2013 Ap U.S. History Essay Questions

2015 Edit

The APUSH exam went under a major redesign for 2015. The free-response portion now only contains one DBQ and one LEQ (from a choice of two).

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Explain the reasons why a new conservatism rose to prominence in the United States between 1960 and 1989.
    • Frerelations with Great Britain, analyzing what changed and what stayed the same from the period before the war to the period after it.
      • Evaluate the extent to which the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) marked a turning point in the debate over slavery in the United States, analyzing what changed and what stayed the same from the period before the war to the period after it.0

2014 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: How and why did the goals of United States foreign policy change from the end of the First World War (1918) to the end of the Korean War (1953)?
    • Free response, part B:
      • Choose TWO of the following and analyze their impact on colonial North American development between 1620 and 1776: Puritanism, The Enlightenment, The First Great Awakening
      • Compare and contrast the Jacksonian Democratic Party and the Whig Party of the 1830's and 1840's. Focus on TWO of the following: The role of the federal government in the economy, Social reform, Westward expansion
    • Free response, part C:
      • To what extent were the goals of Reconstruction (1865–1877) regarding African Americans achieved by 1900?
      • Explain the social, economic, and foreign policy goals of New Right conservatives from the 1960's to the 1980's and assess the degree to which the Reagan administration succeeded in implementing these goals in the 1980's.

2013 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the causes of growing opposition to slavery in the United States from 1776 to 1852. In your response, consider both underlying forces and specific events that contributed to the growing opposition.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the role of trans-Atlantic trade and Great Britain’s mercantilist policies in the economic development of the British North American colonies in the period from 1650 to 1750.
      • Analyze the ways in which the United States sought to advance its interests in world affairs between 1789 and 1823.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the impact of technological innovations on the lives of TWO of the following groups. Confine your answer to the period 1865–1920: Factory workers, Middle-class urban residents, Mid-western farmers.
      • Between 1945 and 1975 various groups in the United States engaged in acts of protest. Analyze the reasons that protest emerged in this period for TWO of the following groups: African Americans, College students, Latino Americans, Women.

2012 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: In the post–Civil War United States, corporations grew significantly in number, size, and influence. Analyze the impact of big business on the economy and politics and the responses of Americans to these changes. Confine your answer to the period 1870 to 1900.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the effect of the French and Indian War and its aftermath on the relationship between Great Britain and the British colonies. Confine your response to the period from 1754 to 1776.
      • Analyze how western expansion contributed to growing sectional tensions between the North and the South. Confine your answer to the period from 1800 to 1850.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the origins and outcomes of the intense cultural conflicts of the 1920's. In your response, focus on TWO of the following: Immigration, Prohibition, Religion.
      • Compare and contrast the Cold War foreign policies of TWO of the following presidents: Harry Truman (1945–1953), Dwight Eisenhower (1953–1961), Richard Nixon (1969–1974).

2011 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the international and domestic challenges the United States faced between 1968 and 1974, and evaluate how President Richard Nixon’s administration responded to them.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the origins and development of slavery in Britain’s North American colonies in the period 1607 to 1776.
      • To what extent did political parties contribute to the development of national unity in the United States between 1790 and 1840?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast the ways that many Americans expressed their opposition to immigrants in the 1840's– 1850's with the ways that many Americans expressed their opposition to immigrants in the 1910's– 1920's.
      • African American leaders have responded to racial discrimination in the United States in a variety of ways. Compare and contrast the goals and strategies of African American leaders in the 1890's–1920's with the goals and strategies of African American leaders in the 1950's-1960's.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Explain the ways that participation in political campaigns and elections in the United States changed between 1815 and 1840, and analyze forces and events that led to these changes.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare and contrast the British, French, and Spanish imperial goals in North America between 1580 and 1763.
      • Analyze the ways in which the political, economic, and diplomatic crises of the 1780's shaped the provisions of the United States Constitution.'
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast the foreign policies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
      • Compare and contrast the women’s rights movement of the 1840's–1860's with the women’s rights movement of the 1960's–1980's.

