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Sample dbq essay

      • 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.
        Use the prompt and documents below to practice writing a DBQ. Either create an outline of key points or time yourself for 55 minutes (15 to prep and 40 to write) to get test day practice. Check your answers against the sample response at the end to see how yours compares!

        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 as how to best use sample essays in your own preparation process.

        As war seemed inevitable, Americans were called to factories to begin the process of rebuilding American military power and to also bolster America’s only free ally, Great Britain. Most factories employed white men exclusively as most unionized jobs were held by whites. As America seemed to be preparing for war A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, started a movement to allow African Americans to gain access to jobs preparing for the war effort. Mr. Randolph threatened a “March on Washington” if “loyal Negro citizens” were not granted the right to work in the common effort to defeat Nazi Germany (Doc. 1). President Franklin Roosevelt responded with an executive order to require that all industries with government contracts hire African Americans. As the United States entered the war, the call for soldiers increased, and millions of men volunteered to fight to defeat Germany and Japan, including African Americans. While still having to serve in segregated units that had white officers, thousands of African American men served proudly. An example of their ability to fight well was demonstrated by the all-black Tuskegee Airmen who flew many missions with distinction (Doc. 5). Although inequality lasted for the duration of the war, the foundations for a modern civil rights movement were being created as acceptance of African Americans into traditional roles in the military began to extend to other aspects of American life.

        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.

        Overall, this essay is very thorough and develops the analysis well. Considering there is a 45-minute suggested time limit for writing the DBQ essay, this essay is clear and well supported. It utilizes and analyzes all six documents very accurately. The narrative is complemented by outside information, which is also explained well.

      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 by exam of high-quality example DBQs.

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

      As the constitutionality of the detention of a group of Americans was determined, the constitutionality of censorship was not. During World War II, Americans gave up some of the freedoms that identified them as Americans; for example, the U.S. mail was censored to potentially protect the well-being of American troops overseas (Doc. 4). Americans also temporarily lost the freedom to buy as much of certain products through rationing.

      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.

      Women began to change their role in American society to one in which they would be looked upon as more of an equal to men. As the war progressed and more men went off to serve in the military, more women were required to take their place in factories. “Rosie the Riveter” became an American icon during the war, where she demonstrated her devotion to the cause to defeat the Axis Powers (Doc. 3). African American women made great strides in society as they left their traditional service jobs as maids and washer-women and also took the role of Rosie. Women also joined the military in the WACS, WAVES, and WASPS, and although they usually served in clerical positions, they were able to free more men to fight in the war effort. After the war ended, many women remained on the job as their husbands returned home and took advantage of the GI Bill and went to college. Women remaining on the job led to an evolution of a society with dual-income homes. Women’s identity as Americans thus was changing, as they became breadwinners and also gained respect as equals.

      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.

      The DBQ requires you to analyze the documents in addition to bringing outside information to bear on the question. This is a difficult task, and you have only 15 minutes to plan before you begin writing. Don’t panic! Use the same strategies given for the LEQ for document analysis. The more you practice using these strategies, the better you will become at quickly finding significance in the documents.

      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).

      The context of the analysis is very clear; the reader can tell exactly when the events are taking place in American history. One point for the context out of 1 point available.

      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.
      The use of factual information is exceptional, and the information is explained very well and is nicely linked to the analytic information. This essay would receive all 4 possible points for the analysis of historical evidence and support.

      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.

      The evidence and analysis are all synthesized into a clear and well-developed narrative. One point of 1 for synthesis. The total score for this essay would be a 7 out of 7 possible points.

      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, sample resources for the AP Euro DBQ are a little sparse than for the other essays, because this past year (2016) was the first year the 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.

      While African Americans and women were becoming more identified as equals and as “Americans,” Japanese Americans were forced to lose what little American identity they had gained. Executive order 9066, signed by FDR after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, forced thousands of Nisei and Issei to be sent to detention centers (Doc. 2). Families were forced to live in limited quarters with no freedoms. This action was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1944 decision Korematsu v. U.S. as the fear of espionage and sabotage seemed to be very real in places like California after America was attacked by Japan (Doc. 6). Therefore, although African Americans and women were beginning to take on the identity as full citizens, Americans of Japanese descent did not.

      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.

      This essay has a strong thesis, very clear and relevant and the context of the question is also very clear. This thesis would earn the one point possible for the thesis.

      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 are given a brief “historical background” section before the documents.

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

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

      • There is 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:

        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 been 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.

        The need for more laborers, soldiers, and support for the American cause during World War II dramatically altered American identity. However, at the time society was seemingly becoming more inclusive, some constitutionally questionable decisions were made that also altered the United States. Overall, World War II changed the face of the United States and set into motion movements that would transform what it meant to be an American in the decades to come.

        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 are more documents—up to ten. The new format will have 6-7.

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

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

        • In the old rubric, you need 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.

      For the duration of World War II, American identity changed. Groups traditionally not granted full rights as citizens were gaining more respect from those who had had rights and power since the inception of the United States. Within twenty years of the conclusion of the war, African Americans and women had made legal gains that led them to equality; even Japanese Americans had made headway to a semblance of equality. And as the war ended, Americans expected their freedoms to be restored. While Americans held proudly to their identity, it was clear that they were willing to give up some of the ideals they held as part of their identity and were also willing to expand the scope of who was considered an American during a time of national emergency.

      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.

      Directions: Question 1 is based on the accompanying documents. The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise. You are advised to spend 15 minutes planning and 40 minutes writing your answer. Write your responses on the lined pages that follow the questions.

        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.

        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 grader improves over time!

        Obviously, grading sample exams is a much more difficult proposition when you are looking at examples in an old format (eg. 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?

        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!

        Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
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        Ellen McCammon
        About the Author

        Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.



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