A Document Based Question (DBQ) essay is the bread and butter of most advanced history classrooms; the APUSH exam is no different.For this exam, you will have to read and synthesize information provided to you in the documents the AP test provides. Follow these three steps and you will be well on your way to writing a DBQ essay that works. There are more than three steps required to write a DBQ essay; however, you should break down your approach to the essay into three sections.
There is one important rule, though: DO NOT (I SAID, DO NOT) SKIP ON THE BEFORE YOU READ STEP.
Too many students feel like they have to jump right into reading before they have organized their thoughts. Use your time wisely, but do not skip the before you read step.
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Historians write arguments based on documents, and for this exam, you will, too.
For a DBQ essay, you will receive several documents of varying length.I will be taking you through the 2015 sample the College Board provided for students to practice, but, as you will see in a second, it’s important that you practice as much as possible in order to read the documents quickly. overseas expansion in the late 19th and early 20th century. Perhaps what he was saying was not popular enough to get enough votes.Just make a note that the format may be slightly different if you review an exam prior to 2015. When you get that prompt, or any other DBQ prompt like it, what you do before you read the documents will be just as important as what you end up writing. These inferences help me make sense of the document later on. Recognize possible opinions Again, before I read the documents closely, I recognize that this is a compare/contrast question.Generally speaking, the documents will represent multiple perspectives on one topic. Perhaps you remember something about the Spanish-American War of 1898, which falls into our time period. From APUSH Sample Exam Before I even read this document, I can see that William Jennings Bryan is campaigning for the presidency.Before we get too far into this, it’s important that you note that College Board, the organization that writes the APUSH exam, has made some major changes starting in 2015. However, I cannot recall there ever being a President Bryan, meaning that he was unsuccessful in his campaign.You will be asked to respond to some historical prompt that will require you to use the documents as evidence in your response.The great thing about a DBQ is that a lot of information you need to answer the question is in the documents themselves – score!Keep reading and you will get some great tips on how to write a DBQ for the APUSH exam.As I stated in a previous post on what the APUSH exam is all about, the goal of the exam is to test your historical thinking skills.However, you do need to have some background knowledge to make sense of the documents (we will practice this later in the post). Even if you can’t remember exactly what territory, this puts you in a much better position to get started. Read the source information Take these two documents below as an example.The documents could be tables, charts, personal letters, or any other source that the exam creators believe would help you answer the question. From APUSH Sample Exam Before I read the document, I see that Jane Addams titled her speech “Democracy or Militarism.” Based on the title alone, I can begin to make some inferences that this document is not likely to be positive about any overseas expansion that would most certainly require military force.