2010  Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: In what ways did ideas and values held by the Puritans influence the political, economic, and social development of the New England colonies from 1630 through the 1660's?
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the political, diplomatic, and military reasons for the United States victory in the Revolutionary War. Confine your answer to the period 1775-1783.
      • Analyze the ways in which controversy over the extension of slavery into western territories contributed to the coming of the Civil War. Confine your answer to the period 1845-1861.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the roles that women played in the Progressive Era reforms from the 1880's through 1920. Focus your essay on TWO of the following: Politics, Social conditions, Labor and working conditions.
      • Explain the causes and consequences of TWO of the following population movements in the United States during the period 1945–1985: Suburbanization, The growth of the Sunbelt, Immigration to the United States.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: The issue of territorial expansion sparked considerable debate in the period 1800–1855. Analyze this debate and evaluate the influence of both supporters and opponents of territorial expansion in shaping federal government policy. Use the documents and your knowledge of the years 1800–1855 in your answer.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Evaluate the influence of religion on the development of colonial society in TWO of the following regions: The Spanish Southwest, New England, New France.
      • Compare and contrast the experience of slaves on tobacco plantations in the early seventeenth-century Chesapeake region with that of slaves on nineteenth-century cotton plantations in the Deep South. What forces transformed the institution of slavery from the early seventeenth century to the nineteenth century?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the effectiveness of Progressive Era reformers in addressing problems of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In your answer, focus on reform efforts in TWO of the following areas: State and federal government, The workplace, Living conditions in cities.
      • Analyze the effects of the Vietnam War on TWO of the following in the United States in the period from 1961 to 1975: The presidency, The population between 18 and 35 years old, Cold War diplomacy.
    • Henry Clay NEVER DIES

2009 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: From 1775 to 1830, many African Americans gained freedom from slavery, yet during the same period the institution of slavery expanded. Explain why BOTH of those changes took place. Analyze the ways that BOTH free African Americans and enslaved African Americans responded to the challenges confronting them.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the ways in which British imperial policies between 1763 and 1776 intensified colonials' resistance to British rule and their comitment to republican values.
      • Analyze the social, political, and economic forces of the 1840s and early 1850s that led to the emergence of the Republican Party.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Choose TWO of the following organizations and explain their strategies for advancing the interests of workers. To what extent were these organizations successful in achieving their objectives? Confine your answers to the period from 1875 to 1925. Choices: Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor, Socialist Part of America, Industrial Workers of the World.
      • Analyze the home-front experiences of TWO of the following groups during the Second World War: African Americans, Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: In what ways did African Americans shape the course and consequences of the Civil War? Confine your answer to the years from 1861 to 1870.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze how the ideas and experiences of the revolutionary era influenced the principles embodied in the Articles of Confederation.
      • Analyze the political, economic, and religious tensions between immigrant Roman Catholics and native-born Protestants in the United States from the 1830s through the 1850s.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Explain the origins of TWO of the following third parties and evaluate their impact on United States politics and national policies: The People's Party (Populists) in 1892, the Progressive Party (Bull Moose Party) in 1912, the States' Rights Party (Dixiecrats) in 1948, the American Independent Party in 1968.
      • Analyze the ways in which the events and trends of the 1970s diminished the nation's economic power and international influence, and challenged Americans' confidence in both.

2008 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the ways in which the Vietnam War heightened social, political, and economic tensions in the United States. Focus your answer on the period 1964 to 1975.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Early encofghvand, Chesapeake, Spanish Southwest, California and New France.
      • Analyze the impact of the market ratchets (1815-1860) on the economies of TWO of the following regions: the Northeast, the Midwest, the South.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Following Reconstruction, many southern leaders promoted the idea of a "New South." To what extent was the "New South" a reality by the time of the First World War? In your answer be sure to address TWO of the following: Economic development, Politics, Race relations.
      • Presidential elections between 1928 and 1948 revealed major shifts in political party loyalties. Analyze both the reasons for these changes and their consequences during this period.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: For the years 1880 to 1925, analyze both the tensions surrounding the issue of immigration and the United States government's response to these tensions. Use the following documents and your knowledge of the period from 1880 to 1925 to construct your answer.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the reasons for the Anti-Federalists' opposition to ratifying the Constitution.
      • Use TWO of the following categories to analyze the ways in which African Americans created a distinctive culture in slavery: Family, Music, Oral traditions, Religions.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the extent to which the Spanish-American War was a turning point in American foreign policy.
      • Analyze the extent to which the 1920s and 1950s were similar in TWO of the following areas: Impact of technology, Intolerant attitudes, Literary developments.

