The AP History exams contain 2 Free-Response essays. During the school year, students practice writing these timed responses. Though less common, they may also practice responding to short answer questions (SAQs)
- Document-Based Question (DBQ): Students are given numerous documents (photographs, charts, cartoons, maps, excerpts from diaries/journals/books/speeches, etc.) and must use these sources to craft a response to the prompt.
- Long-Essay Question (LEQ): Students are given three prompts from which to select one, and must explain and analyze the relevant historical issue. Students must develop an argument that is supported by analysis of historical evidence.
- Short Answer Questions (SAQs): Students must answer questions 1, 2, and 3 OR 4 with a brief response. Unlike the DBQ and LEQ, there are correct and incorrect answers provided in a scoring guide, and you will provide these with rationale-style feedback.
Scoring and feedback tips for all essays
On the exam, students are given a 60-minute writing period for the DBQ, which counts for 25% of the exam score, and a 40-minute writing period for the LEQ, which counts for 15% of the exam score. Keep these short, often stressful time constraints in mind when scoring. Argument and analysis of historical evidence become more important than grammar, spelling, style, or handwriting. Make sure to reward students for what they do well!
All essays are graded on a scale of 0 to 6 (LEQs) or 0 to 7 (DBQs), meant to reflect quality of content based on specific content-driven rubric points. Evidence and analysis/explanation get the largest weight in the score.
Keep in mind...
- This is a history assignment, so historical accuracy and a historically-defensible argument matter! It it’s been awhile since your last history class, we’d recommend a quick review of the time period/event in question so that you can respond appropriately and provide really specific guidance. A quick Wikipedia read or Google search should be enough to get you sufficient context.
- Use the rubric to guide your prioritization. You will almost always be commenting on the score categories (with a heavy nod to evidence and analysis). You should not get caught up in traditional essay style guidelines -- ie., there generally shouldn’t be comments about topic sentences, writing mechanics, etc. Additionally, students are encouraged to cross out sentences or insert parts to their writing with use of arrows, should it be beneficial to their essay. This is not a reason to take off points!
- On most assignments, we ask Graiders to focus on helping students improve as writers rather than telling them how they can “score more points,” but the history rubric is so focused on argument content that this assignment is one case where it can be best practice to say “To earn [the second analysis point], you could have done XYZ.”
- Often, this will mean helping students understand specifically which parts of their argument were strong, which examples they could have used to make it stronger, or how they could have made their analysis and connection to the thesis more grounded. Even though students usually aren’t revising these essays, this helps them understand the level of detail needed in their analysis for similar future essays. Ground your guidance in the specific historical points of this particular assignment.
Class Summary Feedback
For short answer questions (SAQs), please review our Rationale Feedback article for guidance and exemplar feedback!