization

Timeframe: ~7 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Origins and outcomes of World War I in global context
  • A new age of revolutions: Mexico, Russia, and China
  • The global economy and the state between the wars
  • World War II and the decline of empires
  • A global Cold War
  • Foundations of contemporary globalization
  • Impact of contemporary globalization

Instructional Resources

Schools that officially implement a Pre-AP course will receive access to instructional resources for each unit. These resources don’t constitute a full day-by-day curriculum. Instead, they provide support and modeling as teachers design instruction for each unit.

Pre-AP World History and Geography instructional resources include:

  • Source explorations: sets of curated primary and secondary sources with evidence-based questions and a culminating writing activity.
  • Expanding essential knowledge resources: concise content summaries with graphic organizers to support student exploration.
  • Lesson-planning resources with instructional frames and a toolkit with supports for instructional design and adaptations.
  • Pre-AP resources that can be used alongside local school or district materials to address the objectives of the course framework.
  • Additional support resources include Distance Learning Companion Slides and audio recordings of student texts that accompany the teacher and student instructional materials for use in synchronous and asynchronous settings.

Assessments for Learning

Each unit includes many opportunities to understand student progress and provide meaningful feedback:

  • In-lesson formatives: short writing tasks that explore specific aspects of a key concept and scaffold disciplinary thinking (scored by teachers).
  • 2 learning checkpoints: short online assessments in which students interpret a range of sources and respond to questions targeting both disciplinary skills and key concepts from the unit (automated scoring and reporting).
  • 1 performance task: a source-based analysis and evidence-based written response that build readiness for AP history exams (scored by teachers, with provided scoring guidelines).
  • A final exam is provided as a summative assessment that allows students to demonstrate their success on the skills and content outlined in the course frameworks. This exam is optional.