2007 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the ways in which technology, government policy, and economic conditions changed American agriculture in the period 1865-1900. In your answer be sure to evaluate farmers' responses to these changes.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Settlers in the eighteenth-century American back country sometimes resorted to violent protest to express their grievances. Analyze the causes and significance of TWO of the following: March of the Paxton Boys, Regulator movement, Shays' Rebellion, Whiskey Rebellion.
      • In what ways did the Second Great Awakening in the North influence TWO of the following? Abolitionism, Temperance, the Cult of Domesticity, Utopian communities.
    • Free response, part C:
      • To what extent did the role of the federal government change under President Theodore Roosevelt in regard to TWO of the following: Labor, Trusts, Conservation, World affairs.
      • "Landslide presidential victories do not ensure continued political effectiveness or legislative success." Assess the validity of this statement by comparing TWO of the following presidential administration: Franklin Roosevelt (1936), Lyndon Johnson (1964), Richard Nixon (1972), Ronald Reagan (1984).
  • Form B
    • DBQ: In what ways did the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson respond to the political, economic, and social problems of the United States? Assess the effectiveness of these responses. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1960-1970 to construct your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • The French and Indian War (1754-1763) altered the relationship between Britain and its North American colonies. Assess this change with regard to TWO of the following in the period between 1763 and 1775: Land acquisition, Politics, Economics.
      • Compare the experiences of TWO of the following groups of immigrants during the period 1830 to 1860: English, Irish, German.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Explain how TWO of the following individuals responded to the economic and social problems created by industrialization during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Jane Addams, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, Upton Sinclair.
      • Analyze the ways in which the federal government sought support on the home front for the war effort during the First World War.

2006 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Discuss the changing ideals of American womanhood between the American Revolution (1770s) and the outbreak of the Civil War. What factors fostered the emergence of "republican motherhood" and the "cult of domesticity?" Assess the extent to which these ideals influenced the lives of women during this period. In your answer be sure to consider issues of race and class.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the differences between the Spanish settlements in the Southwest and the English colonies in New England in the seventeenth century in terms of TWO of the following: Politics, Religion, Economic development.
      • Explain why and how the role of the federal government changed as a result of the Civil War with respect to TWO of the following during the period 1861-1877.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Historians have argued that Progressive reform lost momentum in the 1920s. Evaluate this statement with respect to TWO of the following: Regulation of business, Labor, Immigrants.
      • While the United States appeared to be dominated by consensus and conformity in the 1950s, some Americans reacted against the status quo. Analyze the critiques of United States society made by TWO of the following: Youth, Civil Rights Activists, Intellectuals.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Analyze developments from 1941 to 1949 that increased suspicion and tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1941-1949 to construct your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • "The United States Constitution of 1787 represented an economic and ideological victory for the traditional American political elite." Assess the validity of that statement for the period 1781 to 1789.
      • In what ways and to what extent was industrial development from 1800 to 1860 a factor in the relationship between the northern and the southern states?
    • Free response, part C:
      • For whom and to what extent was the American West a land of opportunity from 1865 to 1890?
      • How did TWO of the following help shape American national culture in the 1920s? Advertising, Entertainment, Mass production.

