Knowledge Checklist and Summer Reading for A. P. United States History



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Knowledge Checklist and Summer Reading for A.P. United States History
In the fall, you will begin the Advanced Placement United States History course offered at Cardinal Gibbons High School. The AP US History program is the oldest, most unique, and according to many observers, the most challenging of the courses that are operated by the College Board. It is assumed by the College Board, as well as your instructors at Cardinal Gibbons, that you enter this class at the same academic level as a freshman student at a major university.

The academic background that you bring into this class will be a key component in your success in the course. In AP US History, it is assumed that students have excellent writing, reading, critical thinking, and analytical skills. This is extremely important due to the high level questions, problems, and assignments that you will be asked to undertake. In order to support these higher level skills and to ensure a successful outcome, students should have a familiarity with certain historical factual knowledge. Much of this, as expected, will be covered during the course of the year. However, it is important that students enter the class with a moderately well-developed recognition of American political and civic history, as well as both American and world geography.



The following is considered a base list of information that students should already be acquainted with. A general overview of American political and civic organization is included with this letter. Students are asked to read and become generally familiar with these government concepts. Students will not be immediately tested on this material when school resumes. These government concepts, which are a basic component of the study of American history, will be part of course instruction to be fully learned and tested on as the year progresses. A summary of these concepts is attached for reading by students.

However, it is strongly urged that students be very comfortable with the geography terms listed below and which were previously learned in freshmen year. We will undertake a review and assessment of basic geography knowledge in the first few weeks of the 1st quarter, but you should already be familiar with these terms, concepts, and geographic items and their locations.


Knowledge Bank


  • 50 States and Capitals

  • Major US Cities (NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc)

  • Geography (Rocky Mountains, Appalachian Mountains, Mississippi River, Ohio River, Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, all oceans, all continents, basic familiarity with Central and South America, basic familiarity with Europe, and the specific locations of England, France, Spain, Germany, Japan, China, Cuba, the Philippines, and Canada.)

(continued on next page)



  • Branches of the Federal Government and their roles/responsibilities (Executive, Legislative, Judicial)

  • Definition and goal of system of checks and balances

  • Divisions within American Federalism (Federal, State, Local) and their roles/responsibilities

  • Basic structural outline of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments


Summer Reading List:
1. Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
Founding Brothers deals with pivotal moments in the creation of a new nation and those individuals who helped to bring this about. Please find a copy and read it over the summer. You may have more luck online (Amazon, Barnes and Noble websites) than in a bookstore.
Written Assignment
1. Founding Brothers: One of the themes of this book is summarized in the story of the renewed friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson from the following quote:
“Ellis points out the fundamental differences between the Republicans, who saw the Revolution as a liberating act and hold the Declaration of Independence most sacred, and the Federalists, who saw the revolution as a step in the building of American nationhood and hold the Constitution most dear.”
Prepare a minimum five page typed essay in which you address the following question: Which point of view regarding the Revolution and our founding documents, and those men who helped bring it about, is the most convincing to you? You may take the point of view of a single “founding brother”, or that of a larger group. Which of the “Founding Brothers” helped persuade you the most to this point of view? Describe what you learned about this “Founding Brothers” to help you come to your conclusion.
When completing the writing assignment for your summer reading, please use the following guidelines.


  • Typed, double spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins, stapled.

  • Correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

  • Your arguments and analysis should contain thoughtful, coherent points.

  • Attempts to lengthen writing through changing margins, font sizing, and other “tricks” are obvious and are not acceptable in an academic environment. Do not excessively quote from the book in an attempt to lengthen your paper.

  • This assignment should be completed on your own and should contain your own thoughts.

  • Please save your paper as a document file for upload through Turnitin.com at the beginning of the school year. You will also need a printed hard-copy to turn in on the first day of the school year.


Reading Test
Within the first week of school, students will be tested upon their knowledge of the book Founding Brothers. Test questions will not be based on minute details, but students will need to have a solid foundation and understanding of the major figures and ideas contained within the book.

Please let us know if you have any questions. We may be reached at the e-mail addresses listed below. We look forward to working with you in the Fall.

AP U.S. History Teachers for 2012/2013:
Taylor Blanton tblanton@cghsnc.org

Emily Turgeon eturgeon@cghsnc.org




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