2005 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: To what extent did the American Revolution fundamentally change American society? In your answer, be sure to address the political, social, and economic effects of the Revolution in the period from 1775 to 1800.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare and contrast the ways in which economic development affected politics in Massachusetts and Virginia in the period from 1607 to 1750.
      • To what extent did the debates about the Mexican War and its aftermath reflect the sectional interests of New Englanders, westerners, and southerners in the period from 1845 to 1855?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Describe the patterns of immigration in TWO of the periods listed below. Compare and contrast the responses of Americans to immigrants in these periods: 1820 to 1860, 1880 to 1924, 1965 to 2000.
      • Analyze the extent to which TWO of the following transformed American society in the 1960s and 1970s: The Civil Rights movement, the antiwar movement, the women's movement.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: In the early nineteenth century, Americans sought to resolve their political disputes through compromise, yet by 1860 this no longer seemed possible. Analyze the reasons for this change. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1820-1860 in constructing your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • "Geography was the primary factor in shaping the development of the British colonies in North America." Assess the validity of this statement for the 1600s.
      • To what extent was the United States Constitution a radical departure from the Articles of Confederation?
    • Free response, part C:
      • How successful were progressive reforms during the period 1890 to 1915 with respect to TWO of the following? Industrial conditions, Urban life, Politics.
      • Analyze the ways in which TWO of the following contributed to the changes in women's lives in the United States in the mid-twentieth century: Wars, Literature and/or popular culture, Medical and/or technological advances.

2004 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: In what ways did the French and Indian War (1754-63) alter the political, economic, and ideological relations between Britain and its American colonies? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1740-1766 in constructing your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the impact of the American Revolution of the both slavery and the status of women in the period from 1775-1800.
      • Analyze the effectiveness of political compromise in reducing sectional tensions in the period 1820 to 1861.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast the programs and policies designed by reformers of the Progressive era to those designed by reformers of the New jkhkDeal period. Confine your answers to programs and policies that addressed the needs of those living in poverty.
      • Analyze the successes and failures of the United States Cold War policy of containment as it developed in TWO of the follow regions of the world during the period 1945 to 1975: East and Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: How and for what reasons did the United States foreign policy change between 1920 and 1941? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1920-1941 to construct your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • To what extent was the election of 1800 aptly named the "Revolution of 1800?" Respond with reference to TWO of the following areas: Economics, Foreign policy, Judiciary, Politics.
      • To what extent and in what ways did the roles of women change in American society between 1790 and 1860? Respond with reference to TWO of the following areas: Domestic, Economic, Political, Social.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the primary causes of the population shift from a rural to an urban environment in the United States between 1875 and 1925.
      • "Between 1960 and 1975, there was great progress in the struggle for political and social equality." Assess the validity of this statement with respect to TWO of the following groups during that period: African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Women.

2003 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the responses of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration to the problems of the Great Depression. How effective were the responses? How did they change the role of the federal government? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1929-1941 to construct your essay.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Evaluate the extent to which the Articles of Confederation were effective in solving the problems that confronted the new nation.
      • In what ways did developments in transportation bring about economic and social change in the United States in the period 1820-1860?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Evaluate the impact of the Civil War on political and economic developments in TWO of the following regions: The South, the North, the West. Focus your answer on the period between 1865 and 1900.
      • Compare and contrast United States society in the 1920s and the 1950s with respect to TWO of the following: race relations, role of women, consumerism.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Evaluate the effectiveness of Progressive Era reformers and the federal government in bringing about reform at the national level. In your answer be sure to analyze the successes and limitation of these efforts in the period 1900-1920.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare the ways in which TWO of the following reflected tensions in colonial society: Bacon's Rebellion (1676), Pueblo Revolt (1680), Salem witchcraft trials (1692), Stono Rebellion (1739)
      • Although the power of the national government increased during the early republic, this development often faced serious opposition. Compare the motives and effectiveness of those opposed to the growing power of the national government in TWO of the following: Whiskey Rebellion (1794), Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (1798-1799), Hartford Convention (1814-1815), Nullification Crisis (1832-1833).
    • Free response, par C:
      • Analyze the ways in which farmers and industrial workers responded to industrialization in the Gilded Age (1865-1900).
      • Describe and account for changes in the American presidency between 1960 and 1975, as symbolized by Kennedy's "Camelot," Johnson's Great Society, and Nixon's Watergate. In your answer, address the powers of the presidency and the role of the media.

2002 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: "Reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals." Assess the validity of this statement with specific reference to the years 1825-1850.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare the ways in which religion shaped the development of colonial society (to 1740) in TWO of the following regions: New England, Chesapeake, Middle Atlantic.
      • Analyze the contribution of TWO of the following in helping establish a stable government after the adoption of the Constitution: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast United States foreign policy after the First World War and after the Second World War. Consider the periods 1919-1928 and 1945-1950.
      • How did the African American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s address the failures of the Reconstruction?
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Historians have traditionally labeled the period after the War of 1812 the "Era of Good Feelings." Evaluate the accuracy of this label, considering the emergence of nationalism and sectionalism. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1815-1825 to construct your answer.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the impact of the Atlantic trade routes established in the mid 1600s on economic development in the British North American colonies. Consider the period 1650-1750.
      • Identify and analyze the factors that changed the American city in the second half of the nineteenth century.
    • Free response, part C:
      • How successful were the programs of the New Deal in solving the problems of the Great Depression? Assess with respect to TWO of the following: Relief, recovery, reform.
      • Analyze the ways in which TWO of the following shaped American politics after the Second World War: Anticommunism in the 1940s and 1950s, the women's liberation movement in the 1960s, the "silent majority" in the 1970s.

2001 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: What were the Cold War fears of the American people in the aftermath of the Second World War? How successfully did the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower address these fears?
    • Free response, part B:
      • How did economic, geographic, and social factors encourage the growth of slavery as an important part of the economy of the southern colonies between 1607 and 1775?
      • The Jacksonian Period (1824-1848) has been celebrated as the era of the "common man." To what extent did the period live up to its characterization? Consider TWO of the following in your response: Economic development, Politics, Reform movements.
    • Free response, part C:
      • How and why did transportation developments spark economic growth during the period from 1860 to 1900 in the United States?
      • Describe and account for the rise of nativism in American society from 1900 to 1930.

One of the best ways to prepare for the DBQ (the “document-based question” on the AP European History, AP US History, and AP World History exams) is to look over sample questions and example essays. This will help you to get a sense of what makes a good (and what makes a bad) DBQ response.

That said, not all DBQ essay examples are created equal. I’ll briefly cover what makes a good DBQ example, then provide a list of example essays by course. Lastly, I’ve provided some tips on how to best use sample essays in your own preparation process. 

 

What's a Good DBQ Example?

Without a doubt, the best sample resources come from the College Board. This is because they are the ones who design and administer the AP exams. This means that:

  • Any DBQ essay example that they provide will include a real DBQ prompt.

  • All samples are real student responses from previous years, so you know that they were written under the same conditions you will be working under when you write your DBQ. In other words, they're authentic!

  • They not only have scores, they have explanations of each essay's score according to the terms of the rubric.

  • Each prompt includes several sample essays with a variety of scores.

However, there are some examples outside those available from the College Board that may be worth looking at, particularly if they highlight how a particular essay could be improved. But in general, a superior example will:

  1. Include the prompt and documents. It will be much easier for you to see how the information from the documents is integrated into the essay if you can actually look at the documents.

  2. Have a score. Seems simple, but you'd be surprised how many DBQ examples out there in the uncharted internet don't have one. Without a real, official score, it's hard to gauge how trustworthy a sample actually is.

With that in mind, I have below compiled lists, organized by exam, of high-quality example DBQs. 

 

Don't spend all your study time sharpening your pencil.

 

Every DBQ Example Essay You Could Ever Need, by Exam

Here are your example essays! We'll start with AP US History, then move to AP European History, and finally wrap up with AP World History.

 

AP US History: Official College Board Examples

Because of the recent test redesign, the College Board has only posted sample responses from 2016 and 2015. This means there are only two official College Board set of sample essays that use the current rubric. 

Neither of these links include analysis (so you can look at the question separately from the scoring guidelines). When you're ready for the sample responses, here are the DBQ samples from 2015 and the samples from 2016.

If you want to see additional sample sets, you can also look at older College Board US History DBQ example response sets, all the way back to 2003. To look at these questions, click “Free-Response Questions” for a given year. For the corresponding DBQ examples and scoring guidelines, click “Sample Responses Q1.” 

Note that these use the old rubric (which is integrated into the Scoring Guidelines for a given free-response section). General comments about the quality of the essay, outside information, and document analysis still apply, but the score is on a nine-point scale instead of the new seven-point scale, and some of the particulars will be different. Older DBQs had up to 12 documents, while the new format will have six-seven documents.

If you do look at older DBQ examples, I recommend using the new rubric to “re-grade” the essays in the sample according to the new seven-scale score. I'll also give more advice on how to use all of these samples in your prep later on.

 

Mr. Bald Eagle is an AP US History DBQ Grader in his spare time.

 

AP European History: Official College Board Examples

Unfortunately, there aren't as many sample resources for the AP Euro DBQ compared to the other AP history tests because 2016 was the first year the AP Euro test was administered in the new format. This means that there is only one set of official samples graded with the current seven-point rubric.

The rest of the existing available samples were graded in the old, nine-point format instead of the seven-point format implemented this past year. 

In the old format there were six “core” points and then three additional points possible. The old rubric is integrated with the sample responses for each question, but I’ll highlight some key differences between the old and new formats:

  • In the old format, you were given a brief “historical background” section before the documents. 

  • There were more documents—up to twelve. The new format will have 6-7.

  • There was an emphasis on “grouping” the documents that is not present in the new rubric.

  • There was also an explicit emphasis on correctly interpreting the documents that is not found in the new rubric.

The essential components of the DBQ are still the same between the two formats, although you should definitely look at the new rubric if you look at any of the old AP European History samples. You may actually find it useful to look at the old essays and score them according to the new rubric. 

Samples by year:

You can get samples in the old format all the way back to 2003 from the College Board. (Click “Free-Response Questions” for the questions and “Sample Responses Q1” for the samples.)

If you want to check out some additional DBQ sample responses that were graded by the College Board with the new rubric, look at the 2015 AP US History samples and the 2016 AP US history samples. The content will of course be different, but the structure and scoring are the same as they will be for the AP Euro 2016 test.

 

AP European History: Unofficial Samples

Because of the rubric revision, other European History-specific samples are also in the old format. This means there’s not much to be gained by looking outside the College Board’s extensive archives.

However, the New York State Regents exam also has a DBQ on it. The format is not identical, and it is scored out of 5 under a different rubric, but I do like this European-History themed example from Regents Prep because it has highlighted sections that show where the documents are used versus where outside information is referenced. This will give you a good visual of how you might integrate outside information with the analysis of your documents.

 

Consider how you might integrate this castle into the DBQ that is your life.

 

AP World History: Official College Board Examples

The World History AP exam has just transitioned to a new format to more resemble AP US History and AP European History for the 2017 test. This means that all currently available samples were graded in the old, nine-point format instead of the seven-point format to be implemented this year.

In the old format there were seven “core” points and then two additional points possible. The old rubric is integrated with the sample responses for each question, but I’ll highlight some key differences between the old and new formats:

  • There were more documents—up to ten. The new format will have 6-7.

  • There was an emphasis on “grouping” the documents on the old rubric that is not present in the new rubric.

  • There was also an explicit emphasis on correctly interpreting the documents that is not found in the new rubric.

  • In the old rubric, you needed to identify one additional document that would aid in your analysis. The new rubric does not have this requirement.

The essential components of the DBQ are still the same between the two formats, although you should definitely look at the new rubric if you look at any of the old AP World History samples. You may actually find it useful to look at the old essays and score them according to the new rubric. 

For whatever reason the questions and the samples with scoring notes are completely separate documents for World History, so you’ll need to click separate links to get the question and documents and then the responses.

If you want to take a look at some DBQs that have been graded with the new rubric, you could check out the 2015 and 2016 samples from AP US History and the 2016 samples from AP European History. The historical content is different, but this will give you an idea of how the new rubric is implemented.  

 

Don't worry, the old format isn't as old as this guy right here.

 

How Should I Use DBQ Examples to Prepare?

So, now that you have all of these examples, what should you do with them? I'll go over some tips as to how you can use example DBQs in your own studying, including when to start using them and how many you should plan to review.

 

What Should I Do With These DBQs?

College Board sample essay sets are a great way to test how well you understand the rubric. This is why I recommend that you grade a sample set early on in your study process—maybe even before you've written a practice DBQ. 

Then, when you compare the scores you gave to the scores and scoring notes for the samples, you'll have a good idea of what parts of the rubric you don't really understand. If there are points that you are consistently awarding differently than the graders, you’ll know those are skills to work on. Keep giving points for the thesis and then finding out the sample didn't get those points? You'll know that you need to work on your thesis skills. Not giving points for historical context and then finding out the AP Grader gave full credit? You need to work on recognizing what constitutes historical context according to the AP. 

You can check out my tips on building specific rubric-based skills in my article on how to write a DBQ.

Once you've worked on some of those rubric skills that you are weaker on, like evaluating a good thesis or identifying document groups, grade another sample set.  This way you can see how your ability to grade the essays like an AP graderimproves over time! 

Obviously, grading sample exams is a much more difficult proposition when you are looking at examples in an old format (e.g. AP European History or AP World History samples).  The old scores as awarded by the College Board will be helpful in establishing a ballpark—obviously a 9 is still going to be a good essay under the 7-point scale—but there may be some modest differences in grades between the two scales. (Maybe that perfect 9 is now a 6 out of 7 due to rubric changes.)

For practice grading with old samples, you might want to pull out two copies of the new rubric, recruit a trusted study buddy or academic advisor (or even two study buddies!), and each re-grade the samples. 

Then, you can discuss any major differences in the grades you awarded. Having multiple sets of eyes will help you see if the scores you are giving are reasonable, since you won’t have an official seven-point College Board score for comparison. 

 

How Many Example DBQs Should I Be Using?

The answer to this question depends on your study plans! If it's six months before the exam and you plan on transforming yourself into a hard diamond of DBQ excellence, you might complete some practice grading on a sample set every few weeks to a month to check in on your progress towards thinking like an AP grader. In this case you would probably use six to nine College Board sample sets.

If, on the other hand, the exam is in a month and you are just trying to get in some skill-polishing, you might do a sample set every week to 10 days. It makes sense to check in on your skills more often when you have less time to study, because you want to be extra-sure that you are focusing your time on the skills that need the most work. So for a short time frame, expect to use somewhere in the range of three to four range College Board sample sets. 

Either way, you should be integrating your sample essay grading with skills practice, and doing some practice DBQ writing of your own.

Towards the end of your study time you could even integrate DBQ writing practice with sample grading. Read and complete a timed prompt, then grade the sample set for that prompt, including yours! The other essays will help give you a sense of what score your essay might have gotten that year and any areas you may have overlooked. 

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to using sample sets, but in general they are a useful tool for making sure you have a good idea what the DBQ graders will be looking for when you write your DBQ.

 

Hey, where can we find a good DBQ around here? 

 

Closing Thoughts on Example DBQs

Example DBQ essays are a valuable resource in your arsenal of study strategies for the AP History exams. Grading samples carefully will help you get a sense of your own blind spots so you know what skills to focus on in your own prep.

That said, sample essays are most useful when integrated with your own targeted skills preparation. Grading a hundred sample essays won't help you if you aren't practicing your skills; you will just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. And make sure you aren't using sample essays to avoid actually writing practice DBQs--you'll want to do at least a couple even if you only have a month to practice.

There you have it, folks. With this list of DBQ examples and tips on how to use them, you are all prepared to integrate samples into your study strategy!

 

What's Next?

Still not sure what a DBQ is? Check out my explanation of the DBQ.

Want tips on how to really dig in and study? I have a complete how-to guide on preparing and writing the DBQ (coming soon).

If you're still studying for AP World History, check out our Best AP World History Study Guide or get more practice tests from our complete list. 

Want more material for AP US History? Look into this article on the best notes to use for studying from one of our experts. Also check out her review of the best AP US History textbooks!

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

 

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